THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Safety Taylor Rapp went down momentarily during Monday night's game against the Packers, so the Rams – as they've so often had to with the amount of injuries sustained – turned to a younger player with limited game experience.
Rookie Quentin Lake was about to get his first action on defense.
"It was a funny joke…(Pass Game Coordinator/Defensive Backs Chris) Shula looked at me when T-Rapp went down for a second and said, "He's never taken a rep (repetition) in practice,'" Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris recalled. "I said, 'Have you seen his notebook? Put him in!'"
The Rams are beginning to learn more about younger players like Lake as the season winds down, with him, defensive back Russ Yeast, defensive tackle Bobby Brown III and defensive lineman Michael Hoecht among those making the most of increased opportunities, according to head coach Sean McVay.
Lake ultimately only had to play two defensive snaps with Rapp returning, but that preparedness spoke to how highly Lake is thought of by the Rams coaching staff, as Morris' anecdote illustrated. When Lake did enter the game, it was as a defensive back in a dime package rather than at safety, but it didn't phase him.
"They needed a dime, and the coaches trusted me enough to go in there and play it, but it was cool," Lake said. "Obviously having a little nerves going in, just because it's not really a position I had practiced and was really expecting to play. I was really expecting go in if they needed a safety, but they really needed a dime."
Fellow rookie Russ Yeast, meanwhile, also saw action in some dime package situations and has been steadily involved on both defense and special teams over the last few games.
"Really fired up where he can go, and really, what are they doing? They're defining their roles moving forward when we are relevant, when that stuff really matters," Morris said. "So that's been great for Russ Yeast."
With Hoecht playing outside linebacker exclusively and Aaron Donald still dealing with a high ankle sprain, more interior reps have been afforded to Brown. In wake of Marquise Copeland also sustaining a high ankle sprain, Brown saw his highest snap count of the season in Week 15, playing 45 of 71 defensive snaps.
"A guy like Bobby coming into his (second) year, being able to establish some spots, being able to go at nose," Morris said. "Last week tried to play a little bit of '4I', a little bit of three-technique. Obviously, those things get overwhelming for you when you're playing too much and you're doing too much, but he's shown real promise at the nose position, he's shown real big body playmaking type of things that we've seen from Bobby and you're really excited."
Hoecht has also shown promise as a pass-rusher in a season where the Rams have needed it, with 13 total tackles, four QB hits and two sacks in his last three games, all starts.
Similar to Hoecht, Yeast, Lake and Brown are all wanting to make the most of their opportunities over the final three weeks of the season to prove they can be reliable contributors.
"Just give the people in the building and the people around here (in the locker room) the confidence in me that I can go out there and be an NFL safety," Yeast said. "It's something I believe already in myself, just prove it to everybody else."
"Just be able to show that I can play, I can ball ,and that I'm here to work and to produce for my team," Brown said.