In Sean McVay’s first season, the four Rams linebackers with the most snaps were Alec Ogletree (86%), Mark Barron (77%), Connor Barwin (61%), and Robert Quinn (59%). The following year, Cory Littleton (95%) led all Rams defensive players in snaps, and was followed at his position by Samson Ebukam (68.5%), Barron (56%), and Matt Longacre (28%).
That’s six different linebackers playing in at least 55% of the snaps over two seasons.
Littleton again led the defense in snaps (94%) in 2019, but was now followed by Dante Fowler (79%), Clay Matthews (55.5%), and Ebukam (51%). Then Littleton took his snaps to Las Vegas and the Rams’ new linebacking leader in playing time was Leonard Floyd (89.5%), followed by Micah Kiser (54.5%), Kenny Young (46%), and Troy Reeder (41%).
If a defense runs a 3-4, it is possible that they could have as few as four starters over a four-year period. In four years under McVay though, the Rams have had THIRTEEN different linebackers finish in the top-four in snaps. And yet, even as we enter the fifth offseason with McVay at the helm, Floyd would appear to be the only player who is locked into a starting linebacker role in 2021.
Who will finish in the top-four for linebacker snaps next season?
Leonard Floyd, OLB
Signed a four-year, $64 million contract to stay in LA, making him a clear difference at the position over predecessors like Fowler and Quinn. At least, in the eyes of the Rams.
Micah Kiser, ILB
In a lead position to begin training camp as a starter. Will face serious competition though and didn’t have as much of a “home run season” as Littleton did in 2018 and 2019.
Troy Reeder, ILB
Has appeared in every game over the last two years and played in 721 defensive snaps. So he’s got the experience advantage over some of his teammates. But can he become more consistent?
Kenny Young, ILB
He’s become a bit of an “offseason favorite” this year but Young is 26, turning 27 in November, so he’s well past the project phase of most players. Is Young going to step up and demand a starting job out of training camp this time?
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, OLB
It’s not a good sign that Okoronkwo is going into his fourth season with the Rams but wasn’t one of the 13 players I named above. Samson Ebukam leaving for the 49ers might open up his opportunities.
Terrell Lewis, OLB
People will argue that he has the highest ceiling in the entire unit. Some of those same people will also back off the argument when Lewis’ injury history is mentioned. How’re the knees?
Justin Hollins, OLB
Presumably a favorite of Brandon Staley, who is no longer with the Rams, but Hollins was brought over as more than a favor to the defensive coordinator. Hollins played in 34% of the snaps last year and finished with three sacks. Could he end up providing the value that people are expecting from Lewis?
Ernest Jones, ILB
Jones was a third round pick out of South Carolina and will challenge for a starting inside linebacker role immediately. Is he athletic enough to stand out over the players already mentioned?
Travin Howard, ILB
A favorite to start during training camp last year, Howard missed the entire season on injured reserve. Will he recapture that favoritism?
Justin Lawler, OLB
He’s here but hasn’t shown up since 2018.
Derrick Moncrief, ILB
Made one appearance on special teams last year.
Chris Garrett, OLB
Seventh round linebackers haven’t produced much at the NFL level, including Lawler and Clay Johnston, LA’s seventh round pick a year ago and he didn’t make the team.
Christian Rozeboom, ILB
A UDFA in 2020 who probably pushed himself over Johnston, but not onto the final roster.
Maximilian Roberts, OLB
UDFA in 2021. Played at three colleges, most recently Boston College, and has undergone three knee surgeries.
John Daka, OLB
Went undrafted in 2020 and spent time with the Ravens and Jets prior to being claimed off of waivers by the Rams last week. Had 27.5 sacks and 47.5 TFL in 51 college games for James Madison University.
Who do you expect to start for the Rams at linebacker in 2021?