The secondary for the Los Angeles Rams took a step back from their Super Bowl LVI winning performance in 2021 to a 5-10 team in 2022. LA has heavily invested late round picks into the corner and safety positions, but they have not seemed to find players that are long-term contributors.
Cobie Durant, a fourth round rookie out of South Carolina State, is looking to buck that trend. While he’s been buried on the depth chart and in-and-out of the lineup at times with injury, his production on a limited sample size suggests that a bright future may lie ahead.
Questions certainly need to be asked as to why Cobie Durant spent 5 games playing solely on special teams once he returned from injury in week 9.— (@TL_LARams) December 26, 2022
Durant’s first NFL action came in Week 2 with the Rams secondary short-handed due to injuries. He played 23 snaps in this game and was targeted three times, allowing two receptions for 28 yards and picking off a pass thrown by Marcus Mariota. The rookie would suffer an injury in this game and be overtaken by Derion Kendrick on the depth chart, so he didn’t record another defensive snap until Week 13 versus the Seattle Seahawks.
His worst performance came in Week 15 against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, where he allowed three completions on as many attempts for 22 yards and a touchdown. The rookie rebounded in a big way on Christmas day versus the Broncos.
Rams rookie Cobie Durant reels in an unreal acrobatic interception.— Seven Rounds in Heaven (@7RoundsInHeaven) December 25, 2022
The South Carolina State product has had some flashy moments are a rookie, this play the highlight of them all. pic.twitter.com/9C9HJvUUaR
In the Rams’ last home game at SoFi Stadium for 2022, Durant was targeted by Russell Wilson or Brett Rypien in coverage three times, allowing two receptions for 13 yards and a touchdown. Durant also picked off two passes, one of which he returned for a defensive score.
The year-to-date coverage stats show Durant has been targeted a total of 13 times in 5 games. He’s allowed only 9 receptions for 86 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions - resulting in a traditional passer rating of 87.3. Durant’s longest reception allowed is just 19 yards. He also leads the NFL in interception return yardage with 151.
With the three interceptions and two touchdowns allowed, it seems that Durant can be a boom-or-bust type of player though it’s worth monitoring how these trends change as the sample size grows larger.
Cobie Durant (@One4_era) has been targeted 13 times in coverage as a rookie.— J.B. Long (@JB_Long) December 26, 2022
He leads the @RamsNFL with 3 interceptions and leads the @NFL in interception return yardage (151).
My question to you: Is that good? pic.twitter.com/RmCOYU4S75
Previewing depth chart at CB in 2023
Veteran corner Troy Hill is set to hit unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of the season, though his value seems to be maximized in Los Angeles. It’s hard to see the Rams moving on, as Hill is reliable and a leader in the secondary - you only get worse by not bringing him back.
The same can’t be said about David Long, Jr. who has probably run his course with the Rams as a former third round pick and another player set to hit the open market. Long was drafted by the team when Wade Phillips was still the defensive coordinator, and the scheme has since changed in a way that doesn’t fit his press-man coverage skills.
Durant’s inside-outside flexibility gives him an opportunity to replace Hill and Long if the Rams decide to move on from either or both. The rookie has played 113 snaps at the slot position, 22 as a box player, and 49 at outside corner. This versatility should help him stay on the field, though he faces a steep learning curve after playing mostly on the boundary in college.