Rookie role analysis: Where does David Long Jr. fit among the corners?

In 2018, the Rams' first two draft picks were offensive linemen Joe Noteboom and Brian Allen — a pair of players who set the Rams up well for the future.

Los Angeles knew there was a chance multiple spots on the offensive line could open in 2019, and as of now, Noteboom and Allen are now the ones penciled in to fill them at left guard and center, respectively. But drafting those players last year enabled L.A. to essentially give them a redshirt season — meaning they're already well integrated into head coach Sean McVay's offensive system now that it's time to get ready to play on a week-to-week basis.

In some ways, the Rams have taken a similar approach to cornerback in 2019, selecting David Long Jr. out of Michigan at No. 79 in the third round. With Long in tow, Los Angeles has potentially built depth for 2019 and brought in a player who can start for the team in the future.

OUTLOOK AT THE POSITION

The Rams have their starting corners back from last season in Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. Talib was a significant difference-maker in Los Angeles' defense last season, as the club allowed a passer rating of 74.5 and 10.4 yards per reception when he played during the regular season, and a 111.6 passer rating and 13.2 yards per reception when he didn't, [per Pro Football Focus](https://www.profootballfocus.com/news/pro-a-healthy-talib-is-critical-to-rams-postseason-success).

Check out photos of the Los Angeles Rams defense working out during phase two of the offseason program.

Los Angeles also has Nickell Robey-Coleman returning as its slot corner, and he's done an excellent job manning that position for the club over the last two seasons.

For depth, Troy Hill — who has started 14 games for L.A. since 2016 — is also back, as is Dominique Hatfield. Both played significant snaps on special teams in 2018.

Kevin Peterson is also returning from a season-ending knee injury suffered last August, and could provide another option. He was playing well during training camp before going down with the injury.

POTENTIAL ROLE AS A ROOKIE

Given that Talib, Peters, and Robey-Coleman are firmly entrenched as the Rams' top corners, Long's best bet to see the field early is likely through special teams.

That is, of course, barring any injuries that may occur. But if there is one, Long could play in spot duty — much like Noteboom and Allen did on the offensive line last year.

There's also the possibility that Long could play a role in defensive sub packages if he makes enough of an impression to show he can be effective on gameday. With teams in the league continuing to spread out defenses more and more, there's a chance L.A. could want to use more defensive backs to counter additional wide receivers.

WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE?

This is really where the idea of a redshirt season for Long comes in.

Both Talib and Peters are currently on contracts that expire after the 2019 season. Talib is entering his 13th season in the league, and just turned 33 in February. While the Rams have expressed interest in signing Peters to a long-term deal, his deal also currently expires after the 2019 season.

Knowing that, it stands to reason that Long could be an important piece for the Rams going forward as a potential starter. But that's provided Long comes in and shows that he can be the kind of player the Rams envision him being long-term.

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