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Rams Roster Profile: Can Derion Kendrick take a step forward in year 2?

Derion Kendrick will be thrown into a starting role in 2023. Can he take a step forward?

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams will have some question marks at the cornerback position following the trade of Jalen Ramsey to the Miami Dolphins. One player who will be counted on is second-year player Derion Kendrick.

Kendrick showed some upside at the college level with Clemson and Georgia. However, due to some off the field issues and lack of speed, the Rams drafted him in the sixth-round. Kendrick’s rookie season was up-and-down, but he displayed confidence that you like to see in a young cornerback.

Between now and the Rams’ first preseason game, I’m going to preview approximately 45 players on the roster. The goal here will be to highlight players looking to take that next step in 2023 as well as players who will serve as key depth on the roster. I may expand into the occasional star or roster-bubble player, but for the most part we’ll be looking at the players who will truly make or break the Rams season.

Today, we’re looking at Derion Kendrick.

2022 Season in Review

For a sixth-round selection, Kendrick showed flashes and exuded a confidence that you like to see in young defensive backs. His instincts were obvious when he was on the field. The problem was that he didn’t always have the game to back it up or was a step slow. That half second of hesitation or being slow by half a step will burn you at the NFL level.

Kendrick was consistently picked on by opposing quarterbacks and his 14.2 yards allowed per reception was the ninth-most in the NFL. In three games, he allowed over 100 yards in coverage. He gained a lot of experience in his rookie season and will be looking to learn from that in year two.

The Good/Best Case Scenario

As mentioned, Kendrick’s rookie season was extremely inconsistent. Still, there were some positives to take away. A lot of positives go back to his instincts and confidence as a player. He needs to trust those instincts more and good things will happen. The former Georgia cornerback brings the size that the Rams don’t have at the cornerback position. His arm length and height aren’t elite. However, he’s still one of the bigger defensive backs that Raheem Morris has to work with on the defensive side of the ball.

The best case scenario for Kendrick is that he starts to trust his instincts a little more which allows him to make more plays on the ball. Kendrick is never going to be a speed cornerback and will always be susceptible to vertical routes. However, that doesn’t mean he can’t be a good player. It’s easy to have a negative outlook on Kendrick, but he showed some flashes as a rookie. There’s a good chance that he ends up as the primary cornerback on the outside in the Rams defense. He’ll to show more consistency if that’s the role that he takes.

The Bad/Worst Case Scenario

While there were some positive flashes with Kendrick, there was more bad than good throughout his rookie season. His lack of long speed was consistently on display as opposing quarterbacks targeted him relentlessly.

In a worst case scenario, Kendrick continues to be a very inconsistent, frustrating player. The Rams will be expecting him to be the primary cornerback on the outside. It’s fair to question whether or not that’s a role that he’s ready for in year two.

Biggest Question: Can Derion Kendrick take a step forward in year two?

Whether or not Derion Kendrick can take a step forward in year two is an important one when it comes to the success of the Rams defense in 2023. However, Morris seems to be excited about Kendrick,

“What I want to see from Derion Kendrick is exactly what he’s given me. Urgency, he’s given me complete and absolute hustle. He’s given me some playmaking ability on the ball and off the ball. He provides great energy and juice just with his enthusiasm and his personality. I’m looking forward to seeing him grow to his highest level, whatever that is. I don’t want to set a ceiling for him. I don’t want to set a bar for him. I think we don’t know yet. I’m looking forward to seeing it...There’s going to be ebbs and flows and he certainly had his fair share, but again, you guys remember very shortly getting that guy in training camp and having the ability to get excited about him when Jalen was out.”

At the end of the day, Kendrick is a sixth-round pick and may be best suited in a depth role. He’s someone that can fill in, but not someone you want to see on the field every down on a week-to-week basis. There are things to be excited about with Kendrick, but can he put it all together?

Roster Battle

When it comes to the cornerback position, Cobie Durant might be the only lock heading into the season. Kendrick will likely make the final roster, but there will be a lot of competition on the depth chart. Is Robert Rochell ready to play a larger role? Tyon Davis might be a name to watch as is Timarcus Davis. Both players are listed at 6’0.

2023 Outlook and What to Expect

There will be a lot of expectations when it comes to Kendrick in 2023. That might be unfair, but that’s the current state of the Rams roster. He got a lot of experience as a rookie and it will be important for him to have learned from that experience.

When it comes to expectations, it’s hard to expect a sixth-round pick to turn into a bonafide shutdown cornerback on the outside. If there is clear growth from year one to year two, that would be a positive outcome heading into 2024.

Chances of Making Final Roster

With the experience that Kendrick gained last season, it’s hard to see him not making the roster. Kendrick may not be your typical roster “lock”, but it would be a surprise if he wasn’t on the final 53.

Final Roster Confidence: 10/10