IRVINE, Calif. – The Rams strategically targeted the secondary during the draft, whether through their own selections or via trade, in the case of Troy Hill.
The early returns on their investment are proving promising.
Rookie defensive backs Derion Kendrick and Cobie Durant have made a strong impression early on in training camp with their playmaking. Rams head coach Sean McVay also praised Russ Yeast for his play on the back end of the defense.
"I hate to just point those two guys out," defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said after Sunday's practice. "Obviously, they've made some plays, and that's why you pointed them out. But the competes and the toughness from that group, I've been overall impressed with how well they've been locked in situations."
Durant showed his on Friday, snagging a Matthew Stafford pass intended for Cooper Kupp near the sideline during team drills. Shortly thereafter, he made another impressive grab picking off John Wolford during team drills.
Just as he did in the immediate aftermath of each play, he downplayed their significance.
"It's a blessing, you know," Durant told theRams.com after Sunday's practice. "I just come out each day and day and put play in practice, just like how we're playing the game. As you see, I didn't really celebrate when I made the play, because I did those things in college. Just being on his level, knowing that I can still do the same thing that I was doing in college, making plays, but the speed of the game is just a lot faster. It's just a blessing to be on the stage and being able to catch eyes."
Kendrick also shined this week with a pair of pass breakups while defending wide receiver Allen Robinson II in practice earlier this week.
"I really haven't been on the field in about six months," Kendrick told theRams.com after Friday's practice. "So getting my feet wet, getting back the joy in it, playing with a little bit more passion starting to get the pads on and stuff like that."
Both Kendrick and Durant have benefitted from extra coaching from veteran defensive back Jalen Ramsey, who constantly communicates with the rookie defensive backs during practice while remaining limited.
Kendrick said Ramsey is teaching them about concepts and the ways opposing offenses and receivers try to do them, and splits used by No. 1 wide receivers to attacking cornerbacks. Durant has learned from Ramsey how to be slower, know where is help is, know when he doesn't have help, knowing when things are coming his way, and how to beat blocks.
"I'm just soaking up as much knowledge as I can from him, an All-Pro cornerback," Durant said. "Just elevating my game even more. Each and every day, I try to correct things I do wrong, ask him questions, ask coach questions, and then correct it on the field the next day."
The confidence boost in putting all that together is noticeable for both players.
"For us two, we from South Carolina, far away from home, and not many of us make it out of South Carolina," Kendrick said. "So we just trying to put on for South Carolina, and that's big for me because I like that. I'm a big part of South Carolina, I'm always going to put on, so I always like seeing other guys make plays."