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Rams Positional Outlook: Inside Linebackers

Posted Feb 13, 2018

A look at how Los Angeles' inside linebackers performed in 2017 and how the Rams are set up heading into the new league year in mid-March.

The 2017 Rams won their first NFC West title since 2003 with an 11-5 regular-season record. As Los Angeles’ focus shifts to 2018 and beyond, we’ll take a position-by-position look at how the Rams performed in 2017 and how each group currently stands at the start of the 2018 offseason.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

MLB | Alec Ogletree

Team-leading 128 total tackles || 2.0 sacks || 11 quarterback hits || One interception returned for a touchdown

LB | Mark Barron

108 total tackles (No. 2 On the Rams) || Four tackles for loss || Team-leading three interceptions || Seven pass breakups

LB | Cory Littleton

31 total tackles || Two tackles for loss || 1.0 sacks || One interceptions || League-leading two blocked punts || Seven special teams tackles

MLB | Bryce Hager

11 total tackles || 2.0 sacks || One forced fumble and fumble recovery || Four special teams tackles

LB | Cam Lynch

— Re-signed to the Rams’ active roster in Week 13 and played three games || Two total tackles

ANY FREE AGENTS?

Lynch will be a restricted free agent in March.

LOOK BACK, LOOK AHEAD

The Rams defense underwent several changes throughout the offseason under coordinator Wade Phillips — most significantly going from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense. With the new scheme came a few transitions for both of the starting inside linebackers.

While the entire unit took some time to adapt to Phillips’ system, all Los Angeles’ inside linebackers showcased their playmaking abilities down the stretch.

Ogletree agreed to a four-year extension that will keep him with the Rams through the 2021 season. He has been a staple on the franchise’s defense since he was drafted in 2013 — leading the team in tackles in four of his five seasons. He was voted a captain for the second time in 2017.

Barron worked alongside Ogletree and he was one of the Rams most consistent defenders. His 108 total tackles were the second-most on the team, behind only Ogletree. And under Phillips, the Alabama product was able to showcase his impressive athleticism, especially when dropping into coverage — as evidenced by his team-leading three interceptions.

Both Hager and Littleton were also key rotational pieces, stepping in for Ogletree and Barron at various times throughout the year. Although Littleton was most impressive as a special teams contributor — blocking a league-leading two punts — he was able to fill in admirably for Barron when the linebacker suffered an Achilles injury late in the season.

Hager also developed significantly throughout the year. Because of the team’s practice schedule, the Baylor product was able to fill in for Ogletree during the preparation week. And those additional reps with the first-team helped Hager tremendously — getting him ready for situations like the Week 13 contest against the Cardinals, when Ogletree was taken out with an elbow injury.

With Hager as the defensive signal caller, the Rams limited Arizona to just 18 rushing yards in the second half. He finished the contest with with one tackle, one quarterback hit, and one pass defense.