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Rams could use depth around LBs Alec Ogletree, Mark Barron

From now until the start of free agency, on March 7, we'll take a position-by-position look at the Los Angeles Rams in eight installments. The Rams -- coming off a 4-12 season that prompted the hiring of rookie head coach Sean McVay -- have about $40 million in cap space but do not have a first-round pick. They also have a lot of needs, all of which can feel a little overwhelming without breaking it down by section. We'll do that here. Next up: linebackers. (Previous: WR/TE, DL, OL)

Key returnees: Alec Ogletree, Mark Barron, Josh Forrest, Cory Littleton, Bryce Hager

Notable free agents: N/A

Top free agents available (for now): Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower, Melvin Ingram, Zach Brown, Lawrence Timmons, Kevin Minter, Manti Te'o

Key stat: ESPN Stats & Info had Ogletree with 136 tackles in 2016, a career best and the sixth-highest mark in the NFL.

Ogletree didn't get any real love for Comeback Player of the Year, but he missed the final 12 games of the 2015 season with a broken fibula, then transitioned to the vital role as the Rams' "Mike" linebacker and became the only one to play in every single defensive snap in 2016, eventually being named a second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press.

Pro Football Focus didn't deem Ogletree anywhere near as favorably, however. The analytics-based site graded Ogletree 50th among 87 qualified linebackers, ranking him 56th defending the run and 37th in coverage. Barron -- an athletic converted safety, just like Ogletree -- graded out 32nd in a year that finished with 117 tackles, two interceptions and a sack, while playing in all but three snaps.

But the Rams' defense had a few too many lapses. It allowed quarterback Blaine Gabbert to scramble for 43 yards in Week 1 and running back LeSean McCoy to rush for 150 yards in Week 5. It gave up a 139.8 passer rating to Matthew Stafford in Week 6. It surrendered late, game-winning scoring drives to the Dolphins in Week 11 and the 49ers in Week 16. And it allowed the Saints, Falcons and Cardinals to all score more than 40 points down the stretch.

The Rams were awfully thin at linebacker throughout the season, which was fine. Under former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who ran mainly nickel packages with slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, they were able to get away with young, unproven players outside of Ogletree and Barron. The Rams used a third linebacker on less than 30 percent of their defensive snaps in 11 of their 16 games this past season.

But under Wade Phillips, who will implement a 3-4 scheme, they will need more help at this position. Defensive end Robert Quinn will probably serve as something of an outside linebacker, though he will continue to rush the quarterback. And Josh Forrest, a sixth-round draft pick in 2016 who suffered a season-ending knee injury Week 11, will be counted on. But the Rams will probably need some help from the outside, as well.