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Cory Littleton (born November 18, 1993) is an American football inside linebacker for the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Washington. He signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2016.

College career

Littleton attended the University of Washington.

Professional career

Littleton went undrafted in the 2016 NFL Draft. On May 4, 2016, the Los Angeles Rams signed Littleton to a three-year, $1.63 million contract that includes a signing bonus of $15,000 as an undrafted free agent.[2][3]

Throughout training camp, Littleton competed for a roster spot as a backup outside linebacker against Josh Forrest, Cameron Lynch, Ian Seau, and Matthew Wells.[4] Head coach Jeff Fisher named Littleton a backup outside linebacker to begin the regular season, behind Akeem Ayers and Mark Barron.[5][6]

He made his professional regular season debut in the Los Angeles Rams' season-opening 28–0 loss at the San Francisco 49ers. On December 4, 2016, Littleton collected a season-high eight combined tackles during a 26–10 loss at the New England Patriots in Week 13. The following week, he earned his first career start and made one tackle in the Rams' 42–14 loss against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 14.[7] Littleton would finish his rookie season in 2016 with 20 combined tackles (15 solo) in 16 games and one start.[8] He was also won the Carroll Rosenbloom Memorial Award as the team's rookie of the year.

On January 13, 2017, the Los Angeles Rams announced their decision to hire Washington Redskins' offensive coordinator Sean McVay as their new head coach.[9] Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips installed a base 3-4 defense. During training camp, Littleton competed to be a backup inside linebacker against Josh Forrest and Bryce Hager. Head coach Sean McVay named Littleton a backup inside linebacker to begin the season, behind Mark Barron and Alec Ogletree.[10]

On December 24, 2017, Littleton recorded seven combined tackles, deflected a pass, made his first career sack, and made his first career interception during a 27–23 victory at the Tennessee Titans in Week 16. Littleton made his first career interception off a pass by Titans' quarterback Marcus Mariota, that was originally intended for wide receiver Rishard Matthews, in the first quarter.[11] The following week, he collected a season-high eight combined tackles in the Rams' 34–13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 17.[12] Littleton finished the season with 36 combined tackles (22 solo), four pass deflections, one sack, and one interception in 16 games and four starts.[8]

The Los Angeles Rams finished atop the NFC West with an 11–5 record in 2017. On January 6, 2018, Littleton appeared in his first career playoff game and made one tackle during a 26–13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Wildcard Game.

Littleton entered training camp slated as a starting inside linebacker after Alec Ogletree was traded to the New York Giants.[13] Head coach Sean McVay named Littleton and Mark Barron the starting inside linebackers to start the regular season, alongside outside linebackers Matt Longacre and Samson Ebukam.[14]

He started in the Los Angeles Rams' season-opener at the Oakland Raiders and recorded 13 combined tackles (11 solo), broke up a pass, and made an interception during their 33-13 victory.[15] Against the Los Angeles Chargers, Littleton had 10 combined tackles (5 solo), a pass deflection, and blocked a punt in the end zone that was recovered by Blake Countess for a touchdown in the Rams' 35-23 win.[16] In a 39-10 rout of the San Francisco 49ers, Littleton again had 10 total tackles (8 solo), including two sacks. He also was credited with the first safety of his pro career after blocking a punt out of the end zone during the second quarter.[17]

Littleton has earned high praise in his first season as a full time defensive starter for the Rams. Head coach Sean McVay said, “Can't really understate what a great job and what an impact Cory Littleton's made.” Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips also remarked, “I don't know that any linebacker is playing as well as he is in both areas. He's way ahead of everybody in the league as far as pass coverage.”[18]

On December 18, 2018 Littleton was voted to the 2019 Pro Bowl as a special-teams starter.

In the playoffs, Littleton recorded seven tackles in a 30-22 victory against the Dallas Cowboys and 12 tackles in a 26-23 overtime victory against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game to reach Super Bowl LIII where they lost 13-3 to the New England Patriots. In the Super Bowl, Littleton recorded 10 tackles, two passes defended, and an interception.

On March 12, 2019, the Rams placed a second-round restricted free agent tender on Littleton.[19] On May 20, 2019, Littleton signed his tender for one year, $3.095 million.[20] In week 1 against the Carolina Panthers, Littleton made 14 tackles and intercepted Cam Newton once as the Rams won 30-27. [21]

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