Thousand Oaks – It’s another week and another change in the Rams’ defensive secondary.
When safety John Johnson and cornerback Troy Hill left as free agents in the off-season, they were replaced by safety Jordan Fuller and cornerback David Long. Long then struggled in the first few games, and was replaced by cornerback Robert Rochelle. Now cornerback Darius Williams is hurt – and this time the solution isn’t that simple.
“You hear clichés about coaches saying ‘next guy up.’ It’s like men Up,” defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said Thursday as the Rams (4-1) prepared to play the New York Giants (1-4) in East Rutherford, NJ on Sunday.
Williams sustained an ankle injury late in the Rams’ 26-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks last week and moved to injured reserve, leaving last season’s team interception leader out of action for at least three weeks.
Williams’ value has been linked to his ability to play outside or inside cornerbacks, which helped free up two-time All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey to play a uniquely versatile role.
“You’ve got versatility with Jalen,” Morris said. “Darius was a big part of us that had the ability to do those things.”
Morris indicated that Williams would be replaced by some combination of Rochelle, the rookie who made his first NFL debut on an up-and-down night in Seattle; Long, who returned to the field only after Williams was injured; and defensive back Terrell Burgess, a 2020 third-round draft pick who has been confined to special teams.
Presumably, the Rams would call the defensive back from the practice squad, possibly Don’t Dayon.
It hasn’t been an easy week to remember Williams, who made a game-cleaning interception in the Rams’ 17-9 win over the Giants at Sophie Stadium last year.
Although the Giants are last in their division and are missing from Saxon Barkley (ankle) and wide receiver Kenny Golladay (knee), they have swung the ball through the air. Quarterback Daniel Jones (concussion) was back on practice Thursday. Rookie wide receiver Kadarius Tony caught 10 passes for 189 yards in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday.
Morris sees Williams’ injury as an opportunity for Burgess to make his mark and bounce Long back from his bench.
“There’s been no secret. We’ve got championship aspirations,” Morris said. “These guys have to play like this.”
Williams and Ramsey are both allowing receivers to throw 5.5 yards per pass, which is much better than the league average of 7.6. As a team, the Rams are allowing 7.5 yards per pass, 16th in the 32-team NFL after losing 6.2 last season, the best in the league.
Ramsey said losing his cornerback partner is damaging, but he is confident of the replacement(s).
“It’s definitely going to be a group effort,” Ramsey said. “We’ll see on Sunday how it pans out.”
GRUDEN. on morris
Morris, like Rams coach Sean McVay, began his NFL coaching career working with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for John Gruden.
Morris, echoing McVay’s comments a day earlier, said on Thursday that he was “sad” about Gruden’s downfall, but Morris strongly condemned Gruden’s fanatical language in the email.
“Things that were said and things that were hurtful to people were clearly not acceptable in any setting, let alone an NFL setting,” said Morris, who is Black.
Morris, who was an assistant to Gruden’s Books staff between 2002 and 2008 and succeeded Gruden as head coach in 2009, praised the NFL for its efforts to include.
“But this message[delivered by email]and the things that have come up, suggests that when you talk about people being sensitive to other people’s feelings and all those kinds of things, you’re going to be involved. Talking about more work to be done, Morris said, he means “in our country, not just in NFL football.”
Speaking about Gruden, who resigned as coach of the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday, Morris said those who know him “have found a way to bring him back.”
Morris said, “For us, he has to find some people he has to talk to, seek that kind of forgiveness.”
Defensive tackle Aaron Donald returned to practice Thursday as a “limited” participant, according to reports of a Rams injury, after taking a knee with another player in a Seahawks game. … Kickers Matt Gaye (ankles) and running back Jake Funk (hamstrings) were again limited in exercises. … After attending both Dodgers’ home playoff games against the San Francisco Giants, Ramsey plans to go into the Kings season opener with Rams teammates at Staples Center on Thursday night. With fans allowed to go back, Ramsey said, “I’m like, ‘Let’s live on for a bit.'”