Wednesday, September 21, 2022

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

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Along with the offensive line, the Los Angeles Rams have had to deal with the injury virus in another stronghold: the defensive backroom.

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

For that side of the ball, the returning mound ranks as a top loss for the Rams. Not only was Hill lured back into the “Rams House” by the Cleveland Browns trade, but he was also praised for his nose for football by Ram fans and his local fanbase from his hometown of Ventura, California.

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

With Hill and Durant potentially 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 champions?

McVay mentioned sophomore cornerback Robert Rochell as an option per team reporter Stu Jackson. But there’s also another name worth watching – who happens to be a former wide receiver.

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

In 2018, with McVay in his second season of coaching and the Rams had Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib at cornerbacks, Kendrick established himself as a five-star prospect … at wide receiver.

Then, at 6ft 1, 184lbs, Kendrick was the nation’s No. 4 in the 2018 senior class wideout and South Carolina’s No. 1 state in the 247Sports overall rankings. On a scale of 1 to 10 from the national recruiting website, the Rock Hill, South Carolina native received a 9 for his yards by catch ability, then an 8 for agility, route running, directional changes, ball skills and speed.

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

But then Kendrick was finally transferred to the opposite side of the field when he landed in Athens, Georgia. He then established himself at one of the cornerback spots for the Georgia Bulldogs and eventually went on as the national champion.

With his previous background as a WR, Kendrick has traits that give him an advantage over opposing wideouts.

For one, nfl.com drafting expert Lance Zierlein mentioned that Kendrick has “good pattern recognition” when facing opposing receivers. He also came with a slide-and-weave footwork that rivals the release of a wideout. And during training camp, Kendrick took on the task of marking for the towering Pro Bowler Allen Robinson. While “A-Rob” won his share of Red Zone Scores, Kendrick was lauded by Ram fans and members of the media for his scrapper side.

He also pounced on a preseason fumble against the Houston Texans. But a lingering question: Does Kendrick have enough speed and field discipline to keep up with a Cardinals offense that includes towering veteran and former Pro Bowler AJ Green and newcomer Marquise “Hollywood” Brown? His overall speed in adapting to wideouts and his previous struggles to keep his speed in downfield helped lower his draft stockpile.

If it’s not Kendrick, Rochell could get his long-awaited turn as a slot cornerback to Jalen Ramsey and show the versatility that made him a mid-draft pick in 2021. Rochell has this comparison to Kendrick: He’s also a former offensive player with a past as a wide receiver and QB.

Regardless, both men are heading towards the “next man” role for the Rams.

Regardless, both men are heading towards the “next man” role for the Rams.



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