Cory Littleton isn’t a household name...yet. But perhaps it should be, as the Los Angeles Rams’ starting linebacker is once again putting together a solid season.
At the midway point of the 2019 year, Littleton has graded out as the league’s top linebacker in pass coverage, per Pro Football Focus.
The highest coverage grades among LBs— PFF (@PFF) November 7, 2019
Cory Littleton pic.twitter.com/0IKLHeLbX4
Littleton, an undrafted free agent from the Jeff Fisher era (2016), has pleasantly surprised since taking over as a starter in 2018. He’s also been a stellar contributor on special teams and was voted to the Pro Bowl last year as a ST’s starter.
Littleton’s coaches have never been shy about showing praise. Here’s Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips from October 18, 2018, when asked about his ability:
We knew it last year. We had a lot of special defenses that we put him in. I mean, he started some games where we had an extra linebacker in the game because he was versatile and he could do a lot of things. I think he’s playing outstanding. I don’t know that any linebacker is playing as well as he is in both areas. He’s had a lot of pass breakups and interceptions, things like that that. You just don’t see a normal linebacker — I think he’s way ahead of everybody in the league as far as pass coverage. And obviously he’s playing well against the run and he’s having a really good year.
And here’s what Wade had to say 364 days later:
He’s having another sensational year. I think he was overlooked last year like I said, he had five interceptions last year. He’s a guy that makes big plays and he makes a lot of plays. He’s in on most of the tackles. He’s having a real good year.
Littleton is indeed having a real good year. And soon enough the Rams will have a decision to make regarding how long they’d like to keep him around as he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. The Rams are already paying top dollar to QB Jared Goff, RB Todd Gurley, TE Tyler Higbee, WR Brandin Cooks and DT Aaron Donald. Newly acquired CB Jalen Ramsey, presumably, is soon to follow.
Can the Rams find a way to crunch the numbers and lock up Littleton for the foreseeable future, or will they allow him to test the market and potentially search for an alternative at ILB? We’ll soon find out. But Littleton has earned a nice payday. And the Rams are currently a better team for it.