After coming to the Las Vegas Raiders with much fanfare, linebacker Cory Littleton’s tenure has been underwhelming. Fortunately, he’ll have a legitimate shot at redeeming himself this season.
Following the 2019 season, the Raiders knew that the linebacker core needed a facelift. They set out to snag a premier linebacker and got their man. Or so it seemed. Cory Littleton’s 2020 season left a lot to be desired. However, looking back, it can be said that it wasn’t all his fault.
After last season’s conclusion, Littleton was very open on his thoughts on the season, particularly his play. In an interview following the 2020 campaign, he said “It came out miserably, I’ve always said that I wanted to keep myself and keep my play as a top-five linebacker… I didn’t come nowhere close to it this year.” Nevertheless, the stars are beginning to align for the highly touted linebacker. After some staff changes and several key additions on defense, Littleton could see a return to prominence this upcoming season.
What will change for the Raiders?
An incoming regime certainly should help. It is well documented that defensive players under Paul Guenther were often confused, lost, and overthought their play. Bringing a sense of simplicity is the name of the game for Gus Bradley, this will help not only Littleton but the entire defense.
Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks is also of this belief. He recently stated via The Athletic, “By bringing Gus aboard, that’s a big step in addressing the problem. He will make it a strength quicker than you think.” Obviously, it isn’t too far-fetched to think that Littleton can quickly turn it around in just one season. The fact that players such as Brooks hold Bradley in such regard, speaks to why there’s so much optimism surrounding his arrival.
Littleton’s speed will be the key…
Bradley also believes that Littleton’s speed could be used as an asset. Using his players’ strengths has always been a centerpiece of Bradley’s defenses. It is no secret that Littleton was regarded as a top-five linebacker during his time with the Los Angeles Rams. As a whole, Bradley appears to be excited about not just Littleton, but his entire linebacker trio. Putting an emphasis on speed, Bradley likes what he’s seen so far.
“Speed is such a factor, and I like what I see so far. The game has gotten so spread out, with teams using the whole width and the whole length of the field. You have to have it, and we have some good speed. Now it’s just a matter of utilizing it.”
All things being fair, the Raiders are correct in expecting that level of play from their linebacker. This holds true even more so when you look at the hefty price tag that they paid.
Littleton is a breakout candidate, he broke out before, he can do it again. The hundred tackles, interceptions, and game-changing plays should be expected this season. Under the tutelage of Bradley and linebackers coach Richard Smith, Raider Nation should have every expectation of Littleton returning to his exceptional ways.
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*Top Photo: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson