When the Rams traded Alec Ogletree to the Giants back in March, the obvious question was, "Who will replace him?"
During the offseason program, we found out the answer was Cory Littleton. And on Saturday, the third-year linebacker will finally see game action as the defensive signal-caller against the Texans.
It's a position that's taken some getting used to from Littleton, but he feels he's ready to go out and execute.
"I wouldn't say I've been doing it for years, but everything's been getting a lot more solid for me," Littleton said after Wednesday's practice. "I've been doing this for quite a few weeks now, and I've gotten a good handle over it."
Littleton has come a long way since entering the league in 2016 as an undrafted free agent out of Washington. But each year Littleton has been with the Rams, he's made more of an impact. He started out as a special teams ace, making 13 special teams tackles en route to winning the team's Carrol Rosenbloom Memorial Award as the Rams' top rookie. Then in 2017, the Rams put in some sub packages just to get him and his playmaking ability on the field. Littleton also made a spot start in Week 16 for the injured Mark Barron, recording a key early interception off quarterback Marcus Mariota.
"He started at least one or two games, because we were in that package because we felt like he could help us. So, this is his chance," defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said earlier this month. "This is his chance and we're confident in that he's a really good player. We just got to find a niche for him and we feel like we have."
Littleton says his teammates and coaches have provided him avenues to improve in his new role throughout the course of the offseason program and training camp.
"I would say everything that we do here, just with the film, the meetings, studying the playbook — all the normal things just is enough to get me ready," Littleton said.
Cornerback Aqib Talib noted on Wednesday just how much progress Littleton has made since the spring.
"Cory's been doing a great job. Just from OTAs until now, I feel like he improved a lot," Talib said. "It's a new position for him, so I think he's got it down right now. Calling things, making the checks — he's leading the show right now. So he's comfortable."
Still, there's undoubtedly something to be gained by Littleton seeing live competition as the signal-caller for the first time. Littleton said he feels prepared because of the way head coach Sean McVay sets up Los Angeles' practices.
"Game situation is totally different than practice," Littleton said, but added, "we try to do everything like game situations all the time. So wholeheartedly, I feel like I should be ready."
Check out photos from the Los Angeles Rams Wednesday practice leading up to preseason week 3.
Going into his 11th NFL season, Talib said he anticipates Saturday's preseason action will be valuable for Littleton.
"It'll be good for him, just to get it out of his system — the initial shock of full speed, him getting the call, having to line up, it's going to be a little bit different in the game," Talib said. "It's going to be a little bit different the first game of the season. But this will really get it out of his system right here."
From the coaching staff, McVay said he's mainly looking for Littleton to communicate well and execute the defense properly — just as he has in practice.
"I think just that — the command that you ask from your 'Mike' linebacker, good communication, ability to handle any necessary checks or adjustments that the Texans offense might present," McVay said. "And he's done a really nice job with that throughout camp, and looking forward to seeing him do it against another team."