Call it the Cornerback Curse. Another promising young St. Louis Rams cornerback, a third-round pick, suffers a serious injury that put him on the shelf, just as he prepares to take on an important role with the team. Bradley Fletcher had played his way into a starting job in 2009, his rookie season, when he was lost to a knee injury in October. This year, Jerome Murphy was poised for an important training camp competition as the team's third corner. He fractured his ankle and will likely miss the season.
Murphy's loss leaves the Rams with Justin King and Al Harris on the depth chart immediately behind the starters. Harris has played well in the preseason, but he is 36. King remains an acceptable player, but he has actually lost ground on the depth chart, as the Rams shuffled their nickel package to move Ron Bartell to the nickel role while Harris replaces him on the outside.
Rams GM Billy Devaney has been pretty forthcoming in their desire to find help at the position. Now, we have a bona fide trade rumor that the Rams are one of several teams interested in Eagles CB Joselio Hanson. The Rams aren't the only team said to be interested. Carolina is viewed as a team to watch because of former Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.
Hanson has been the Eagles' nickel corner for a long time, something that fits with his smaller size, 5'9" 185 lbs. He and Spagnuolo crossed paths in 2006, Hanson's first year with the team and Spags' last. Here's his scouting report:
Very aware defensively. An instinctive reactor. Reads plays wells and stays with his man all the way. A solid tackler.
Undersized. Will lose some battles on hanging balls against more physical receivers. Doesn't have the elite speed to make plays as a run supporter.
Were the Rams to trade for Hanson, he would almost certainly require his contract to be restructured. Devaney and Demoff might find room elsewhere under the cap via cuts, but they'll need some space when the season starts to prepare for additional injury replacements, should they need to find one.
Down the depth chart
The lockout made this a rough year for undrafted rookies. Usually signed in the hours after the draft, those players get the full complement of OTAs to make an impression before camp. This year, players taken in the so-called eighth round are little more than filler to round out the roster and give teams healthy bodies for preseason games and camp.
CB Dionte Dinkins emerged as the most notable of the Rams UDFAs this year. His inexperience probably precluded him from being a legitimate option for heavy rotation this year. Dinkins suffered a high ankle sprain in Friday's game; it will keep him out for 2-4 weeks. That hurts his future, but he could easily be added to the practice squad; he might have been ticketed for there anyway given the Rams' desire to add another veteran to fill the void left by Murphy.