In case you haven't been paying attention, the NFL has evolved into a pass-happy, gunslinging league. While the Rams are in one of the more run-oriented divisions, as shocking as it sounds, defending the pass is imperative to their success. According to PFF, the Rams spent 49.4% of their time on defense in 2012 in nickel.
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With the Rams beginning training camp, the cornerbacks figure to be one of the youngest and most important positional groups. The cornerbacks could conceivably be the position that makes the biggest jump in terms of improvement. The Rams need to see big improvements out of second year players Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson with team captain and anchor of the secondary, Cortland Finnegan, entering his eighth season. Past the top three, the Rams corners are relatively unknown at this point.
An injury to Janoris, Trumaine, or Cortland could have major repercussions for this young secondary. If the Rams are to feel confident at corner entering into the 2013 season, someone past the top three will need to show the team something.
Up Close and Personnel
# Name - POS - Height - Weight - Age
31 Finnegan, Cortland CB 5-10 - 188 - 29
21 Jenkins, Janoris CB 5-10 - 193 - 24
22 Johnson, Trumaine CB 6-2 - 204 - 23
43W Martin, Andre DB - 5-10 - 195 - 23
32 McGee, Brandon CB - 5-11 - 193 - 22
33 Pointer, Quinton DB - 5-9 - 186 - 25
36 Steeples, Robert CB 6-1 - 194 - 23
41 Thomas, Drew DB 5-9 - 188 - 23
35 Woodard, Darren CB 5-11 - 175 - 23
Cortland has created some waves this off-season with the twitter ribbing of former Rams safety, Craig Dahl. Finnegan, a Jeff Fisher favorite, lead all Rams cornerbacks with three interceptions. Not missing a game in the last three years provides the Rams with stability within a thin personnel group.
Cortland is undoubtedly the Rams top cornerback. He started off the 2012 season strong tallying PFF ratings of +2.1, +3.0, +2.1, and +1.8 in four out of the first five games. However, production slowed as the season wore on with his worst grade coming week ten to the San Francisco 49ers, -4.0. He also finished ranked 6th among all corners in terms of run stop percentage.
Cortland figures to be moved around the defense as a versatile chess piece. His ability to cover, blitz and offer support in the run game makes him an invaluable component within the Rams machine.
Camp Watch: Look for Cortland to coach up the young Rams secondary. Also, look for him to take on the Rams young wide receiving core and teach them how physical the NFL is. Watch for Tavon Austin and Cortland Finnegan to battle it out during camp.
Introducing first, in the red corner, weighing in at 174 pounds…He hails from Baltimore, Maryland and his swagger is always turnt' up, THE FORMER LIGHT WEIGHT COLLEGE BREAK YO ANKLE CHAMPION OF THE WORRLLLLDDDDDDD - TAAAAAVOONNNN AUSTIN
Now in the blue corner, the reigning champion of smack talk. With a professional record sporting only one loss (Andre Johnson), hailing from Milton, Florida with the honor of being one of the most hated men in the NFL, CORTLAAANNDDD "PUT UP OR SHUT UP" FINNNEGGANNNNNN
Janoris Jenkins will be an unchallenged starter. Contrary to common perception, Janoris had an up and down year in coverage, however he ranked 19th among all CB's in run stop percentage. His worst games in coverage came against Miami, Green Bay, New England, and San Francisco. Janoris' future looks bright as the biggest jump in player performance usually comes in year two.
Camp Watch: Look for Janoris to cut down on his guess work. In 2012 Janoris cost the Rams multiple times by channeling his inner Ms. Cleo and falsely predicting where the QB would go with the ball.
Trumaine played the fourth most snaps for the Rams at 366. He progressed throughout the season before finally supplanting Bradley Fletcher. Even with limited snaps, Trumaine managed to snag two interceptions. Trumaine will doubtlessly play a larger role in 2013.
Camp Watch: Watch for Trumaine to match-up with the Rams larger wideouts: Brian Quick and Austin Pettis. Trumaine will be used primarily on the outside when the Rams are in nickel packages, which will be often.
After running a 4.40 40-yard dash Brandon McGee entered the draft as one of the fastest corners available. His combination of speed, agility and size allows McGee to come in and compete for a spot from day one. As a former captain in college, McGee also possesses the intangibles that coaches Fisher and Walton covet.
Throughout most of his collegiate career McGee was primarily used in man coverage. His instincts and technique in zone coverage will have to be developed. McGee could see immediate action this season barring any injuries to the Rams top three corners.
Camp Watch: Watch for McGee's speed and agility to really set him apart. Tavon Austin, Chris Givens, and Stedman Bailey look to be interesting match-ups for McGee during camp which could help him earn a role.
Robert Steeples is a long shot to make the roster, yet he does offer something the Rams are lacking in the secondary - size. Steeples is homegrown, growing up in St. Louis. He played his college ball at Mizzou and Memphis and was signed by the Rams as an undrafted rookie free agent.
Camp Watch: Look for Steeples to use his size to his advantage and try to earn a spot as a special teamer.
We know how much Les Snead and Jeff Fisher love small school standouts, and that's just what Darren Woodard is. He hails from the University of Texas El Paso and like Steeples, is a long shot to make the team.
Camp Watch: Look for Woodard to fight for a special teams spot.
Once again the Rams signed a small school hopeful. Martin attended North Dakota State and made waves at his proday. He ran a 4.46 and a 4.49 while also showing off a 35 1/2 vertical. Martin is a bit of a tweener and could struggle to find a position.
Camp Watch: Look for where the Rams play Martin. It most likely will be at CB, but he could also see some time at safety.
Thomas is most likely just a camp body, but it will be fun to watch him compete against his former UTEP teammate, Darren Woodard.
Camp Watch: Woodard and Thomas to be all chummy.
Pointer appeared in six games in 2012 and was depth for the Rams in 2012. Having experience in the system, Pointer is the favorite for the fifth corner spot on the Rams.
Camp Watch: Watch for Pointer to challenge McGee for the fourth spot on the depth chart.
While many consider Janoris, Trumaine, and Cortland to be an average to above average group, we have to remember that Jenkins and Johnson are only second year players. This is a group that is brimming with p..po...poten...she....ahhhhh screw it! Under new defensive coordinator and defensive back specialist, Tim Walton, the young Rams defensive backs will look to become a force to be reckoned with within the NFC West.