First, I don’t claim to be an expert regarding the players and the defensive scheme of the Rams. I just want to stir some thoughts about the Rams new “cover –2” scheme, and the cornerbacks needed to make it successful.
In recent history, Rams cornerbacks have been asked to play “bump-and-run”, “man-to-man”, and “zone” coverages. They also have been expected to contribute to the containment of the ball carrier on running plays. All the players had different strengths and weaknesses. Todd Lyght for 9-10 years was a fundamentally sound player that was an above average tackler. He possessed cover skills that deterred a QB from throwing a ball to the man he was covering. However, if the ball was thrown in Lyght’s direction, he didn’t have the play making skills to break on the ball. Dexter McCleon has average size and speed. He has proved to be a good cover man and an average tackler. Dre Bly is a little undersized for playing tough at the LOS. However, he is a great ball hawk and is above average playing the pass. Jacoby Sheppard is tall and thin and does not possess the stature to be an everydown cornerback. He has shown great ability in pass coverage as a nickel back but is still inexperienced and will take more time to develop. Now, in Mr. Lovie’s new scheme, from what I’ve read, he requires the cornerback to aggressively “jam” the receivers at the LOS, stay in their zone and take on running plays, fly to the ball, and make sure tackles. Is there a player on the Rams roster right now that fits that description?
Dexter McCleon is the only player,IMO, that can fill the job description. Bly is not big and tough enough and Sheppard, as per above, is fraile and inexperienced.
What I say next may surprise some, but a player that already possesses these skills is a player named Todd Lyght. Todd has always been good at jamming recievers at the LOS and making open field tackles. Sure, he gave up many big plays in his day when the Rams didn’t have a very good front 7. But, in this scheme, he wouldn’t be covering a receiver down field. He would jam the receiver at the LOS , run with him a few steps, and then release him onto the next zone, and he would then stay in his own zone, ready to play the ball if it entered. And again, this is my understanding of the scheme, and it may be wrong. :) I’m not saying that the Rams should go back after Todd. I’m just saying that a player that completely fits your job description has already been here 10 years. Now, if Todd doesn’t receive any offers in the UFA market, and the Rams have 500k available in June, do you bring him back for the minimum? I don’t know if I would. However, I do have a Rams home #41 jersey I’ld like to wear again. :):) If the Rams were to draft a cornerback, I hope it will not be in the 1st round. I believe the front 7 ( DL and LB’s ), are most important on any defense. And hope they would draft the best playmaking LB first, and then go for the D-Tackles second. If it were my choice, I would select one of two cornerbacks that are projected to be available in the 2nd round. Bhawoh Jue- from Penn St. is 6’0” – 195 pnds and runs a 4.50 – 40. He has been noted to have “no fear” on the field by one scout. Most other scouts say he is the most aggressive player against the run in the draft. He also has good pass coverage skills. The second player is Willie Middlebrooks from the Uni. of Minnesota. Willie is 6’2” – 200 pnds and runs a 4.55 – 40.
“Physical- with size to take guys out at the LOS”, one scout was quoted.
“Willie isn’t afraid to mix it up”, said another scout.
These two players fall behind Fred Smoot, Nate Clements, and Jamar Fletcher in the ratings. However, check out the excerpts from this interview with Jue:
Q: Do you think you’re being overlooked by scouts at all?
B.J.: A little. Nobody knew who I was a couple months ago. I wasn’t even on the map yet. I played myself into the position I’m in now. It feels good. They’ll see me later this month at the combine and I’ll prove to them I’m worthy of being here. Hopefully I’ll be one of the first 3 or 4 corners to be drafted.
Q: How do you feel you stack up against other corners in the Big Ten?
B.J.: I know that Willie, Jamar, and Nate are rated above me, but to be honest I think Willie and myself will distance ourselves from the others. If you watch film on me, I shut down Terrell(2 catches) and I shut down Ron Johnson(0 catches in first half) until I got hurt in the second half. I think I rank better than they do in head-to-head competition.
...........“And with the 54th pick in the 2001 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams select Bhawoh Jue from Penn State University”. :):)(I hope)
Thanks for reading,