Coming into the season the Rams secondary was an area of concern. The Rams lost two key starters in cornerback Janoris Jenkins and safety Rodney McLeod to free agency, but were able to hold on to Trumaine Johnson via franchise tag. L.A.’s last two pre-season games against Dallas and Kansas City saw the secondary unit struggle, giving up some big plays and touchdown passes. Head coach Jeff Fisher made it clear that the secondary needed to improve as a unit.
“We need to get better.” Jeff Fisher said during his Sunday presser. “‘Mo’ (S Maurice Alexander) didn’t play in the game yesterday. I hope that we’ll get him back in this week. (S) Cody (Davis) stepped in, and Cody did a nice job at the safety position. (S) T.J. (McDonald) is coming on. He’s missed some offseason, but T.J. is coming on. ‘Tru’ (CB Trumaine Johnson) doesn’t like giving up balls, nor do we like to see balls given up on third-and-2 in press coverage for big plays. But he still made some plays there. The corner position still is up in the air on the other side. Be it Lamarcus (Joyner), be it Coty (Sensabaugh), or E.J. (Gaines). Now E.J.’s first time back, I was really pleased with what we saw out of E.J. He sprained an ankle out here in practice a couple days ago. Didn’t know if he was going to able to go, fought through it, went out and made some really big-time tackles. Just kind of reminiscent of the E.J. we had a couple years ago. That’s encouraging. We’ll continue to increase his reps, not only in practice, but also in the final two preseason games.”
Between injuries keeping certain players out and others trying to get up to speed, things seems to be a work in progress with the secondary. Fisher won’t be the one to use that or anything as an excuse to not making plays. When asked about a play that Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin made for a touchdown, Jeff Fisher made it plain and simple.
“When you get to know me, I’m never going to go there. They made the play, we didn’t.”
Fisher is looking for players in the secondary to step up. The secondary will have to improve to help out the Rams dangerous front seven. Things won’t get any easier, as the Rams travel to Denver to face the defending Super Bowl champs where they’ll likely face the Broncos first team for a full half, possibly three quarters.
One player who’s competing for the starting cornerback job is E.J. Gaines. Gaines, who’s returning from a season ending injury, is seen as the favorite to start along with Trumaine Johnson at corner. E.J. sat the first exhibition game against the Cowboys to continue to rehab last season’s injury, but made his return last Saturday against the Chiefs. Returning to the field is one thing, but now he has to readjust to game speed.
“It’s the concern that you focus so heavily on rehabbing the injury….” Fisher said about Gaines. “that how is the rest of the body going to respond once you get back to full speed. It wasn’t unexpected; you didn’t want it to happen. But he had a hamstring issue that set him back. The ankle sprain last week was just a freak thing that happened in practice. For all intents and purposes, he’s back now. The reps that he got, they’re live reps, they’re contact reps, they’re put your foot in the ground, plant, drive, and go make a tackle. Those are good things to see out of him.”
Just when Gaines gets going , he’s hampered by a number of minor setbacks that keeps him from getting key reps. The less reps he gets, the bigger the opportunity for another player like Lamarcus Joyner or Coty Sensabaugh to move up in the depth chart. Gaines’ health is going to be a key aspect going forward, especially if he wants to start this season. One good thing for him is that he’ll have two more pre-season games to get into some type of game shape.
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