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Offseason departures put Cobie Durant in leadership role in second season

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Compared to this time last year, Cobie Durant feels much more settled.

At this stage in 2022, it was about getting acclimated to the Rams and navigating the transition to the NFL as a whole, having been six days removed from arriving in Los Angeles as a third-round draft pick. This offseason, the cornerback's comfortable level led to going home and seeing his family, and also training at House of Athlete in Tampa, Florida.

"Most definitely," Durant said Wednesday, when asked if this year was a better situation from a preparation standpoint. "It's more relaxed now. During the pre-draft (last year), it was kind of stressful back when I was going through the draft, and going up into the draft. But now I'm going into my second year, so I'm just being a leader to the rookies we got here now."

Strange as that may be to hear, it's the reality of the Rams' defensive back room. Durant may only be into the second year of his NFL career, but his experience gained as a rookie – combined with offseason departures of several contributors and the arrival of a 40-man rookie class between drafted and undrafted players – make him someone a young L.A. roster will look to for leadership this upcoming season.

Despite suffering a strained hamstring against the Falcons in Week 2 last season, Durant still managed to play in 13 of 17 games and be a playmaker when he healthy. Among returnees in the secondary this year, those 13 games make him the fourth-most experienced player behind safety Jordan Fuller (31 games played), cornerback Robert Rochell (28) and safety Russ Yeast (15).

Durant's three interceptions were second-most on the Rams' defense behind defensive back Jalen Ramsey's four, and Durant's 151 interception return yards led the NFL. He notched his first pick-six and his first sack of his NFL career while also logging five passes defensed and 22 total tackles.

"Really just God-given ability," Durant said. "I played baseball, too, so that kind of played a little part in it. And really just working at it. Growing up, my brothers helped me, so whatever they did, I wanted to do. Through my draft process and being here with the Rams, a lot of people say that one of my great skills is having ball skills. Just being able to track the ball was never really a problem. It's see ball, get ball."

With Ramsey, safety Nick Scott, safety Taylor Rapp, cornerback Troy Hill and cornerback David Long Jr. gone, starting roles are up for grabs within a young defensive back room.

Durant recognizes this, and said it's a goal for everybody in the back end to take command of those. He feels like all positions are open, and knows the coaches will play the best performers.

"We're going to compete at a high level," Durant said of the group's mindset. "We got each other's backs. Jalen's gone, David Long's gone, Troy's gone, Taylor Rapp, Nick Scott, all those guys, so we're young in the back end, but we got some ballers back there and we just drafted some more guys. It's a great opportunity for us to step up and show the league what we got."

No matter how that shakes out, Durant will still look to set an example.

"We got to set the bar high for the rookie class," Durant said. "Even though this is my second year, I just feel like you got to have that leadership skill for them, guide them and put them in the right position to win."

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