Ex-Top 5 WR & QB Could be Among the ‘Next Men Up’ for Rams Defense

Jalen Ramsey

Getty Jalen Ramsey with the game-clinching interception on September 18, 2022.

Along with the offensive line, the Los Angeles Rams have had to deal with the injury bug inside another stronghold unit: The defensive back room.

Announced on the afternoon of Tuesday, September 20, the Rams made some roster decisions for six members of the team — including key secondary ballhawk Troy Hill who got placed on injured reserve.

For this side of the ball, the returning Hill is considered the top loss for the Rams. Hill not only was lured back into the “Rams House” via trade by the Cleveland Browns, but has been lauded by Ram fans and his local fanbase from his native Ventura, California for his nose for the football.

The Rams are also awaiting word on the health of rookie Decobie Durant, who sustained a hamstring injury during the 31-27 win on Sunday, September 18 versus the Atlanta Falcons. Head coach Sean McVay described Durant’s injury as a “grade 1” strain when speaking with reporters via Zoom on the Monday after the win. Durant also recorded his first interception of his young NFL career.

So, with Hill and Durant facing the possibility of being sidelined for the Rams’ first road trip of 2022 against the Arizona Cardinals, who has the chance to be “next men up” for the defending Super Bowl champs?

McVay mentioned second-year cornerback Robert Rochell as one option per team reporter Stu Jackson. But there’s another name worth watching as well — who happens to be a former wide receiver.

Rookie Was Once Top 5 National Wideout

Derion Kendrick is the other name worth monitoring if Hill and Durant aren’t cleared for the Week 3 NFC West battle.

Back in 2018 when McVay was in his second coaching season and the Rams had Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib at cornerback, Kendrick established himself as a five-star prospect…at wide receiver.

Then at 6-foot-1, 184-pounds, Kendrick was the nation’s No. 4 overall wideout for the 2018 graduating class and was the state of South Carolina’s No. 1 overall prospect by the 247Sports composite rankings. On a scale of one to 10 by the national recruiting website, the native of Rock Hill, South Carolina was given a 9 score for his yards after catch ability then given “8s” for agility, route running, change of direction, ball skills and speed.

But before Kendrick was recruited to run routes, he ran around and through defenses as a dual-threat quarterback at the prep level.

But then, Kendrick eventually got moved over to the opposite side of the field once he landed in Athens, Georgia. He went on to establish himself at one of the cornerback spots for the Georgia Bulldogs and eventually left as a national champion.

How Can he Fit Rams Defense?

With his past background as a WR, Kendrick comes with traits that gives him an edge against opposing wideouts.

For one, nfl.com draft expert Lance Zierlein mentioned how Kendrick has “good pattern recognition” when facing opposing receivers. He also came with a slide and weave footwork that can match up with a wideout’s release. And during training camp, Kendrick took on the task of trying to cover the towering Pro Bowler Allen Robinson. While “A-Rob” won his share of red zone scores, Kendrick was praised by Ram fans and media members for his scrapper side.

He also pounced on a fumble during the preseason against the Houston Texans. But a looming question: Does Kendrick have enough speed and the field discipline to match up with a Cardinals offense that features towering veteran and past Pro Bowler A.J. Green plus newcomer Marquise “Hollywood” Brown? His overall speed in matching up with wideouts and his past struggles with keeping his speed downfield helped lower his draft stock.

If it’s not Kendrick, Rochell could get his long-awaited turn to be the slot cornerback opposite of Jalen Ramsey and show off the versatility that made him a mid-round selection of the 2021 draft. Rochell has this comparison to Kendrick: He too is a former offensive player including having a past as a wide receiver and QB.

Regardless, both men are heading toward the “next men up” role for the Rams.

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