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Thread: Secret Superstar: Trumaine Johnson

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    Secret Superstar: Trumaine Johnson

    John Castellane | June 8, 2013

    The 2012 St. Louis Rams exceeded expectations and laid a strong foundation under first-year head coach Jeff Fisher. After an abysmal 2-14 record in the 2011 season, everyone in St. Louis knew it was time to clean house and rebuild. That rebuilding effort was largely assisted by the Kingís ransom of draft picks St. Louis obtained in the trade with the Washington Redskins that allowed the Redskins to draft Robert Griffin III. However, having the draft picks is one thing, making the correct selections with those picks is another. In that miserable 2011 season, the Rams finished 23rd in the NFL with just 12 interceptions, and ranked 22nd in the league with a -8.5 team pass coverage grade ó in a pass-heavy league, that is a recipe for disaster. Those stats combined with a new regime are the main reasons that not one cornerback from the 2011 team is still with the Rams, and only one defensive back remains, safety Darian Stewart. Part of that rebuilding process in the secondary, and one of the young players the Rams will be counting on to develop quickly, is secret superstar Trumaine Johnson.

    Boom or Bust

    Playing college football at the FCS level (formerly 1-AA) will always raise questions about a potential NFL draft prospect and whether or not they can handle the caliber of talent in the NFL. However, in the case of Trumaine Johnson talent was rarely the question. He dominated while playing cornerback for Montana and after a stellar effort at the scouting combine the Rams felt confident enough in his abilities to make him the 65th overall pick in the 2012 draft. Johnson was a four-year starter at Montana, finished his career with 15 interceptions, and was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan award in 2011, which goes to the most outstanding defensive player in the FCS. His time at Montana wasnít without controversy though, he was suspended for a game in 2009, and was arrested the morning after a game in 2011 in an alcohol-related incident in which he was tasered. Despite the potential character concerns, and questionable level of competition, St. Louis decided the potential reward of Johnsonís undeniable physical ability outweighed the risks.

    Promising Rookie Season

    Johnson started his rookie season the same way many rookies do, playing special teams and waiting for an opportunity. The Rams spent big money to bring in free agent cornerback Cortland Finnegan and also drafted Janoris Jenkins 26 spots ahead of Johnson in the 2012 draft to be the two starting corners. After playing only 50 total defensive snaps the first nine weeks of the season Johnson got his opportunity in Week 10. During the first nine weeks of the year St. Louis was sliding Finnegan to slot coverage and bringing in Bradley Fletcher to man the outside in most nickel situations, but Fletcher committed a few big penalties in the Week 8 game against the Patriots and was used sparingly thereafter. Once Johnson was given the opportunity to play in the nickel packages his talents began to show. He finished the season with a +6.9 overall grade, highest among Rams corners, and his +4.1 pass coverage mark was higher than both Finnegan and Jenkins. Johnson allowed a reception every 11.3 snaps that he was the primary man in coverage, ranking him 30th in the entire NFL, ahead of such players as Morris Claiborne (who was drafted 59 spots ahead of Johnson), and teammates Finnegan and Jenkins. The most encouraging part of Johnsonís rookie season was that he got better as his playing time increased and didnít break down like most rookies. He didnít post a single negatively graded game after Week 12, and his best game was in Week 16 against the Buccaneers, when he played 81 of the 85 defensive snaps because of an injury to Finnegan. In that game Johnson proved that he is a starting-caliber corner, he was thrown at seven times allowing only two receptions for 28 yards, with an interception. He followed that game with another solid performance in Week 17, playing 57 snaps and again allowing only two receptions, finishing his rookie season on a high.

    New Beginning

    It didnít take long for the hope and promise of a successful rookie season to once again turn into concern and unknown for Johnson. Exactly 10 days after incumbent nickel cornerback Bradley Fletcher signed a free agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, all but guaranteeing Johnson the position, he got arrested on a misdemeanor DUI charge. These charges were recently dropped as part of a plea agreement and Johnson was apologetic for his actions. The Rams appear to still be committed to Johnson and have to love the promise he showed as a rookie. With more coaching from former defensive back Jeff Fisher, the potential for Johnson is truly boundless. He will enter the 2013 season as the third corner for the Rams, but he will play a significant role in the secondary and has the ability to be a starting corner in the NFL. As always with Johnson, it isnít his talent that is the question, it is the baggage that comes with it.


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    Re: Secret Superstar: Trumaine Johnson

    This is an encouraging article. While Johnson does have some maturing to gain, he has talent. I hope that his commitment to his craft keeps him in line, and that he can avoid a sophmore slump. It will be exciting to see him grow into a dominate force in our secondary.


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    Re: Secret Superstar: Trumaine Johnson

    Johnson started his rookie season the same way many rookies do, playing special teams and waiting for an opportunity. The Rams spent big money to bring in free agent cornerback Cortland Finnegan and also drafted Janoris Jenkins 26 spots ahead of Johnson in the 2012 draft to be the two starting corners. After playing only 50 total defensive snaps the first nine weeks of the season Johnson got his opportunity in Week 10. During the first nine weeks of the year St. Louis was sliding Finnegan to slot coverage and bringing in Bradley Fletcher to man the outside in most nickel situations, but Fletcher committed a few big penalties in the Week 8 game against the Patriots and was used sparingly thereafter. Once Johnson was given the opportunity to play in the nickel packages his talents began to show. He finished the season with a +6.9 overall grade, highest among Rams corners, and his +4.1 pass coverage mark was higher than both Finnegan and Jenkins. Johnson allowed a reception every 11.3 snaps that he was the primary man in coverage, ranking him 30th in the entire NFL, ahead of such players as Morris Claiborne (who was drafted 59 spots ahead of Johnson), and teammates Finnegan and Jenkins. The most encouraging part of Johnsonís rookie season was that he got better as his playing time increased and didnít break down like most rookies. He didnít post a single negatively graded game after Week 12, and his best game was in Week 16 against the Buccaneers, when he played 81 of the 85 defensive snaps because of an injury to Finnegan. In that game Johnson proved that he is a starting-caliber corner, he was thrown at seven times allowing only two receptions for 28 yards, with an interception. He followed that game with another solid performance in Week 17, playing 57 snaps and again allowing only two receptions, finishing his rookie season on a high.
    I wasn't aware he had played so well during the latter part of the season. J.J. got most of the press likely due to his interceptions and scores. If Tru can come back and build on last years performance, we just might end up with a pretty darn good secondary - especially if T.J. lives up to his draft hype.

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    Re: Secret Superstar: Trumaine Johnson

    To me, I think Tru has much more potential than Jenkins. If he continues to grow he will be better then Jenkins. Jenkins is Asante Samuel 2.0. Gambles an insane amount, which leaves him very susceptible to double moves. Eyes too attracted in the backfield. I hope he can fix that, but those are natural so it'll be hard to change. For every pick 6 he gets he'll allow a nobody on the Dolphins to get a 40 yard TD on a bomb.. Tru has shutdown ability and size.


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    Re: Secret Superstar: Trumaine Johnson

    The negative he keeps getting into trouble...the plus, he can play ball--When the Rams announced his selection I said aloud, "the Rams got a steal." having seen him play especially in the Cat/Grizz games (a Montana rivalry). Best thing Fisher and Co. can do is post a picture of Titus Young on Trumaine's locker as reminder--talent can get you just so far, what you do with it is up to you.
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    Re: Secret Superstar: Trumaine Johnson

    Quote Originally Posted by Ram Dragoon View Post
    The negative he keeps getting into trouble...the plus, he can play ball--When the Rams announced his selection I said aloud, "the Rams got a steal." having seen him play especially in the Cat/Grizz games (a Montana rivalry). Best thing Fisher and Co. can do is post a picture of Titus Young on Trumaine's locker as reminder--talent can get you just so far, what you do with it is up to you.
    Very well said Dragoon!! We have so much talent and upside on this current roster it's ridiculous.....but you may have quantified the 2013 hype and season in just 16 words--"talent can get you just so far, what you do with it is up to you."

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    Re: Secret Superstar: Trumaine Johnson

    Quote Originally Posted by sosa39rams View Post
    To me, I think Tru has much more potential than Jenkins. If he continues to grow he will be better then Jenkins. Jenkins is Asante Samuel 2.0. Gambles an insane amount, which leaves him very susceptible to double moves. Eyes too attracted in the backfield. I hope he can fix that, but those are natural so it'll be hard to change. For every pick 6 he gets he'll allow a nobody on the Dolphins to get a 40 yard TD on a bomb.. Tru has shutdown ability and size.
    The thing is you need to look at Jenkins' season in two halves: Before his benching for the ***** game, and after. Before, he gambled at times and made mistakes. After, he was a completely different player, and was an awesome corner.

    Maybe the increase in his performance was due to the pressure from Johnson playing well at the same time

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    Re: Secret Superstar: Trumaine Johnson

    Quote Originally Posted by tomahawk247 View Post
    The thing is you need to look at Jenkins' season in two halves: Before his benching for the ***** game, and after. Before, he gambled at times and made mistakes. After, he was a completely different player, and was an awesome corner.

    Maybe the increase in his performance was due to the pressure from Johnson playing well at the same time
    You're actually right. His play did pick up after his 1 game suspension via Fisher, but I don't know what I can pin point that to. Maybe he was nervous, started taking it more seriously, or just coincidentally got better.


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