Other than young safety Johnathan Abram, there hasn’t been many Raiders’ defensive players who have played well so far. Despite being 2-0 — the offense has been brilliant! — not many Las Vegas defensive players have stood out positively yet.
One of the players who stands out for not standing out on the field is new linebacker Cory Littleton, who was signed to a three-year, $36 million deal by the Raiders this offseason. He was considered the top free-agent prize by the team in a busy offseason. He was signed to be a key to a revived defense. It hasn’t happened yet.
Littleton has just nine tackles in two games, which projects to a 72-tackle season. Considering Littleton tallied 134 tackles for the Rams in 2019 and 125 tackles in 2018 (his first season as a full-time starter) and that just isn’t enough.
It is early and Littleton has plenty of time to become the tackle machine the Raiders signed him to be and they need him to make an impact Sunday in a big game at New England. He will likely be spying on Patriots’ dual-threat quarterback Cam Newton, Again, it’s early but here are some possible reasons why Littleton has been slow to make an impact for the Raiders.
Getting used to new scheme:
Littleton played in a 3-4 scheme with the Rams. He is now in a 4-3 base defense under defensive coordinator Paul Guenther in Las Vegas. Without an in-person offseason program and preseason, perhaps Littleton is playing catchup in this new scheme. He might just need to get comfortable with his new team.
He misses Rams’ teammates:
The Rams had one of the best defenses in the NFL the past couple of years, Littleton may have benefited from playing on a strong unit with opportunities made in front of him. After all, he played with defensive lineman Aaron Donald, who is one of the best players in the NFL regardless of position. Donald makes it easy for linebackers. For example, Micah Kiser, a new Rams’ starter, was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his 16-tackle performance in a win over the Eagles. Kiser, a first-time starter has 23 tackles in two games. Littleton just left a linebacker-friendly defense.
Nick Kwiatkoski injury:
Littleton was supposed to be a duo with fellow free-agent signing, Nick Kwiatkoski. But he injured his pec in Week 1 and hasn’t played since. Littleton may need a solid middle linebacker next to him. If Kwiatkoski returns soon, perhaps we will see Littleton improve.
It’s too early to be overly concerned. Let’s see him adjust to the defense, before making any judgements. But, there is no doubt, the Raiders expects more from Littleton than what he has given them so far.