Let’s be honest, the 2023-2024 version of the Los Angeles Rams defense is going to look a lot different then we have become accustomed to since the McVay-era began. Instead of being riddled with big-named stars like Bobby Wagner, Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Floyd, and Von Miller, the defense will consist of a majority of young, unproven players with little NFL playing experience over the span of a 17 game season.
With that being said, there will be a ton of competition during training camp to compete for different roles on the defense, paving the way for rookies to become instant starters if they can prove they’re worthy. One of those players that I think has a real opportunity to become an instant starter for the L.A. defense is this year’s 234th overall pick, safety Jason Taylor II out of Oklahoma State University.
Given the state of the Rams roster, the competition for both safety spots is completely wide open, with Jordan Fuller, given his experience, getting the leg up on one of the two spots heading into camp. Past Fuller, second-year men Quentin Lake and Russ Yeast will have a shot to compete, with rookie Jason Taylor II directly behind them.
Taylor II was named to the 2022 Walter Camp All-American second team last season as a senior, as well as first team All-Big 12 in a year where he racked up 6 INTs, 7 passes defensed, and a whopping 99 tackles in his final season as a Cowboy. Not only was Taylor II the most productive defensive player on Oklahoma State last season, he was also voted as a team captain by his teammates, showing his capabilities as a leader and someone who teammates gravitate towards.
One great part of Taylor II’s game is his willingness/skillfulness when it comes to diagnosing the run and imposing himself on the ball carrier, very similar to former Rams safety Taylor Rapp. In this clip, you can see just how easily Taylor II makes his run read and reacts accordingly, coming downhill to deliver a nice stick on the running back:
Jason Taylor II with the stick. The Oklahoma State has plenty of STs experience, high football IQ, reliable open field tackler.— Brennen Rupp (@Brennen_Rupp) December 15, 2022
He finished this past season with 87 tackles, two TFL, 6 INTs and 7 PDs. pic.twitter.com/1wGhcxQuLH
However, in a way also similar to Rapp, Taylor II’s range as a high safety is pretty limited and he can look somewhat stiff in coverage at times, which means he will most likely be more of a box safety and will most likely never be in the single-high looks for Raheem Morris’ defensive unit. Taylor II also has shown his willingness to play hard on special teams, paving the way for an instant starting role on kick coverage units right off the jump for the Rams.
An underrated aspect of football players that, I believe, is often underappreciated is this knack for making big plays at pivotal points in football games. There is this heightened sense that some players get in these moments that allow them to almost push past some of their limitations as players to make game-breaking plays, and this is a trait that I believe Taylor II possesses. This clip is a prime example of what I’m referring to, as Taylor II pushes past those who critique his lack of range to make an unbelievable play on the ball to all but seal the victory for his team late in the 4th quarter:
Another really good pick by the Rams late with Jason Taylor II. Good instincts and range as a two-deep safety. Like the ball skills a lot. Tested off the charts and his explosion pops when triggering downhill. Good take on skills. Can make plays: pic.twitter.com/YsScEnhqhs— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) April 29, 2023
Listen, I am not saying that Taylor II is a sure-fire future All-Pro, but this guy can flat out play. He tested extremely well at the combine, and his final two seasons in college were very productive, even in a conference like the Big 12 that is run by high octane offenses. With his 6’0” 204 pound frame, he possesses the body to last in pro football, it’s going to be all about how quickly he can pick up the system and prove his ability to make plays in the preseason. I fully expect Jason Taylor II to make a serious push to be one of the two starting safeties when the Rams kick the season off in September.