Rams training camp preview: Youth movement at CB behind veteran starters

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Even though the Rams don’t often extend their own homegrown defensive backs, cornerback is a position they value greatly. They acquired Jalen Ramsey in 2019, they brought back Troy Hill this year, they drafted Robert Rochell, Decobie Durant and Derion Kendrick in the last two years and also added David Long Jr. in 2019.

The result is a collection of both youth and experience, with the latter leading the way atop the depth chart. The younger guys will need to step up because the Rams only have two locked-in starters.

Here’s a preview of the cornerback group as training camp is set to get underway.

Roster locks

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  • Jalen Ramsey

  • Troy Hill

  • Robert Rochell

  • Decobie Durant

  • David Long Jr.

I truly don’t see any of these players getting cut before the season begins. Ramsey and Hill should be the two starters at cornerback when the Rams are in their base 3-4 defense, with a third cornerback rotating in for nickel packages.

Who that third cornerback will be is still TBD, but Rochell, Durant and Long are all in contention. Rochell is primarily an outside cornerback, Durant is likely to play mostly in the slot, and Long can play both spots.

Likely to make it

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

  • Derion Kendrick

Kendrick was a sixth-round pick, which puts him in a position between roster lock and on the bubble. Teams have certainly cut sixth-round rookies before, and just last year, the Rams cut Earnest Brown IV as a fifth-round rookie.

I think Kendrick has a great chance to make the team and be the fifth or sixth cornerback, as well as a special teams contributor, but he’s not a lock the same way Durant (a fourth-rounder) is.

On the bubble

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  • Grant Haley

  • Tyler Hall

  • Caesar Dancy-Williams

  • T.J. Carter

  • Duron Lowe

There’s a lot of unproven talent in this group. Hall is the most experienced, while Haley is the only other non-rookie among this collection of players. Dancy-Williams, Carter and Lowe all went undrafted this year and were signed by the Rams as free agents.

It’ll take a standout performance in training camp and the preseason for any of these players to make the 53-man roster, given the talent ahead of them.

Battle to watch: Rochell vs. Long vs. Durant vs. Kendrick

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

This will be one of the best camp battles to watch this summer. It’s a complete toss-up for the third cornerback spot behind Ramsey and Hill, and the Rams have some quality – yet, unproven – options available.

Rochell started a handful of games last season before getting injured, and although he experienced some rookie growing pains, his size and athleticism make him an intriguing outside cornerback.

Long has the most experience of this trio, having started six games in the last two seasons. He played well in the postseason, picking off one pass and returning it for a touchdown against the Cardinals.

Durant is the sleeper in this group, being a slightly undersized cornerback who has excellent ball skills. Even Kendrick could factor into the mix as a sixth-round rookie, given the coverage skills he showed in college.

Potential sleeper: Kendrick

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A rookie draft pick may not be considered a sleeper by some, but in a crowded cornerback room, Kendrick is certainly someone to watch. What he lacks in speed and overall athleticism he makes up for with good coverage skills and instincts.

He was a great value in the sixth round and if put in the right situation as primarily a zone cornerback, he could excel in the Rams’ scheme.

Projected depth chart

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

  • Starters: Ramsey, Hill, Long

  • Backups: Rochell, Durant, Kendrick

The Rams went thin at cornerback last season, only keeping four cornerbacks initially – plus a few safeties who could also line up at corner. This year, I think that changes. With the injuries the Rams suffered at corner last year and the inconsistency some players had, they should go deeper at this position.

Six might seem like a lot, but only Ramsey, Hill and Long have multi-year experience in the NFL. The other three are still in prove-it mode, so the more bodies they have at the position, the better chance someone will emerge as a quality starter.

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