The Los Angeles Rams appear to have one of the best defensive line and secondary units on paper, but their linebacking core remains a major question going into the 2018 regular season.
Mark Barron and Cory Littleton are the projected two middle linebackers while defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has stated Samson Ebukam and Matt Longacre will likely be the starting outside linebackers.
As of OTA's, the Rams starting linebacker group appears to be as follows: Samson Ebukam (OLB), Mark Barron (ILB), Cory Littleton (ILB), Matt Longacre (OLB). Worth noting: Both Barron and Longacre haven’t practiced during OTA’s/minicamp.
— Ryan Kartje (@Ryan_Kartje) June 13, 2018
Besides Barron, the Rams lack experience at linebacker. Littleton, Ebukam and Longacre have a combined eight starts in their NFL careers. It is worth noting Barron is a converted linebacker after coming into the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a safety. But the Rams saw a lot in their current linebacker core to get rid of Alec Ogletree, Robert Quinn and Connor Barwin.
Longacre may have showed the most promise last season out of the current linebackers. In his third year in the NFL, he tallied a career high 5.5 sacks and one forced fumble. Ebukam has looked good during practice and “certainly” will be on the starting defense. He was able achieve one sack and a forced fumble in his rookie season last year.
Speaking of linebackers, Wade Phillips said Samson Ebukam “certainly” will be a starter on the outside, and indicated Matt Longacre would be in line for the other spot when healthy.
— Rich Hammond (@Rich_Hammond) June 13, 2018
Fortunately for the Rams, their linebackers are surrounded with talented players. They have the current NFL Defensive Player of the Year (DT/DE Aaron Donald) and added three former all pros this offseason (CB Marcus Peters, CB Aqib Talib and DT Ndamukong Suh). This gives LA the luxury to allow the Rams linebacker core to grow throughout the regular season, while not being asked to carry the defense.
The Rams have a roster right now that is Super Bowl or bust. They ranked 19th in total defense (339.6 yards allowed per game) last season and hope to improve with their new additions. With one of the leagues best scoring offenses, the Rams could become one of the best and most well balanced teams.
Training camp starts in mid-July which is time for the Rams to start molding this defense. Everyone will need every to know their role once the regular season starts. This is expected to be a big season in Los Angeles and will need their linebackers to get up to speed to achieve their goal.