Like everyone else returning from an injury plagued 2007 season, Leonard Little will be looking for a nice rebound. (Is anyone tired of hearing that about Rams players yet?) Little was mostly invisible for the seven games he did play last season, overwhelmed with the rest of the Rams defense forced to be on the field for the bulk of each game.
But this promises to be a different year. Little's healthy again, and so are all the other starters that missed the bulk of last season. If ever there was a team ripe for projections, it's the 2008 Rams. So, as you might have gleaned by that lead in, we're kicking off our own blogging experiment here at TST to derive a projection for all those players of whom so much is expected this season, starting with Leonard Little.
Before we go further, let's lay down one ground rule: assume a "normal" rate of injuries for the team, i.e. starters will miss a game here and there, but no fluke plague of injuries throughout the locker room.
Little's coming off a toe injury that required surgery. While he was limited in minicamp, he's expected to be 100% for training camp later this summer. However, Leonard Little starts the season at 33-years-old, and he'll turn 34 in October. As discussed ad nauseam ahead of the draft, that was a big factor in the decision to draft Chris Long over Glenn Dorsey.
Take a look at the single season sack leaders in the NFL. Players age 30 and above are definitely in the minority. But they are there. If you winnow it down to players above 33, your list gets down to 14. That list includes several players who made the list for more than one season beyond the age of 33. There are even a few players who made the list over the age of 35, so Little's chances of having a two solid seasons to finish out his contract with the Rams are hardly impossible. Like the other names on that small list of over-33 players on the leader board, Little's a special talent. Also, don't forget the season before last he had 13 sacks, during the same season he turned 32.
But still, any way you slice it, Little's age will be a factor. How much of a factor really just depends. First and foremost is the supporting cast. If you look at the other 33+ sack leaders, you'll immediately notice they weren't alone among their defensive linemates with an impressive number of sacks. A second factor will be the number of snaps Little sees. Clearly, Haslett will take him out on a good number of rushing downs, and, as mentioned yesterday, the Rams can use the 3-4 for some pass rushes as well. Those two tactics will save some wear and tear on LL, similar to how they preserved LaRoi Glover last season.
Here's Leonard Little's page at NFL.com , for you reference.
Once we get a decent number of projections, I'll compile them and get a baseline total from the results.
Now, without further ado, on with the projections!! For Little, leave projected totals for Games played, tackles, and sacks. You can included INTs if you want.