One of the most talked about improvements to the St. Louis Rams roster is the sudden appearance of depth at cornerback. The team drafted Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson to add some youth behind free agent Cortland Finnegan. Both rookies should develop into fine defenders, Jenkins perhaps very soon, but the near term success of the group rests heavily with a quick rebound from fourth-year player Bradley Fletcher.
Fletcher's season ended after Week 4 when he tore his ACL, for the second time, in practice. He entered the season with a big question mark hanging over his head about whether or not he could rebound and be healthy. Head coach Jeff Fisher said on Monday that Fletcher's health was not a problem.
"I guess the thing that is most impressive was as he came back towards the end of the offseason, he was making a lot of plays," Fisher said. "He's very instinctive and then had an outstanding conditioning test and that implies that the injury is behind him."
In 2010, the last and only season Fletcher played 16 games, he allowed a completion rate of 51 percent to go with four interceptions and five passes defensed. In four games last season, he allowed a 47 percent completion rate.
What you don't see in those numbers are a big, physical cornerback who manhandles receivers out of the picture, removing them as a viable option for quarterbacks.
"He's been doing a real good job," Fisher said. "He can you play both sides, he understands what we're doing. He's one of those guys, I think, having not known him well or long, he's one of those guys, I think, when the lights go on and the pads go on, that's when he starts making plays."
After emerging as a starter in his rookie season, 2009, Fletcher is working as the Rams third corner now, coming on the field in the nickel or other packages as the feisty Finnegan moves to the slot.
If Fletcher can stay healthy, the Rams will have a very good group of corners, one that will make life difficult for the so-called quarterbacks in the NFC West. It also sets him up for a big offseason. This is the final year on Fletcher's rookie contract.