After only one day of the Los Angeles Rams training camp, we can already answer one of the burning questions on L.A.’s 2023 defense. The Rams will indeed employ a “STAR” role, and second-year man DeCobie Durant will try to step up and fill the big shoes of departed Jalen Ramsey.
Cobie Durant alludes to playing Rams’ “Star” position heading into camp. Remember, position is ultra versatile and situationally focused between most (if not all) DB spots (including inside and outside). pic.twitter.com/dStDyGT1aP— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) July 25, 2023
Some quick history on the “STAR”. It’s genesis is often credited to Nick Saban, but it’s basically a turn on the nickel defense. Instead of taking a linebacker out for a cornerback to cover the slot, the role has morphed into a hybrid safety/linebacker/slot corner. The NFL’s move to attack horizontally out of West Coast and spread variants in no huddle, up tempo fashion, has made the “STAR” a full-time role. Saban told Roll ‘Bama Roll about the skillset he covets for the position.
“If you have really good quickness and cover ability, the slot guy (receiver) has a hard time beating you in that position, because he’s closer to the safeties, he’s closer to the middle of the field. So a good tackler, a good blitzer, a good cover guy on a slot player... That’s why players who have hybrid characteristics of multiple positions are so invaluable to defenses in today’s game. Long and rangy players with the ability to explode in quick bursts are the new prototype for teams looking for answers in dealing with spread attacks and mobile quarterbacks.”
Durant lacks length (30 1/8” arms) and is on the small side, 5’ 10” 180 lbs., but plays bigger with an aggressive, attacking play style. He’s also very fast, 4.38 forty and has good short area quickness, 7.02 3Cone. His draft profile is that of a CB with skill in both man and zone, highlighted by stellar ball hawking ability.
Last season he got off to a slow start, battling hamstring and groin problems, but from Week 12 on, he played about 70% of defensive snaps. For the year, Durant logged 281 on defense and another 111 on special teams. He finished with 22 tackles, one sack, five passes defended, and three interceptions. One INT went for an 85 yard touchdown.
Durant faced questions about his new role at a press conference on Tuesday’s first day of training camp and said,
“ ,,, The role is not easy, that’s for sure... (playing) “STAR” is a lot more mental than playing outside... You’re making more calls. Whether there are bunches out there, stacks, there are certain calls to make. The calls go through me. It gets real technical, but I’ve been studying since last year... (It’s about) communication...letting everyone know where I’m lining up. It kind of runs through me... (Ernest Jones) sets me and I set everyone else. A lot goes on, a lot of movement. I’m ready for it. I’m ready to take on the challenge. Just go out there and play fast, play smart. Be playmaker...”
During OTAs Defensive Coordinator Raheem Morris hinted about the traits he covets in the “STAR” and about Durant and Shaun Jolly working out at the role in a May 31 video press conference,
“It’s really the increased toughness. It’s really the short space quickness, and when you put a guy like Cobie and you put a young (DB Shaun) Jolly in there, they definitely have those tools and those attributes. “They definitely lack the size that Jalen had, which is kind of unique. But those are the things that we look for. Those are things that you look for in just around the league in general.”
Nothing is written in stone, it’s only Day 2 of camp, but it sure looks like Durant has himself a starting job in the secondary, and not just any job. He will have the important “STAR” position.