Rams Secondary Continues to Get Younger

Posted May 21, 2014

With the additions of Lamarcus Joyner, Maurice Alexander, E.J. Gaines and Christian Bryant, the Rams secondary features plenty of youth and versatility.

Much has been made over the Rams’ distinction as the league’s youngest team during both the 2012 and 2013 seasons. One of the few areas that did have significant veteran representation was the team’s secondary, which had three members with four or more years of league experience last year. That has changed significantly in a year’s time, as a quartet of third-year defensive backs now represent the senior-most members of the Rams’ 13-man corps of defensive backs.

Leading the Rams’ overhaul at safety—which saw the defection of veterans Matt Giordano and Darian Stewart during the offseason—is fourth-round selection Maurice Alexander.

Alexander, a hard-hitting strong safety from Utah State, is a former linebacker who possesses the speed and range to also vie for time at free safety. With his pedigree as a strong tackler and occasional pass-rusher, Alexander becomes an instant fit for a Gregg Williams-led defense. Alexander was effusive in his praise for Williams during his post-draft conference call.

“Me and Coach Gregg, we talked a lot,” Alexander said. “He told me the types of schemes they do and we fit it in very well. I’m happy that Coach believed in me. He’s a great coach. Obviously you guys know, he’s been in the league a very long time and I can’t wait to be a player for him.”

In Alexander, the Rams saw a unique talent they couldn’t afford to see on one of the other 31 teams, prompting the team to aggressively select him in the fourth round. His athleticism and ability to both tackle and cover made him an attractive option to Head Coach Jeff Fisher and the Rams’ defensive coaches.

“It’s interchangeable,” Jeff Fisher said of Alexander’s ability to play both strong and free safety. “He has the range, he’s got the hips. He’s got the ball skills as well.”

After the team’s first two picks were utilized on the offensive and defensive line, the Rams wentd on a run of defensive backs, choosing Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner in the second round, before utilizing their following pick on Alexander. The Rams remained focused on bolstering the corner and safety ranks throughout the remainder of the draft and free agency period, as they have equipped secondary coaches Chuck Cecil and Brandon Fisher with a whopping seven rookies among the position group.

Joining Alexander and Joyner are notables such as Missouri corner E.J. Gaines, who the Rams selected in the sixth round, and Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson, who was a top-ranked recruit at the prep level before his three-year career with the Gators, but was signed as an undrafted free agent. The Rams also used a seventh-round selection on Ohio State safety Christian Bryant.

The Rams enter a season in which they boast one of the league’s best defensive lines, as well as an emerging and productive group at linebacker.

The team’s secondary, however, struggled at times in coverage in 2013, as the Rams allowed five games of 300 or more yards passing, and allowed 21 passing touchdowns, contrasted with 14 interceptions. While the team’s defensive line and linebacking group has remained a strength, the Rams’ most recent acquisitions have allowed the secondary to close the gap on the team’s vaunted front seven. While the Rams’ secondary took a step back in NFL experience, it would appear at first blush that the position has done just the opposite both in talent and depth.