So far in Countdown to Camp, we’ve taken a look at the special teams unit and the offensive line. For Wednesday, July 10, our series continues with a breakdown of Los Angeles’ inside linebackers.
Newcomers: Dakota Allen, Ketner Kupp, Natrez Patrick, Troy Reeder
The Rams’ linebacking corps will look a little different when it takes the field in 2019. Mark Barron had been a mainstay at the position since taking over at the weakside linebacker spot early on during the 2015 season, moving down from his original position of safety.
Both he and Ramik Wilson — who started four games for the 2018 Rams — departed in free agency.
But Los Angeles will have its signal-caller back from 2018 in Cory Littleton, who returns for his fourth season in horns. The former undrafted rookie out of Washington excelled in his first season as the Rams’ Mike linebacker, recording 4.0 sacks, three interceptions, nine tackles for loss, and 13 passes defensed. And he still contributed heavily on special teams, blocking a few punts over the course of the year.
At this point, second-year linebacker Micah Kiser appears penciled in for Los Angeles’ second starting ILB spot. While Kiser didn’t play at all on defense in his rookie season, he was productive on special teams — on the field for 62.7 percent of the unit’s snaps. When in college, Kiser thrice led the ACC in tackles — becoming only the second player in history to do so.
Bryce Hager, however, could have something to say about Kiser claiming that second starting ILB spot. He re-signed with the team on a one-year deal in May. A former seventh-round pick, this will be Hager’s fifth year with the club. He’s also a heavy special teams contributor, leading the team with 79.8 percent of the unit’s snaps last year.
While Clay Matthews is more likely to play as an outside linebacker in most situations, he’s also worth mentioning as a possible option at ILB. The Rams will likely look to exploit his defensive versatility depending on the situation, since he has the flexibility to line up on the inside. Look for that more in known-passing situations.
Also returning is 2018 seventh-round pick Travin Howard, who spent his rookie year on Los Angeles’ practice squad. The TCU product will likely have to contribute on special teams if he is to make the initial 53-man roster.
The same goes for the Rams’ newcomers at ILB — all of whom are rookies. Dakota Allen is most well known for his appearance on the second season of Netflix’s Last Chance U, but played well in his second stint at Texas Tech. Ketner Kupp, Rams wideout Cooper Kupp’s younger brother, also played his college ball at Eastern Washington. Natrez Patrick played at Georgia, and Troy Reeder at Delaware.
PREVIOUSLY ON COUNTDOWN TO CAMP
Tomorrow, Countdown to Camp will take a look at the Rams’ tight ends.