It was a mundane diss, and I don't mean to call attention to this specific one – because plenty of others have made similar observations about the 2020 Rams inside linebackers.
There's no sense denying the short resumés in that room. And once again this offseason, L.A. chose not to devote many resources to that position group (at least not via draft, trade, or free agency).
However, this isn't a new approach for the Rams. And to date, the allocation of capital has worked out in the team's favor.
Granted, that was an unforeseen luxury afforded by Cory Littleton blossoming from a college free agent to a Pro Bowl special teamer and earning elite marks at his position, particularly in coverage. But the spot next to him was often a revolving door.
Since L.A. traded Alec Ogletree to the Giants before the 2018 season, here are the players who've started games at inside linebacker, along with a note on how they became aligned with Littleton:
Mark Barron – Converted from safety in 2015
Bryce Hager – 224th overall in 2017
Troy Reeder – Undrafted free agent
Ramik Wilson – Unrestricted free agent (after Kansas City declined to tender in 2018)
No one on that list earned a position grade worth touting the past two seasons, and yet the Rams won an NFC Championship and 22 regular season games. So while it would be hubris to think they can simply promote another Littleton through the ranks, there's not an appreciable difference between the above collection of talent and the returning and drafted options the Rams have to choose from now.
Travin Howard –231st overall in 2018
Micah Kiser –147th overall in 2018
Clay Johnston –234th overall in 2020
Troy Reeder – Undrafted free agent
Kenny Young – 122nd overall in 2018 (acquired from Baltimore in 2019)
Undrafted rookies: Daniel Bituli, Bryan London II, Christian Rozeboom
Head coach Sean McVay was encouraged by the reps Howard gave the team in December.
Before the draft, general manager Les Snead said of Kiser’s rehab from a pectoral injury, "I don't know that there's been a day he's missed here. Buy stock in Micah Kiser."
And the scout who was responsible for Clay Johnson was quick to remind us of the torn ACL he suffered after six games for Baylor last season. "We really projected that he was going to be a higher pick," said Rams senior personnel advisor Taylor Morton. "I think he's going to be a steal of a deal in the seventh round."
During the Rams virtual program, new coordinator Brandon Staley called it an "open competition" for those jobs in the middle of his defense, and named just about every linebacker on the roster when weighing his options.
Now, returning to Bloom's point, we agree the dynamics in the NFC West have changed considerably. Though the NFL has devalued inside linebackers, and though the Rams are inclined to play sub-packages with only one middle linebacker on the field more often than not, he's not wrong that the San Francisco and Seattle ground games are daunting.
(As a quick aside, I find it interesting that the pieces Staley did add in anticipation of his first season as an NFL coordinator – namely tackle A'Shawn Robinson and edge Leonard Floyd – have run-stuffing pedigrees.)
Likewise, the task of replacing Littleton is formidable and especially consequential given that someone has to wear the green dot and relay play calls on defense.
But these aren't foreign challenges for McVay and the Rams, who believe they have capable options in-house, even if they aren't household names.