_Countdown to Camp is a series breaking down the Rams' roster by position group heading into training camp. The third installment examines the cornerbacks. _
Similar to Rams defensive line coach Eric Henderson, cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant enters Rams Training Camp presented by UNIFY Financial Credit Union pleased with the combination of returning talent as well as the developmental trajectory of younger players within his group.
"I'm very excited," Pleasant told theRams.com in a phone interview last week. "I think have the best corner in the game. I also think that I have some other players that have solidified themselves as starters in the NFL that want to take their game to the next level. And then I have some younger guys that are ready to show the world their potential."
By "best corner in the game," Pleasant means Jalen Ramsey, whom the Rams acquired in a trade with the Jaguars last October. For the three-time Pro Bowl selection, the 2020 season will be his first full one as a Ram after playing nine games for Los Angeles last year.
Opposite Ramsey, Troy Hill was the biggest example of a player that emerged as a starter last season. Hill set new career-highs in tackles (38) and pass breakups (8), matched his career-best for interceptions in a season (2) and was named one of Pro Football Focus' Top 25 cornerbacks by the end of the regular season.
What pleased Pleasant most about Hill's development was how he consistently continued to make plays after earning a starting role.
"I'm proud of Troy," Pleasant said. "Troy has been here for all three years, and what we've asked him to do at each year has changed. No matter what we asked him to do, he always accepted that challenge. When he got a chance to move into the starting role after Aqib Talib's injury, again, he did everything that was asked and went out and made plays."
Among the younger returning players, injuries afforded both Darious Williams and David Long playing time late last season that aided their growth. Donte' Deayon, who spent the first nine games on the practice squad, eventually saw snaps against the Bears and in both Cardinals games.
"Both are two totally different situations as far as what they bring to the table, but they're both young guys that have been able to progress," Pleasant said of Williams and Long. "Darious Williams, the way he played those last four weeks, was of starting caliber in the NFL. Not only was he able to make plays, but he was able to get his hands on the ball. And when you can create turnovers in the National Football League, that's something that separates you from the others."
As for Long, Pleasant tasked him with playing an "inside-out" role as a rookie last year because of his versatility.
"You saw as the weeks progressed later on in the season versus Chicago, later on in the season two times versus Arizona, we asked that young man to come and play in several different roles, but just kind of shows you his skill set is so unique, he can do anything that's asked," Pleasant said. "And then the final game of the season, he had to play at corner and he stood up and made some plays."
One of Pleasant's biggest tasks during training camp will be finding the replacement for nickel cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, who was released in March and later signed a one-year deal with the Eagles.
What allowed Robey-Coleman to play at a high-level during his time in Los Angeles, according to Pleasant, was his consistency: He only missed one regular season game in three years, so he was reliable and dependable from a physical and mental standpoint. Those are just a couple of the traits Pleasant will be using to assess candidates for Robey-Coleman's old role.
"The other thing that Nickell did really well was he could cover – he could make some plays in the pass game, and he was also dependable in the run game when needed," Pleasant said. "Those are some of the intangibles that I look for in the future when looking at that nickel spot to know what it needs to be successful."