The Los Angeles Rams linebacking corps may be one of the most inexperienced groups the organization has seen in quite some time. The departures of Clay Matthews, Dante Fowler Jr., and Cory Littleton have left Sean McVay and first-year Defensive Coordinator, Brandon Staley scrambling to assemble a solid core in the middle of their defense.
Rather than pursuing high-end free agents in the 2020 offseason, the Rams looked to internally develop their young players to contribute to revitalizing this defense. The Rams will likely continue a 3-4 scheme for the 2020 season.
Having one of the leagues most dominant defensive fronts as the anchor should relieve a lot of the pressure for a younger linebacking group. However, they are expected to make an immediate impact against both the run and pass game. The starting linebacking corps will be under a close microscope of the coaches for the entirety of the 2020 season. Here are my predictions as to who will be starting at linebacker Week 1 for the Los Angeles Rams
Predicting The Rams Starting Linebackers
Micah Kiser (6-0, 244 lbs)
Although he has yet to establish himself as a premier starting linebacker in the NFL, Micah Kiser is a cerebral player that has the physicality and instinct to be a prominent run stuffer for this team. He was poised to play a significant role in the Rams defense last season, but a torn pectoral muscle in the preseason halted his chances.
He had a respected career at the collegiate level, playing for the University of Virginia. As a starter, Kiser had 189 solo tackles, 33.5 tackles for loss, 19 sacks, and 8 forced fumbles. He was also awarded the William V. Campbell Trophy during his senior season; this award is presented to the college football player with the best combination of academic, community service, and on-field performance.
Obviously, Sean McVay and the Rams front office saw enough in Kiser to draft him in 2018. He has had a chance to learn how to be a pro from veteran Ram linebackers throughout the past two seasons and is looking to take the next step towards becoming the starting inside linebacker in 2020.
Kenny Young (6-1, 234 lbs)
It was rumored that numerous members of the Baltimore Ravens front office were disappointed in trading away the ILB out of UCLA. His NFL Draft Combine demonstrated his quickness and versatility, running a 4.60 40-yard dash. This made him a suitable weakside linebacker, where he would be able to flow to the ball with ease while avoiding blocks.
During his rookie season with the Ravens, Young posted 40 solo tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 7 QB hits while only starting three games for the purple and black. Moreover, during his short-lived 2019 campaign with the Ravens, Young produced 13 tackles and a forced fumble in three games started. The Rams definitely got a hidden gem after trading for Young.
He has the high-character qualities that can mold him into a voiced leader in this locker room. His versatility also makes him a threat in pass coverage as he has the attributes to keep up with pass-catching running backs. Expect him to hit the ground running if he is given the opportunity to start for the Rams.
Expect Troy Reeder out of the University of Delaware to be a rotational piece amongst the ILB group. He was a productive asset for the Rams in his 12 games played. As an undrafted free agent, Reeder has already turned some heads.
Leonard Floyd (6-5, 240 lbs)
Floyd comes into the 2020 NFL season with a new team but familiar coaching. Brandon Staley worked for the Chicago Bears for the 2017 and 2018 seasons as their OLB coach. In those two seasons, Floyd racked up 68 solo tackles, 8.5 sacks, and 23 QB hits. Yes, for a player with so much hype coming into the league as a top-10 pick, Floyd has been somewhat of a disappointment. But, he’s coming into the season with a one-year contract and has a lot to prove if he wants to cash in next offseason.
Out of all the OLBs’ on the Rams depth chart, Floyd comes in as one of the most experienced. He’s played for a top-end defense with the Bears in 2018 and he knows what it takes for a defense to be that successful.
Floyd came into the league with a high-ceiling for a reason; his resume out of the University of Georgia is why the Rams took a chance on him. Floyd branded himself as an all-time Georgia Bulldog as he finished 11th in school history in sacks and 9th in school history in tackles for loss. Not to mention he played in arguably the most difficult conference in college football.
Lastly, after some injuries at the beginning of his career, Floyd has proven that he has become a durable player, starting in all 16 games in consecutive years for the Bears. He will be an available starter in the 2020 season and is expected to assist Aaron Donald and the Rams pass-rush.
Samson Ebukam (6-3, 245 lbs)
Samson Ebukam, a fourth-year player out of Eastern Washington University, has demonstrated himself as a versatile linebacker that can produce at both the inside and the outside. In the last two seasons, Ebukam started 19 games for the Rams, racked up 77 solo tackles, 7.5 sacks, and forced 4 fumbles.
Many fans can recall his spectacular outing against the explosive Kansas City Chiefs offense back in 2018. In one of the most thrilling regular-season games in NFL history, Ebukam showed out with a pick-6 and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. If he is able to show production like that on a consistent basis, look for Ebukam to take a lead role among the Rams linebacking corps.
Expect the Rams 2020 third-round pick and arguably the biggest steal of the draft in Terrell Lewis to make an impact as a rotational player this season. He comes into the 2020 season with a chip on his shoulder after being overlooked due to his injuries. When healthy, he demonstrates great physical and mental toughness. His frame and athleticism make him NFL ready even though he has yet to play a snap. The University of Alabama prospect has a lot to look forward to in the next few years with the Rams.