On a star-studded Rams defense, Cory Littleton quietly finds a role

If Los Angeles Rams linebackers coach Joe Barry had his way, he would have started coaching Cory Littleton more than two years ago.

Barry, a former assistant with the Washington Redskins, implored the Redskins to select Littleton in the 2016 draft.

“When we were in Washington we loved him,” Barry said. “I was on the table the entire third day of the draft to draft him.”

But with more pressing needs, the Redskins passed on Littleton, who made several positions moves in four seasons at the University of Washington, which reflected in a draft grade that labeled him as an in-between player without a real spot in the NFL.official nfl jerseys cheap

The other 31 teams passed on Littleton in the draft, too, leaving Littleton, a San Diego native, to sign as an undrafted free agent with the Rams.

“He made the decision,” Barry said, “And I was like, ‘Dang! What a bummer.'”50

Barry may have lost out on Littleton in the draft and free agency, but united with him in Los Angeles a year later when he accepted a position on coach Sean McVay’s staff.

Now as the Rams prepare for the 2018 season, Littleton, 24, has gone from an undrafted player to a penciled-in starter at inside linebacker on a defense that includes All-Pros Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters.

“It’s been a progression,” Littleton said. “Just trying to get better every day.”

Littleton’s ascension up the depth chart was made possible after a series of offseason roster moves.

In the first year deploying defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme, the Rams ranked 19th in total defense, giving up the 12th-fewest points and generating the fifth-most turnovers, as they clinched the NFC West for the first time since 2003.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

But they also ranked 28th against the run, allowing an average of 122.4 yards rushing.

In an effort to better field the 3-4 and provide some salary-cap flexibility, the Rams traded outside linebacker Robert Quinn to the Miami Dolphins and inside linebacker Alec Ogletree — who last season signed a four-year, $42-million extension — to the New York Giants.