After years of mediocrity at the position, the Las Vegas Raiders finally have a solid linebacker corps. Much of that is thanks to the addition of former Los Angeles Rams linebacker Cory Littleton. Though he came into the NFL as an undrafted free agent, he’s solidified himself as one of the top linebackers in the league.
The Rams really wanted to keep him this offseason but they simply couldn’t afford him. Despite leaving for the Raiders, Rams head coach Sean McVay still had some very high praise for Littleton.
“You talk about the epitome of the three-down linebacker that can do a little bit of everything,” McVay said, per Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “He can blitz, he’s great in run support. He was excellent in coverage, forced a lot of turnovers. You don’t really replace guys like that.”
The Raiders kept trying to put bandaids on the problem at linebacker. They brought in names like Derrick Johnson, Vontaze Burfict and NaVorro Bowman. All of those guys were great players at one point but were past their prime when they came to the Raiders. With the Littleton signing, hopefully the team has solved their linebacker problem for the next few years.
Littleton Explains Why He Joined Raiders
Littleton was a highly sought after free agent this offseason but he felt like he could envision himself as a Raider.
“It was a great feeling,” Littleton said. “Something that you work for every day when you come out on the field. Me coming to the Raiders, I just really wanted to continue my career and the Raiders seemed like a good fit for myself and they were open to me coming in and I’m just happy they made the decision to bring me in.”
The team used to not be considered one of the top free-agent destinations in the NFL. The Raiders weren’t winning and their stadium left a lot to be desired. However, the move to Las Vegas makes the team a lot more appealing to free agents. Littleton was a big score for the team and there should be a lot more to come in the future.
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Jeff Heath Praises Littleton’s Athleticism
The biggest issue Raiders linebackers have had in the past is that they are ineffective in pass coverage. That shouldn’t be the case anymore thanks to Littleton.
“I think the first thing that stands out is his athleticism,” Raiders safety Jeff Heath said recently. “He moves like a [defensive back] but he’s in a linebacker’s body. He’s very fast and very fluid. This league is all about matchups now and offenses will have so many different guys at every position that can win down the field. Quick, agile, fast, so you have to have guys on defense to match up with those type of players. The days of the 265-pound linebacker doesn’t leave the hashes, that’s tough in today’s game.”
Gone are the days of the Raiders having a bunch of slow, unathletic linebackers. Some of the best tight ends in the NFL call the AFC West home and they’ve grown accustomed to feasting on the Raider defense. Now it shouldn’t be as easy to eat them alive.