When the Raiders signed Cory Littleton to a three-year, $36 million deal back in March, they were hoping to get a dynamic centerpiece for a defensive unit that badly needed to improve.
Instead, Littleton had his worst season since becoming a full-time linebacker.
Littleton spent the first four seasons of his career with the Rams. He appeared primarily on special teams in 2016 and 2017 before starting all 16 games in 2018 and 2019, playing nearly every defensive snap.
Last year, Littleton had 134 total tackles, six tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, nine passes defensed, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries.
But the linebacker was far from that level of success in 2020. Missing two games due to COVID-19, Littleton finished with 82 tackles and four tackles for loss. He had no sacks, passes defensed, interceptions, or forced fumbles.
Littleton didn’t have the benefit of an in-person offseason program and was down to about half his usual workload in the three games after returning from the reserve/COVID-19 list. But he nevertheless candidly described his own disappointment with his first season in Las Vegas.
“It came out miserably,” Littleton said Monday, via Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group. “I’ve always said that I wanted to keep myself and keep my play as a top-five linebacker. And the two previous seasons I had. I didn’t come nowhere close to it this year.”
Littleton noted his unfamiliarity with the scheme and his teammates may have hampered his play.
“I missed 10 times as many tackles as I did the previous year, which is uncharacteristic and something that can’t happen to a good linebacker,” Littleton said.
Littleton was far from Las Vegas’ only defensive problem, as the club fired coordinator Paul Guenther on Dec. 13. Head coach Jon Gruden said on Monday he plans to move quickly to hire a replacement, and Littleton’s former linebackers coach in Los Angeles, Joe Barry, is reportedly on the list of candidates for the job.