On Lockdown: CB Unit Once Again Energizing the Top Defense From 2020

Darious Williams

Getty Darious Williams takes an interception into the end zone during the 2021 NFC playoffs at Seattle. The Los Angeles Rams cornerback is helping spearhead a CB unit expected to remain a strength for 2021.

How loaded is this Los Angeles Rams cornerback group?

For starters, Jalen Ramsey has been tabbed the league’s best shutdown cornerback by literally every national outlet not named Pro Football Focus. But per PFF, Ramsey’s teammate and fellow CB Darious Williams is rated higher – following a breakout 2020 that saw him lead the team in interceptions.

Then, Bleacher Report on June 24 tweeted out its picks for best CB tandem, placing the duo at No. 3 but making them the highest ranked NFC representative.

And to top it off, the Rams drafted a “freakish athlete” according to both The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman and nfl.com draft expert Lance Zierlein in Robert Rochell, plus have installed faith in third-year veteran David Long Jr., who head coach Sean McVay said “we’re expecting him to be a big-time contributor for us” to reporters on June 10.

Looks like this unit won’t be a weakness this fall. Time for a deeper dive into the Rams’ 2021 CB room.

One Snatches Picks, the Other Forces Them

At this point, it’s hard to say which game was Ramsey’s best coverage work. He’s been masterful with his shutdown ability in countless of games no matter which No. 1 receiver he locked in on.

The list of WR1’s who have struggled against Ramsey is a long list, including the ones who went on to top 100-catches in a season or play in Pro Bowls after facing him. But here’s a prime example of Ramsey’s ability to force quarterbacks to look away from his side via Matt Bowen of ESPN, where it shows the trust the Rams have in allowing Ramsey to single cover:

This helps explain how Williams broke out in 2020. When one guy keeps the best option in check, the other CB sees the interception stat line go up. Williams was targeted 68 times, but allowed just 48.7% of those targets to be caught and held QB’s to a passer rating of 55.4 against him according to PFF, earning the most underrated player on the Rams roster label by the analytics site on May 13. Williams did some of his best work inside the end zone, as seen here against 100-catch WR Tyler Lockett of the Seahawks where he denies six points:

But Rams fans, perhaps even Seahawk fans, likely recall Williams executing this pick six in the playoffs this past season.

There is a future dilemma involving Williams, though: His current contract. According to spotrac, Williams is eligible to be an unrestricted free agent for 2022. Another major season will likely demand a lengthier contract, plus L.A. facing the pressure of keeping him and Ramsey together for the long haul.

But that is not the only dilemma facing this unit.

Who Takes Over for Troy Hill?

The slot cornerback Hill may not have been a household name on the Ram defense, but his ability to challenge slot receivers made him valuable to a defense that surrendered an average of just 190.7 passing yards a game and 17 aerial touchdowns through 16 games. He also showed his game-changing ability twice against NFC West foes.

Plus showed his eyes for the loose football, resulting in six points.

Per Doug Farrar of USA Today’s Touchdown Wire, Hill allowed 44 slot receptions on 66 targets for 395 yards, but only 216 of those yards came after the catch. Hill then allowed one touchdown his side and snatched three interceptions to finish behind Williams.

Long, who grew up in L.A. and starred at nearby Loyola High School, is in the mix to man the slot CB spot. The 2019 third rounder has been a top lockdown CB option before, during his Michigan Wolverine days which also shows his blitzing side.

Most Underrated CB in College Football || Michigan CB David Long Career Highlights ᴴᴰFollow JBP on IG: instagram.com/justbombsproductions/ (↓↓ click show more ↓↓) Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/ScottTakade Follow me on Instagram: instagram.com/scotttakade/ Follow JBP on Twitter: twitter.com/JBP_Official Like JBP on Facebook: facebook.com/Just-Bombs-Productions-255863801590167/ Michigan CB David Long Junior 5’11 196 lbs According to Pro Football Focus, Michigan CB David Long ranked among the top cornerbacks in the entire…2019-04-17T00:01:15Z

Dont’e Deayon also figures to pursue the spot Hill vacated. The former Boise State Bronco has gone from practice squad player to pursuing the two-deep at CB. At 5-foot-9, he’s got the ideal frame to match up with slot WR’s. Like Long, Deayon was a decorated lockdown CB in college.

Donte "Neon" Deayon || Official Boise State HighlightsWelcome to Harris Highlights! The #1 Highlight Channel on YouTube (↓↓ click show more ↓↓) ♫ Audio Push – Poppin ♫ All Rights Reserved. No Copyright Infringement Intended. This video is non-profit, made for entertainment purposes only. ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ Welcome to Harris Highlights, the #1 subscribed and most viewed College Football highlight channel on YouTube! Here,…2016-02-27T19:12:31Z

But Rochell could be the surprise breakthrough CB. The fourth rounder snatched 10 interceptions in his Central Arkansas career. He’s been lauded for his versatility to line up at CB and safety. Members of the Rams’ scouting department already described him as explosive.

Inside the Draft: The Process Behind Drafting 'Explosive' Robert Rochell | Ep. 5Go inside virtual draft meetings as the Los Angeles Rams prepare to draft Central Arkansas CB Robert Rochell. Subscribe to the LA Rams Channel: bit.ly/3d9IrHe For More Exclusive Content follow the Rams: Twitter: twitter.com/ramsnfl Instagram: instagram.com/rams/ Facebook: facebook.com/Rams/ Website: therams.com Get the latest on the LA Rams news, photos, and more by downloading the app!…2021-05-14T18:20:44Z

In conclusion, this is a CB group loaded on talent featuring some potential surprise standouts. And with veteran defensive backs coach Raheem Morris now running the defense, don’t be shocked if the picks or production goes up for these guys.

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