Los Angeles Rams LB Bryce Hager is a nice piece to have on the roster.
He’s a special teams staple and a reliable backup as an inside backer. He’s athletic and generally patrols the field at full tilt.
Last season, in limited time Pro Football Focus graded Hager at 71.4 which grades out about average. It’s also worth noting is that Hager graded higher than Littleton’s 47.5 albeit with a small sample size for both compared to Ogletree at 38.9. Most of his action came in Week 13 when ILB Alec Ogletree suffered an elbow injury that had nothing to do with him flipping into the end zone while celebrating and in Week 17 against the San Francisco 49ers when the Rams rested their starters. Hager has good speed that helps when pursuing a play or in coverage. In fact, when looking at their combine measurables, often-overlooked Hager actually stacks up favorably to last year’s starter Ogletree, and this year’s likely starter ILB Cory Littleton:
40 yard dash
20 yard shuttle
Hager 26 reps
Ogletree 20 reps
So far, Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips has indicated that Littleton will be the likely starter at the “Mike” middle linebacker position. Last year, Littleton was a special teams dynamo and has a knack for making big plays. The position naturally demands a leader and astute play reader who can set the defense, so perhaps there are intangibles that earned Littleton the first crack at the spot. But there’s not a huge amount of separation between Littleton and Hager. So if there are any bumps along the way, Hager may see more playing time then in previous seasons.
Hager is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after this season, so expect him to put his best foot forward.
Rookie ILB Micah Kiser, the 147th overall pick from the 2018 NFL Draft, is also in the mix and has the potential to challenge for the job as well. He made a ton of plays at Virginia and was named a Sporting News All American. He has the je ne se quoi of a prototypical “Mike” backer.
Hager will continue to be an important cog in Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel’s unit. It’s really hard to gauge how much of a role Hager will play in the defense this season. Maybe he sees minimal action as has been the case in the past. Maybe Littleton isn’t truly ready and Hager starts a bunch of games. Maybe Kiser leapfrogs both Hager and Littleton and becomes the Rams defensive captain for years to come.
All outcomes seem possible.
Chances of Making Roster (9/10)
Regardless of how the linebacker battle ultimately shakes out, Hager will remain a valuable special teamer. Besides, it’s hard to see the Rams getting rid of a somewhat experienced linebacker in a year when there is so much uncertainty at that position.
Go ahead and scoop up a Hager jersey. You’re safe for at least one more season.