Gregg Rosenthal of NFL Network has identified a player (or two in our case) as a key homegrown player for every team in the league.
Rosenthal is looking at players on their rookie contracts that each organization needs to step up as “homegrown” talents as guys that have been coached up internally as opposed to top talents already in place.
Who does he tab for the Los Angeles Rams?
Los Angeles Rams: Cory Littleton and Samson Ebukam, linebackers
The starry approach to the Rams’ offseason had some less-discussed repercussions. After the team spent big on the secondary and the defensive line, general manager Les Snead turned over the linebacker group to young, unknown players.
Littleton, a third-year player who went undrafted in 2016, is getting the first crack at replacing middle linebacker Alec Ogletree. Ebukam is a 2017 fourth-round pick who looks locked into a starting edge-rusher job. In coordinator Wade Phillips’ system, the mammoth defensive line and sticky secondary should make the linebackers look better, just like Tom Brady makes his running backs look better every year. It’s the system. At least that’s the plan, and it’s up to Littleton and Ebukam to help make Snead look Belichickian with his strategic allocation of resources.
This is pretty much spot-on all the way around.
Like Rosenthal mentioned, Littleton has reportedly gotten first-crack at inside linebacker in organized team activities (OTAs) replacing former Rams ILB and captain of the defense Alec Ogletree who was traded to the New York Giants this offseason. Fortunately, Littleton saw some playing time in 2017 as both of the Rams’ duo at ILB (Mark Barron and Ogletree) missed time due to injury. In 16 games total starting in four, Littleton managed 36 tackles, one sack, one interception, one forced fumble which went for a safety, and a blocked punt. He transformed into a special-teams demon with the Rams ultimately handing him the first chance at cracking the starting lineup on the linebacking depth chart.
As for Ebukam, he’s a second-year outside linebacker who played sparingly as a rookie, though he did manage 31 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. The outside linebacker depth chart is a bigger unknown than ILB right now, but it seems Ebukam and Matt Longacre will be given every chance to win those starting spots despite rookie OLB Justin Lawler recently getting the first team snaps in OTAs.
While the Rams managed to address plenty of positions on the defense this offseason, they’ll still need to rely on homegrown talents to fill in the cracks. Here’s hoping Littleton and Ebukam are up to the task.