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Phillips expects Micah Kiser to step into larger defensive role

When the Rams selected linebacker Micah Kiser in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, they picked up a player who could come in and immediately contribute on special teams.

A Virginia product, Kiser led the ACC in tackles for three straight seasons before entering the league, becoming only the second player to ever do so. He translated that prowess to football's third phase at the highest level, as he was on the field for 63 percent of Los Angeles' special teams snaps as a rookie — finishing No. 4 in the category.

But now, according to defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, Kiser has a good chance to play in the Rams' base 3-4 scheme as the second inside linebacker. Cory Littleton is still slated to be the club's 'Mike' linebacker and defensive signal-caller. But Kiser could help fill the void left by the departed Mark Barron.

"I think for where he is in his career and where we need him, it'll be in those first and second-down plays for sure," Phillips said of Kiser's role during the offseason program. "Cory is such a good coverage guy and then we've got a lot of safeties that can come in and help us on third downs, so I think his main role certainly right now will be first and second down as a base defensive player."

And part of the reason why Phillips feels Kiser can be successful in that role is how he excelled on special teams — much like Littleton did for his first two years before transitioning to a full-time linebacker.

"Micah showed a lot of things last year, he came in, you always have high hopes I think, and he basically only got to play special teams. He was one of our best special teamers — you know Cory Littleton also went that path too, and turned out to be really good backer, and I think Micah is going in the same direction," Phillips said. "When they show things, they show the ability to get to the football on special teams and they carry it over to defense and he moves well, he's a smart player, and he's had a really good spring. He's fit in really well."

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