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2016 Rams Roster Preview: Linebackers

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For the first time since the 2008 season, James Laurinaitis will not be the man in the middle for the Rams’ defense. Here’s how the linebackers are shaping up.

Los Angeles Rams MLB Alec Ogletree
Los Angeles Rams MLB Alec Ogletree
Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images
Alec Ogletree: 10/10 chance to make final roster
Akeem Ayers: 9/10
Josh Forrest: 8.5/10
Bryce Hager: 8/10
Cameron Lynch: 8/10
Brandon Chubb: 5/10
Cory Littleton: 3.5/10
Nick Grigsby: 2/10
Darreon Herring: 1/10

The Rams have already let two linebackers go this offseason in Matt Wells and Zack Hodges. That could indicate they have a firm grasp on the back end of the group, or it could just mean they really wanted more hats in the ring at a different position (see: wide receivers).

As it stands, you’ve got a functional top led by Ogletree who will move to the Mike position abdicated by James Laurinaitis, a middle populated by Hager and Lynch who made last year’s roster by offering special teams capabilities and a foursome of new UDFAs hoping to do the same in 2016.

Roster Battle

Outside of Ogeltree, there certainly could be.

How tenuous is Ayers’ hold on the OLB spot? We know Mark Barron has a hybrid role that often thins the linebackers down to two spots. If the Rams go into a 4-3, who’s the next man up? Or consider if Ayers picks up an injury; how do things play out?

And who’s the top of the heap among the back four candidates? Does that linebacker leapfrog Lynch or Hager?

Expectations

It’s not a terribly talented group, but the Rams aren’t asking too much here. Ogletree sitting behind what should one of the NFL’s best defensive lines seems like it should suffice regardless of who plays alongside Tree.

You could easily make the case that this will be a legit position of need for the Rams heading into the 2017 NFL Draft. The question is if it’s a position of high value under Fisherball...and if that will still be the system for the Rams.

Impact on Final Roster

Big for the back-end of the 53-man roster, not much at the top. The question is how many special teamers back the cut. Last year, the Rams went six-wide at linebacker to open the season with Laurinaitis, Ogletree and Ayers staffing defensive positions while Daren Bates, Hager and Lynch waited in reserve and manned special teams. Bates departed via free agency. Does Josh Forrest automatically inherit that spot as the Rams’ sole defensive draftee from the 2016 NFL Draft? If so, do the Rams seriously consider going seven-wide at LB if one of the UDFAs shows up big for teams?