St. Louis Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson started the year as the Rams’ third-string corner behind Janoris Jenkins and Cortland Finnegan. After Finnegan’s poor play and injury to start the year, it was obvious that someone needed to step up. Johnson was promoted to be the second starting corner.
Prior to Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Johnson was fighting a stomach virus that had kept him out of practice since Wednesday. He participated in the team’s walk-through Saturday, but it was uncertain as to whether he would play Sunday. The question wasn’t only would he play, but how much would he be able to play considering the toll that being ill can have on a body. Conditioning is an important part to any football player’s game, but especially at corner where you can be expected to run with some of the best athletes in the world.
Johnson stated this Wednesday at Rams Park that he wasn’t even sure he would play until Sunday when he woke up and decided to give it a go, in spite of still having a fever that would last through the game. How much would the Rams corner play? Johnson ended up playing all 60 of the Rams’ defensive snaps in Jacksonville. He surrendered three big plays early in the game to Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon. During all three plays, he was trailing the receiver, failing to keep up with them. Even though he gave up a few big plays, he stayed in the game — winded and weak.
The brightest spot for Johnson came in the third quarter when he read quarterback Blaine Gabbert‘s eyes to make a leaping swat to defend a pass. This is where an athlete earns his paycheck and proves he loves the game. When a player battles through injury or illness, they earn my respect.
Johnson might have recognized that his team needed him, or that this could be his chance to take the No. 2 corner role opposite fellow second-year corner Jenkins. Johnson absolutely has the size at 6-foot-2 and 204 pounds to become a tough, physical corner. He has three interceptions in his career, but one of the things that was most talked about with him when he was drafted were his ball skills.
On his lone interception this year, he racked up 29 yards on the return. The Rams need to do a better job forcing turnovers, which means a player with more length and ball skills will have a better chance to make a play on some balls. He may not have the raw speed to keep up with the fastest receivers in the league, but he has the strength to disrupt their routes by jamming them off the line. If the Rams can jam more receivers at the line, the defensive line may find more time to pressure the quarterback as well.
For Johnson, his time is now, and if he won’t miss a game after being ill all week, I don’t think he has any plans of letting the opportunity slip. The Rams are going to need his physical strength to counter some of the elite receivers they will face the rest of this year.
That includes Houston Texan’s wide receiver Andre Johnson, who poses a big matchup threat for the Rams defense. I look forward to seeing these two battle all day Sunday as Trumaine is the best physical matchup. Andre is still recovering from an injury suffered earlier in the week, but this could be a good week to see just where the young corner is in his career.