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Rams position battle: Who are the starting cornerbacks?

Robert Rochell enters pivotal year in young NFL career

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NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Cincinnati Bengals Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams are finishing out their first week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) at Cal Lutheran, their Thousand Oaks facility. A large percentage of this time is for Sean McVay and the coaching staff is to get the team, particularly rookies and new players, up to speed on the way their practices will be run. In addition, Sean McVay and Raheem Morris use this time to begin the installation of their offensive and defensive packages for the upcoming season. With over 40 new players on the roster, LA will need to be patient as they implement their systems and for their young players to absorb the new information. For some players, learning the playbook can be overwhelming, let alone executing their assignment.

There are not many certainties on the defensive side of the ball other than Aaron “99” Donald. By the time Week 1 arrives, the LA Rams will boast one of the youngest rosters in the NFL, if not the youngest. The most inexperienced unit within the team might be LA’s secondary. All of the cornerbacks are 25 years old or younger - leaving a lot of questions with few answers...

Other position battles:

Position Battle #3: Starting cornerbacks

Due to the trade of Jalen Ramsey, the Rams cornerback position is the most uncertain it has been since his arrival in 2019. Cobie Durant, proved to be starting caliber in his rookie year, but beyond him, the secondary is full of young, unproven talent. Aubrey Pleasant, Los Angeles’s defensive backs coach will have to develop and determine which corners are ready to crack the starting lineup. His likeliest options: Derion Kendrick (second year), Robert Rochell (third year), Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson (rookie), and Shaun Jolly (second year).

No matter what route LA goes, there is likely to be growing pains with such a young group.

Robert Rochell

Jordan Rodrigue of the Athletic has mentioned on her 11 Personnel Podcast that this year is a crucial development year for Robert Rochell. Similar to David Long Jr, if Rochell cannot crack the lineup then he is unlikely to ever amount to anything in the NFL. Rochelle gives the LA secondary more size (6’2” / 32 1/2” arm span) and speed (4.3-4.4 speed). In the 2021 draft, Rochelle registered the second overall (among cornerbacks at the 2021 combine) athleticism grade according to NFL Next Gen Stats. He profiles as a legitimate ball-hawking cornerback, receiving comparison to James Bradberry. However, Rochell’s struggles with his technique (backpedal and transitions), allowing wide receivers to exploit the cornerback out of their breaks.

Derion Kendrick

Derion Kendrick is the other option for Aubrey Pleasant. The former Georgia Bulldog defensive back had a forgettable rookie season. According to PFF, Kendrick allowed 39 receptions on 56 targets, earning an overall grade of 43.7. Kendrick’s lack of speed forces the cornerback to significantly off coverage, allowing quarterbacks to easily dink and dunk against him. Such was the case in Week 3 @ Arizona and in Week 9 @ Tampa Bay. Kendrick understands the Rams shell coverage, but will his game speed improve in year two?

Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson

The TCU rookie has not played a snap in the NFL to this point, but he may not have walked into a better situation to crack a starting lineup on day one. Despite being confined to a nickel cornerback role, the Rams may elect to kick Cobie Durant outside and insert Hodges-Tomlinson as their nickel corner. The 5’8” corner is known for his aggressive play on the ball and is capable of handling shifty wide receivers in the slot. He may draw some flags being a little too handsy, but coaching could polish in his technique. The Rams could employ THT similar to the way they did with Nickell Robey-Coleman, who was with the Rams from 2017-2019.


Who will be the starting corners in Week 1?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    (62 votes)
  • 66%
    (360 votes)
  • 22%
    (120 votes)
542 votes total Vote Now

Durant is a lock for now. But the others are coin-flips...