“I think overall our secondary drastically improved this year,” linebacker
“It was a rough year last year with getting hurt and only playing two months,” Johnson said. “But this is my first complete season. I’m glad to come out cool.”
As a unit, the secondary had to work through injuries throughout the year, and the process began in training camp. On the first weekend in August, second-year cornerback
“First off, him going down that hurt the whole secondary. But he’s getting back,” Johnson said. “It’s the ‘next man up’ philosophy. I'd started a lot of games in my career, so when he got hurt and I had to start, it was nothing.”
“I’m just excited to get back for next season, and I can’t wait,” Gaines said. “I’m excited for the football team, and coaching staff is excited to get me back.”
But Gaines’ injury was not the only one the secondary had to deal with. Johnson and Jenkins missed games with minor ailments, and safety
“I got a head start on it having the surgery early,” McDonald said. “So I’m on schedule, feeling good. Definitely have a great plan in place. I’ll be ready to go.”
The hard-hitting safety was having a strong season of his own prior to the injury. He finished sixth on the team with 80 tackles, and had 1.0 sacks, three passes defensed, a forced fumble, and fumble recovery.
Together, McDonald and McLeod have worked to become a strong tandem of safeties. Laurinaitis had praise for the way McLeod in particular played a crucial role in the Rams’ defensive scheme.
“Big time, chemistry is there, playing with those guys,” Johnson said. “Everybody stepped up. When guys got hurt, a lot of guys stepped up. It was a ‘next man up’ philosophy all year, and I’m proud of those guys.”
However, with Johnson, Jenkins, Barron, and McLeod all set to become free agents, the Rams could have some tough decisions to make depending on how the market shakes out.
“We’ve got some key free agents that we have to get back. That’s going to be our focus, especially in the secondary,” head coach Jeff Fisher said. “We’ve drafted well there. They’ve produced. We’ve developed them and we don’t want to develop them for anyone else. So, we want to be sure that we’re able to get them back. We’re confident we can do that.”
As for the players, McDonald and Johnson said they’d like to stick together, too.
“I hope we get them all back, definitely. But I also understand that there’s a business side of it too,” McDonald said. “So we’ll see how it goes. But I definitely hope we can all stay together.”
“I love my teammates, love my coaches,” said Johnson, adding he’d love to continue his career with the Rams. “Like I said, we’ve built a chemistry over four years. And we’ll see.”