Early 2020 position outlook: Inside linebacker

After examining the Rams' offense, defense and special teams following the 2020 NFL Draft, theRams.com will take a deeper look at each position group as we get closer to the upcoming season. The inside linebackers are up next.

Who's back

Travin Howard: Played in all 16 games last season, logging 19 total tackles and three pass breakups.

Micah Kiser: Initially ruled out indefinitely in early August due to a preseason pectoral injury against the Cowboys, he eventually landed on injured reserve in early September and missed the entire 2019 season.

Troy Reeder: One of three undrafted free agents to make the Rams' initial 53-man roster for 2019, he made 52 total tackles and had two fumble recoveries while playing in all 16 games (eight starts).

Kenny Young: Acquired in the midseason Marcus Peters trade with the Baltimore Ravens, Young made four tackles in the nine Rams games he appeared in.

Who's gone

Bryce Hager: A shoulder injury sustained in Week 6 limited the 2015 seventh-round pick to just five games last year. He became an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year after his one-year deal signed last offseason expired.

Cory Littleton: Parlayed a career- and team-high 124 total tackles last season – plus 3.5 sacks, nine pass breakups and two interceptions – into a lucrative three-year deal with the Las Vegas Raiders. He became an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year after his one-year tender signed last offseason expired.

Who's new

Daniel Bituli: The former Tennessee star was a second team All-SEC choice in 2019 who helped the Volunteers to their highest finish in total defense (23rd nationally) in a decade. He is also just the second player to lead Tennessee in tackles for three straight seasons. Bituli is listed as a generic linebacker on the Rams' roster, so this shouldn't be taken as an official declaration for the position he will play – he's only included with the inside linebackers because he started at middle linebacker during his senior season at Tennessee.

Bryan London II: A back-to-back first-team All-Sun Belt selection as a junior and senior, London made 459 total tackles in four seasons at Texas State to finish 20th on the FBS career list for that category. He was also a four-year starter for the Bobcats. Similar to Bituli, this shouldn't be taken as an official declaration for his position with the Rams – highlights showed him playing inside at Texas State, but he's listed as a generic linebacker.

Clay Johnston: One of the Rams' trio of seventh-round picks this year, Johnston produced 58 tackles, eight for loss, 2.5 sacks, one interception and five pass breakups despite suffering a season-ending knee injury that limited him to six games. It was good enough for second team All-Big 12 honors.

Christian Rozeboom: A consensus All-American as a senior in 2019, the South Dakota State product was also one of 26 finalists for the Buck Buchanan Award, which is given annually to the FCS' top defensive player. He led his team in tackles and earned first-team Missouri Valley Football Conference recognition in each of his four years, departing as the school's record-holder for career tackles with 475.

Key question(s)

Who replaces Littleton? The University of Washington product evolved from a special teams standout to a core member of the Rams' defense. He was especially valuable in coverage – his 82.2 coverage grade ranked ninth-highest at his position out of 179 linebackers evaluated by PFF last season.

Will we see more of Kenny Young? Primarily a special teams contributor when active, his speed – as seen below while with the Ravens – is one of his strongest attributes.

What can Kiser provide at full strength? On the team's first unofficial depth chart for 2019, he was slated to start alongside Littleton at the other inside linebacker spot and replace Mark Barron prior to the season-ending pectoral injury. In that same June 2019 story, then-Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips indicated Kiser was ascending on a similar developmental path as Littleton.

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