Countdown to Camp: Rams cornerbacks should be a team strength 

It’s the final week of summer break for the Rams, as staff, players, and coaches will check in for training camp at UC Irvine starting next Tuesday.

But today, we’re continuing our Countdown to Camp series by taking a look at Los Angeles’ cornerbacks.

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CORNERBACKS

Newcomers: David Long Jr.

The Rams group of cornerbacks remains largely intact from 2018 heading into this new season. The group did lose veteran corner Sam Shields in free agency, but each of the starters — Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, and slot corner Nickell Robey-Coleman — are all back for a second year together as the leads of the group.

Talib missed half the season in 2018 due to an ankle injury, but came off of injured reserve in early December. His play was a significant part of Los Angeles’ defensive improvement down the stretch. In 11 games with Talib — including postseason — the Rams allowed 17.8 points per game and 321.1 yards per game. In eight games without the veteran corner? Los Angeles allowed 401.3 yards per game and 30.8 points per game.

On the opposite side, Peters certainly benefitted from Talib’s presence. But defensive coordinator Wade Phillips also got to know Peters and his skillset better throughout the course of the season. Starting all 16 games, Peters intercepted three passes and recorded eight passes defensed in his fourth pro season.

One element of this season to watch: Both Talib and Peters are entering the final year of their current contracts. Peters is at the end of his rookie deal, but even at the age of 33, Talib hasn’t shown signs of slowing down.

Robey-Coleman has excelled as Los Angeles’ slot corner since initially signing with the club in free agency during the 2017 offseason. Last year, Robey-Coleman recorded an interception, four passes defensed, and three tackles for loss. For what it’s worth, Robey-Coleman led all NFC West corners with a 82.6 grade from Pro Football Focus.

Likely the first man off the bench, cornerback Troy Hill has been with the club since Week 17 of the 2015 season and recently put pen to paper on a two-year contract to keep him in L.A. through 2020. Hill started most of the games when Talib was on injured reserve, playing the early downs while Shields came on the field in known-passing situations. Hill intercepted two passes and recorded five passes defensed in 2018.

The only newcomer in the position group, David Long Jr. is a Los Angeles native and should be ready to contribute sooner than later. The No. 79 overall pick in this year’s draft, Long was a terrific cover corner at Michigan where — also according to PFF — he allowed just 18 receptions on 60 targets for 130 yards.

For depth, Kevin Peterson is returning from tearing his ACL during the Rams’ first preseason game at Baltimore last year. He looked poised to be a significant piece during the early going of training camp in 2018, after impressing in Week 17 of the 2017 regular season by making a pair of interceptions off 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Peterson also had five passes defensed in that game.

Dominique Hatfield also has significant experience with the Rams, having been with the club since 2017. He’s bounced between the active roster and the practice squad a couple times, and has mainly contributed on special teams.

Rounding out the group, Los Angeles brought Darious Williams to the club off waivers in October from the Ravens. He played sparingly on special teams, but was mainly inactive on gameday. Dont’e Deayon and Ramon Richards spent last season on Los Angeles’ practice squad.

PREVIOUSLY ON COUNTDOWN TO CAMP

On Tuesday, Countdown to Camp will continue with a look at Los Angeles’ wide receivers.

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