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Countdown to Camp 2016 - Safeties

Posted Jul 25, 2016

With five days left until the start of training camp at UC Irvine, team insider Myles Simmons breaks down the Rams' safeties.

Rams training camp at UC Irvine is now just five days away. Today, we continue our Countdown to Camp series by breaking down Los Angeles’ safeties. Be sure to submit your questions about tomorrow’s position group, offensive line, either on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments below.

SAFETIES

Newcomers: Rohan Gaines, Jordan Lomax, Brian Randolph

After the departure of Rodney McLeod in free agency, there will be at least one new starter among the Rams’ safeties in 2016. But based on defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ comments during OTAs, there’s another player who could make a push to seize a major role on the defensive unit.

First at free safety, the competition looks like it could be primarily between Cody Davis and Christian Bryant. Davis has been one of the Rams’ special teams aces over the last three years, finishing second in 2015 with 11 special teams tackles. He re-signed with the club on a two-year deal in March.

Bryant is heading into his third NFL season out of Ohio State. After spending 2014 on the practice squad, Bryant spent much of last year on the active roster, contributing on special teams. He registered four STs tackles in his nine games.

Both Davis and Bryant have taken a similar path as McLeod early in their careers. If one can emerge as the same kind of consistent performer, the Rams will be in good shape.

At strong safety, T.J. McDonald returns for his fourth season in the Rams’ secondary. His first game in the L.A. Coliseum will be a homecoming of sorts, as the safety played his college ball at USC. McDonald did finish 2015 on injured reserve due to shoulder surgery and had an excused absence from this year’s OTAs. But he is expected to participate in camp.

Maurice Alexander started five games in McDonald’s stead last year, and also filled in for him during OTAs — experience that appears to be paying off. During his media session at OTAs, Williams raved about Alexander’s progress, saying he’s put packages together in the past just to get the safety on the field. With Mark Barron now entrenched at weakside linebacker, there’s a chance Alexander could take on more of the “big nickel” package role Barron played when he first arrived from Tampa Bay.

Los Angeles added three undrafted free agents — Rohan Gaines (Arkansas), Jordan Lomax (Iowa), and Brian Randolph (Tennessee) — who will compete for a roster spot. As is the case for all UDFAs, they’ll need to contribute on special teams to make the initial 53-man roster.

QUESTION OF THE DAY

Based on Lamarcus Joyner’s football history, this is a decent question. I don’t like to use absolutes, so I won’t entirely rule it out. But I think it’s doubtful we’ll see Joyner in a free safety role.

Joyner’s done so well in the slot over the past couple years that taking him away from a position where he excels might not necessarily be the best use of talent. Joyner can come up and play the run, and he can play the type of press man coverage Williams likes to have inside, which can disrupt the timing between quarterback and receiver.

Plus, if Joyner really appeared to be an option, he likely would have spent some significant time there during OTAs. To my recollection, that was not the case in Oxnard.

This wasn’t explicitly asked in your question, Mitchell, but implicit in it is, what are the other options? Will the Rams add someone else? I’m not going to completely rule that out either. But I think Los Angeles has decent options in the backend between Davis and Bryant, and someone will claim that job and perform well. If that doesn’t happen, the Rams will likely address that whenever it comes.

But I expect it’ll be one of the better camp battles that may go through the majority of the preseason.

Thanks for your question, Mitchell. If you’ve got a question about our next position group, offensive line, be sure to send it via Twitter, Facebook, or leave it in the comments below.

PREVIOUSLY ON COUNTDOWN TO CAMP

July 20 - Special Teams
July 21 - Linebackers
July 22 - Wide Receivers
July 23 - Cornerbacks
July 24 - Tight Ends