There is normally a pretty steep learning curve for any rookie as they enter the NFL. That rings doubly true for any player trying to make the adjustment from a lower level of college football to the pros. As the youngest team in the league a year ago and probably again this season, the St. Louis Rams relied on rookies quite often. One of those players has a chance to make a serious impact in 2013 after taking his lumps a year ago.
As last season wound down, the Rams began to use their other rookie cornerback, Trumaine Johnson, more and more. Janoris Jenkins got the most pub as the rookie corner from a lower level of college, but Johnson’s skill set is very similar from the FCS level at the University of Montana. He certainly proved that down the stretch last year.
Most of the first half of the season was spent on special teams for Johnson, but he found his niche as an edge defender when the Rams used Cortland Finnegan as a slot corner where he is best suited. Former nickel corner Bradley Fletcher was disappointing and didn’t see much action down the stretch. He was not brought back to St. Louis when his contract expired this offseason which should pave the way for even bigger things from Johnson in 2013.
Now what has to worry the Rams a bit are the off-field concerns with Johnson. He has had a number of alcohol related incidents dating back to his time at Montana, and he actually was involved in another situation back in March for DUI. Head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead have shown the character issues are really secondary to a player’s abilities on the field. These issues will need to be controlled, but the Rams aren’t going to try to mold Johnson into a model citizen before giving him playing time.
Listed as the third corner coming into training camp, Johnson has the ability to play a huge role on the team this fall. According to Pro Football Focus, he did not have one negatively graded game by their metrics beyond Week 12. His on-field performance improved with more playing time which is an encouraging sign for the future.
There isn’t one cornerback left on the Rams roster from the 2011 team meaning that the new regime has officially completely cleaned house in the secondary. After finishing with just 12 interceptions last season as a defense (23rd in the league), the Rams need the secondary to continue its improvement in the upcoming season. Trumaine Johnson’s breakout candidacy will play a big role in them seeing some serious progress in coverage in 2013.