The Los Angeles Rams will have a new-look secondary in 2023 led by second-year cornerback Cobie Durant. While Durant brings an element of unknown, it can be argued that he was the best rookie cornerback in the NFC West last season. And yes, that includes Seattle Seahawks cornerback Tariq Woolen.
Had Durant played the entirety of the 2022 season and the Rams been better, he may very well be talked about in the media like Woolen currently is heading into 2023. Last season, Durant allowed fewer yards per coverage snap than Woolen and allowed fewer yards per target. Additionally, Durant allowed fewer touchdowns per coverage snap and had more interceptions per target.
Against the run, the Rams cornerback had a higher run defense grade and higher run stop percentage according to Pro Football Focus. While Woolen allowed a lower quarterback rating when targeted, and had a higher coverage grade, Durant wasn’t far behind. The two players were pretty even in these two areas.
|Stat||Cobie Durant||Tariq Woolen|
|Yds per cov. snap||0.97||1.17|
|Yds per target||7.36||8.07|
|QB rating allowed||76.3||70|
|TDs allowed per cov. snap||.01||.07|
|INTs per target||.12||.08|
|Passes defended per target||.08||.13|
|Forced inc. per target||.08||.17|
|Missed tackle %||19%||18.7%|
|Run stop %||2.1%||1.5%|
|PFF Run D grade||58.3||47.8|
|PFF Pass D grade||74.3||77.8|
|Overall PFF grade||73.3||71.6|
Now, it’s fair to note that Durant’s sample size is much smaller. Durant played 281 snaps while Woolen played over 1,000. Still, Durant was slightly better than Woolen when he was on the field.
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 Cobie Durant.
2022 Season in Review
It took longer than it likely should have for Durant to finally see the field on defense. The Rams cornerback did play some defense in Week 2 against the Atlanta Falcons when he ended up with an interception. However, an injury put him out for four weeks and then he didn’t get a defensive snap again until Week 13 against the Seahawks.
Durant’s “Welcome to the NFL” game came on Christmas against the Denver Broncos. He finished with two interceptions, including a pick six. His three interceptions last season led the team. Durant may be a smaller cornerback at just 5’11, but he showed some promise as a rookie.
The Good/Best Case Scenario
Despite being drafted in the fourth-round of the 2022 NFL Draft, Durant was arguably the best cornerback on the Rams roster last season outside of Jalen Ramsey. He displayed good versatility, playing 167 snaps from the slot and 78 snaps outside.
In 104 coverage snaps from the slot, Durant’s 0.68 yards per snap ranked fifth in the NFL. His 48.7 quarterback rating was also the best mark among all slot cornerbacks with at least 100 snaps. The Rams cornerback allowed a reception just once every 11.6 snaps which ranked sixth. Among cornerbacks with at least 100 coverage snaps, Durant was one of the best slot cornerbacks in the entire league.
What’s impressive about this is that Durant was doing it as a rookie and playing in the slot is extremely difficult as a cornerback. The Rams will likely continue to use Durant as an inside-outside cornerback, but in the slot is where he thrived.
Durant may be better suited as the CB2 in a defense. However, he’ll be ready for the challenge heading into year two. The best case scenario for Durant is that he’s healthy this season and continues to build on a strong rookie year.
The Bad/Worst Case Scenario
Durant missed four games last season due to a hamstring injury. Given that he’s a smaller cornerback, that makes him more susceptible to the physical part of the game. However, that doesn’t make him injury-prone.
The worst case scenario for Durant is that he is forced to miss an extended period of time with injury. It would also be disappointing if the second-year cornerback were to take a step back after such a promising debut.
Biggest Question: Is Cobie Durant ready for that next step?
With the amount of turnover in the Rams secondary, there will be a lot of pressure on a player like Durant to take that next step in his development. It can be argued that he’s the most important player in the secondary heading into the season. That may not be fair for a fourth-round player, but it’s the reality of the situation.
Durant showed a lot of potential as a rookie. While his performance against the Broncos may have been an outlier, he showed flashes throughout the year that left a lot to be excited about moving forward.
There’s not necessarily a roster battle for Durant. The development of Trevius Hodges-Tomlinson may dictate how often Durant plays from the slot. Aside from that, Durant won’t be competing for a place on the roster or depth chart.
2023 Outlook and What to Expect
Heading into year two, Durant is going to be the most experienced cornerback on the roster outside of Robert Rochell. Last year, Durant played almost two-third of his snaps from the slot. With the need on the outside, it will be interesting to see if that’s where his primary role will be in 2023. However, given his success from the slot and his size, it’s hard to see Durant playing all of his snaps on the outside.
Durant isn’t going to replace Jalen Ramsey or have that level of impact. Ramsey is a unicorn and what he was able to provide will certainly be missed.
What should be expected from Durant is for him to continue to grow as a player and show that he can hold his own. He doesn’t necessarily need to step up and be “the guy”, but he needs to show that he can be someone that can be relied on in the secondary. It’s very possible that the Rams invest in the cornerback position in 2024.
Chances of Making Final Roster
Lock it in. Cobie Durant will 100 percent be on the roster this season.
Final Roster Confidence: 10/10