THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – There is perhaps no better example of trial-by-fire for a rookie cornerback than defending against Tom Brady on a potential game-winning drive.
Which is the exact position Derion Kendrick (and his Rams teammates) found themselves in last Sunday.
It's a difficult one for any player to be in, much less someone in their first year in the NFL. It didn't go the way Kendrick or the Rams wanted, but that has not changed the confidence he or his teammates have in him.
"I give him nothing but credit, how he handled himself, his composure, his mental toughness, his ability to stay connected with his team and his guys having his back," Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said Thursday. "I don't think there's one person that turned their back on him for giving up the game-winning touchdown, because that's what's happening, that's the reality you've got to deal with as a corner."
Los Angeles had been bringing defensive back Troy Hill and cornerback David Long Jr. along slowly in limited roles as they returned from their respective injuries, according to Morris, which is why Kendrick had been seeing increased snaps over L.A.'s last six games. He collected 28 total tackles and four pass breakups during that span. One of those pass breakups accounted for a fourth-down stop when the Cardinals reached the Rams 26-yard line in Week 3 as the Rams held onto a 20-9 lead in a game they eventually won 20-12.
"Next man up," Kendrick told theRams.com Friday. "Like what we always preached during camp – it's a long season, injuries come up, people down, people up, stuff like that. So just coming in (with) no drop-off, being able to handle my own, not giving up too much, just stuff like that. Taking responsibility and accountability of my performance and my guys' performance."
Hill said Kendrick is a young player who is continuing to grow, praising Kendrick for being very attentive and smart as well.
"The thing about DK is he's a battler," Hill said. "He going to go out there and he going to fight. Whether it bounces his way or not, he going to fight. He got the utmost confidence in himself and his game. I think he going to be one of them special players."
For Kendrick, that confidence comes from his college days. He was in those same situations and big games like that, even practiced against it.
Morris expects Hill and Long to play more this week, but said it's still possible they may have "a little bit" of Kendrick out there. No matter Kendrick's role, though, they expect he'll rebound and maintain that confidence easily moving forward.
"I ain't have to tell him nothing, DK like that. He cool," Ramsey said Friday. "You win some, you lose some. Everybody wins some, loses some. The greatest to ever play, they win some, they lose some. Deion Sanders, Charles Woodson, like whoever you want to name, you can name whoever. You win some, you lose some. That happens, and you just go through it and you grow through it. But weak people lose confidence and he ain't weak. We ain't got no weak people in that secondary."