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What are Los Angeles Rams planning at inside linebacker?

The competition seems wide-open in 2021

Wild Card Round - Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams have taken a philosophical approach towards the inside linebacker position since General Manager Les Snead and Head Coach Sean McVay were paired in 2017. For the most part the team has not invested priority capital, either significant free agent dollars or high draft picks, into the middle of its defense.

Under former defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, now head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, the Rams began pairing a traditional run-stopping linebacker with a more athletic player that can play sideline-to-sideline and is proficient in coverage. Heading into the 2020 season the Rams expected to pair thumper Micah Kiser with the rangy Travin Howard; however, Howard suffered a season-ending injury prior to Week 1. Kiser also has a history of injuries, which continued into the 2020 season.

At times this past season LA was down to only two inside linebackers on the active roster, Troy Reeder and Kenny Young. Kiser and Howard returning to health bolsters the Rams options at this position. Christian Rozeboom is a former UDFA that is hoping to earn a role in his second season. Additionally, the team drafted Ernest Jones in the third round of the 2021 NFL draft.

Los Angeles has more options in the middle of its defense now than it did at times last season, so what are the Rams planning at the inside linebacker spot?

Rams Potential ILB Pairings 2021

Traditional Run Stoppers Athletic, Rangy Players
Traditional Run Stoppers Athletic, Rangy Players
Micah Kiser Kenny Young
Troy Reeder Travin Howard
Ernest Jones Christian Rozeboom
While nothing is guaranteed, the Rams have leaned into pairing inside linebackers with complementary skillsets in recent seasons

This is a training camp battle to watch, and the competition is wide open. Kiser and Young are currently the favorites to open the season as starters, and this is the combination the team chose for the first practice of training camp on Wednesday. Howard has some catching up to do after sitting out all of last season, and the rookie, Jones, may find it tough to keep up with the seasoned veterans.

The pairing of Kiser and Young had success at times during the 2020 season. Kiser was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his week 2 performance against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Young also came on strong late in the season, returning an interception for a touchdown in a Thursday night game against the New England Patriots.

Even if Kiser and Young are the week 1 starters, there will still be opportunities for the reserve linebackers to step in and contribute to the team this season. Linebackers are important special teams players, as they present a blend of both size and athleticism. Reeder has been a key contributor on special teams for the Rams, and Jones and Rozeboom could outshine the veterans in the third phase of the game.

Los Angeles will likely work in the rookie over the course of the season, though steady play by the veterans may limit opportunities to do so. Jones was rumored to be one of Les Snead’s favorite players in the entire 2021 draft, so it’s reasonable to assume the team would like to see him on the field sooner than later.

Who do you think starts for the Rams in Week 1 against the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football?