The Los Angeles Rams placed starting cornerback Darious Williams on the short-term injured reserve listing this week, which sidelines him for a minimum of three games. Williams has been a reliable defender for LA over the course of the last two seasons, but now it is time for third-year corner David Long, Jr. and rookie Robert Rochell to step up with the veteran out of the lineup.
Long was benched after a poor Week 4 performance against the Arizona Cardinals in favor of Rochell. The big drivers for this move were the size and athleticism of Rochell - the rookie is 6’2 and considered a “freak” athlete while Long is only 5’11 and has struggled so far this season matching up against taller receivers.
The injury to Williams is an opportunity for Long to turn his career with the Rams around. The good news is that the third-year corner is still only 23 years old and he has been playing significant minutes for the first time in his career - these are both indicators that Long has an opportunity improve as he gains more starting experience.
As for Rochell, his first start against the Seattle Seahawks was a mixed bag. There are three plays that effectively summarize the good and the bad.
1 - Early in the game against Seattle Rochell was in coverage against star receiver Tyler Lockett, who is a tough matchup for anyone really, and was beat deep. Instead of allowing an easy catch for a big gain, the rookie tackled Lockett and drew an obvious pass interference penalty. The bad is that he was beat rather significantly in coverage on a deep ball, but a silver lining is that he had the awareness to save a potential touchdown on the play.
Russell Wilson goes after the Rams rookie CB Robert Rochell, making his first NFL start, and Rochell trips up Tyler Lockett for pass interference. Tough break for the rookie.— Lindsey Thiry (@LindseyThiry) October 8, 2021
2 - Rochell gave up one other big play in Seattle, but this time to DK Metcalf. The rookie seemed to be in good position to make a play, but stopped his feet and looked for the ball. Unfortunately, the pass sailed over his head for quarterback Geno Smith’s first touchdown since the 2017 season.
3 - On this play the rookie was again lined up against Lockett, but he went airborne to tip the ball away and prevent a touchdown. This was an instance of Rochell using his size to his advantage - the result was a key play for the defense that was looking to hold a lead and clinch a victory for the Rams.
Los Angeles hopes Rochell can build on this effort, as they will need him to be a reliable contributor down the stretch.
The receiving corps LA will face over the next two weeks may be the perfect chance for both Long and Rochell to build confidence:
Week 6: New York Giants (away)
The Giants are currently riddled with injuries, particularly on offense, and it is not yet known who will be playing receiver for New York this week. Kenny Golladay is unlikely to play, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton were unavailable for Week 5, and Kadarius Toney has been slowed by an ankle injury.
This could leave New York with John Ross III and CJ Board catching passes from either Daniel Jones or Mike Glennon Sunday afternoon.
Week 7: Detroit Lions (home)
Any receiving matchup in this game will likely be overshadowed by the return of quarterback Jared Goff to Los Angeles; however, Goff will not have nearly the same weaponry at his disposal as he did in his time with the Rams.
Quintez Cephus had been one of the Lions better receivers so far in 2021, but he broke his collarbone in Week 5 and will be out for a long while. Tyrell Williams suffered a concussion early in the season but has not yet been able to return.
This would leave Detroit with speedster Kalif Raymond, rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown, former Ram KhaDarel Hodge, and Trinity Benson.
While these matchups against middling offenses may not tell the Rams exactly what they have in Long and Rochell, this is still an opportunity for the young corners to learn the ropes of the NFL without being under immense pressure to perform. LA won’t need Long or Rochell to be at their best in order to beat the Giants or Lions, but they will need at least one of the two to live up to their potential and be a key contributor over the remainder of the season.
Which corner do you have more confidence in currently?
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David Long, Jr.