Gordon: New Rams cornerbacks face massive test

2 hours ago • BY JEFF GORDON

Rams coach Jeff Fisher made cornerback a top priority while retooling the team’s roster.

Hard-hitting veteran Cortland Finnegan arrived via free agency. Athletic rookies Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson arrived as key selections in the NFL Draft. That trio quickly moved to the front and center of the Rams defense.

General manager Les Snead traded incumbent cornerback Josh Gordy to the Indianapolis Colts for a future draft pick. He may have dangled injury-plagued veteran Bradley Fletcher, too, according to the NFL Twitterverse.

Fisher waved good-bye to Jerome Murphy, who moved on to the Saints to play for Steve Spagnuolo. (The Rams drafted Murphy on Spags’ watch.)

Are the Rams better after this significant turnover? We’ll find out Sunday when Fisher’s squad will have to fend off Megatron’s attack.

Calvin Johnson is the NFL’s premier receiving weapons. His freakish size/skill combination makes him nearly impossible to cover one-on-one.

"He's incredibly gifted, he's tall, he's fast, he's got great hands, he's tough," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said during his Wednesday conference call with the St. Louis media. "But it's the intangible things that the fans, the media can't see on a daily basis that are especially pleasing to see when you watch him every day."

How does a cornerback stop this man?

“Heh, heh . . . you have to ask the person that stops me,” Johnson said during his Wednesday conference call.

When the Lions keep quarterback Matthew Stafford upright and healthy, Megatron can demolish defenses.

“I want the defense to fear me,” Johnson told ESPN The Magazine earlier this year. “That's kind of cool that I got the name 'Megatron' because he is the bad guy. I like to be the bad guy to the defense.”

Last season Johnson caught 96 passes for 1,681 yards (seventh-best in NFL history) and 16 touchdowns. Detroit’s other top receivers, Titus Young and Nate Burleson, are accomplished too. They caught 121 passes between them for 1,364 yards and nine touchdowns.

“Not just the receivers, but with the tights ends we can stretch the field very quickly,” Johnson said Wednesday. “With that we can do a lot of things in-between. It gives the receivers an advantage, as far as (defenses) not being able to pick on what we are going do out there.”

So the Rams better find ways to apply pass pressure and keep the receivers from getting off the line quickly. Blitzing quarterbacks and jamming receivers are two of Finnegan’s specialties.

What did Johnson think of Cortland when they squared off before?

“Quick, kind of instinctive,” he said. “All the other stuff, everybody knows about . . . He has some quicks, I’ll give him that.”

As for Johnson and Jenkins, Megratron said. “Their young guys, they are going to come up under a veteran. That might give them some skills of the game. I’d expect to see a good show from them. Is it both their first game? They have two rookies over there?"

Yes they do. (Gulp).

“I’m sure they will come out with a lot of energy,” Johnson said. “We can’t afford to start off slowly. We have come out here and get off to a good start, hit them first.”

Fisher wants build a defense sturdy enough to rebuild upon. But this will take time. He gave major roles to rookies and young veterans to get the process started.

Can promising kids like Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson hold up a dynamic receiving corps? Fans won’t have to wait long for the answer to that question.