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Roberson sets sights on making mark with Rams

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  • Roberson sets sights on making mark with Rams

    • By Joe Lyons

    Marcus Roberson refuses to let what happened — or didn’t happen — during last month’s NFL draft hold him back.

    “You can’t control the uncontrollable,’’ said Roberson, a former University of Florida cornerback who wasn’t picked and signed with the Rams as a free agent shortly after the draft. “My opportunity is here and now and it’s up to me to try and make the best of it. My focus is on making the team and doing whatever I can to help the Rams.’’

    Roberson, who stands 6 feet and weighs 190 pounds, was highly touted coming into the draft, with some “experts’’ viewing him as a possible second- or third-round selection. But after three days and seven rounds, he still was available. He said he drew interest from several teams before deciding to sign with the Rams.

    “I felt like this was a place where I could fit in well,’’ said Roberson, who received a $15,000 signing bonus. “It’s a good system with a great coaching staff that can teach me a lot. I played in an NFL-type scheme at Florida and that’s helped with the transition. Still, learning the plays and the terminology’s a little different. But I definitely feel like I’m catching on and getting more comfortable every day.’’

    The Rams, who held their first of 10 organized team activities Tuesday at Rams Park, addressed a need by adding a number of cornerbacks in the offseason, including sixth-round draft pick E.J. Gaines from Missouri as well as rookie free agents Roberson and Greg Reid (Florida State). Holdovers at the position are starters Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, plus backups Brandon McGee and Darren Woodward.

    In addition, second-round draft pick Lamarcus Joyner (Florida State) and rookie free agent Jarrid Bryant (South Dakota) are listed as defensive backs, capable off playing corner or safety.

    “It’s a strong group,’’ Roberson said. “But competition is what pushes you to get better.’’

    Spirited competition is nothing new for Roberson, a product of perennial national prep power St. Thomas Aquinas High in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

    It led all high schools in drafted players this year, with four — Joyner by the Rams in the second round, Wisconsin safety Dezmen Southward by the Falcons in the third round, Miami guard Brandon Linder by the Jaguars in the third round and Wisconsin running back James White by the Patriots in the fourth round.

    In 2010, when Roberson was a junior, Aquinas went 15-0, captured the Class 5A title and ended up ranked third nationally.

    “We were pretty good,’’ the soft-spoken Roberson said. “It’s a private Catholic school program coached by the great George Smith. He’s a great coach and I really enjoyed my time playing there.’’

    So who was the true shutdown cornerback on that squad, Joyner, the senior, or Roberson, the junior?

    “No, we both were good,’’ Roberson said, chuckling.

    As a true freshman with the Gators, Roberson started the first 10 games in 2011 before being sidelined because of a neck injury that required surgery. He played in all 13 games in 2012, starting four. That season, he was second in the Southeastern Conference with 14 passes defended and had 12 pass breakups.

    Last fall, ankle and knee injuries limited Roberson to seven games and just four starts. He missed another game because of suspension after breaking unspecified team rules.

    “The injuries definitely hindered me,’’ he said. “But injuries are a part of football, something you just have to learn to play through.’’

    Roberson, 21, elected to leave Florida after just three seasons. He described himself as a ‘ballhawk’’ and seems to be a good fit for the aggressive scheme employed by new Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

    “I’m a press, man, man-to-man corner who can adjust as needed,’’ he said. “I consider myself an all-around corner.’’

    But Roberson will be the first to admit he has room to grow — literally.

    “I need to get bigger, stronger and faster because the opponents in the NFL are bigger and faster,’’ he said. “I’m looking forward to (offseason practices) and to training camp. This is the next step in my life and I’m really excited about it.’’

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  • Rambos
    Bryant ready to take his shot after losing most of his senior season
    by Rambos
    Bryant ready to take his shot after losing most of his senior season to injury
    • By Joe Lyons

    Ohio State safety Christian Bryant was doing what he had done countless times.

    But with 30 seconds left, on the second-to-last defensive play in the Buckeyes’ 31-24 victory over visiting Wisconsin on Sept. 28, Bryant’s college football came to an abrupt halt.

    “I was running to the ball, just like we’re taught to do, when one of my teammates doing the same thing went to make the tackle and landed on my ankle,’’ he recalled. “It was a freak, fluke thing that happened in a split second, but we’re talking about a 250-pound guy. My ankle just wasn’t able to withstand that.’’

    Initially, Bryant, a seventh-round selection by the Rams on Saturday, held out hope.

    “I thought maybe I just rolled it,’’ he said. “But when I tried to get up and run off the field, the ankle gave way. All I could do was wait for the trainers to come get me.’’

    Bryant, a third-year starter and a team captain at Ohio State, suffered a broken fibula and fractured ankle that required season-ending surgery.

    Later that day, in a postgame news conference, Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer pounded the podium while talking about Bryant.

    “We lost our captain,’’ the coach said. “I ask you to keep Christian’s family in your prayers. That darn kid has done so much for our program, he has come so far, incredible leadership skills. I love that guy.’’

    On another occasion, Meyer referred to Bryant as “one of the best safeties in the country’’ and said that his injury prevented the Buckeyes from making a national title run.

    Rams linebacker and former Buckeye James Laurinaitis added: “I know Christian Bryant and talking to (Luke Fickell), the defensive coordinator at Ohio State — we’re still friends from when I played there — he said when Christian went down, he thought that their defense lost their heartbeat and that he was the toughest guy, maybe, that he’s ever coached.’’

    Bryant said comments like that helped energize him as he worked through the rehab process.

    “Seeing the way Coach Meyer and the coaching staff reacted, it kinda made me feel good inside, knowing that they viewed and judged me as such an important part of the team,’’ he said. “It was tough not being out there on the field with my teammates, especially as a senior leader, but I did what I could to help from the sideline, playing somewhat of a coaching role.’’

    After the season, Bryant, who missed nine games last season and five more with a foot injury as a freshman, petitioned the NCAA for medical waiver and another year of eligibility. He was turned down.

    Bryant, a 5-foot-10, 193-pounder who can play anywhere in the secondary,...
    -05-15-2014, 07:34 AM
  • Nick
    Rams' Joyner eager to make his mark
    by Nick
    Rams' Joyner eager to make his mark
    21 hours ago • By Joe Lyons

    Lamarcus Joyner’s football mantra — Everybody has a plan until they get hit — was forged on the sandlots near the Victory Homes projects in Liberty City, one of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.’s rougher neighborhoods.

    Joyner, a gifted defensive back from Florida State selected by the Rams in the second round of the recent NFL draft, started playing football with his older brothers and their friends. He was put to the test early and came away with a toughness and an edge that prevails to this day.

    “That’s just something that I’ve learned in life,’’ he said. “Just from the background I come from, the area I come from, you always have the kids around the neighborhood who think they’re the baddest and the toughest until they get hit back.’’

    The second-youngest of Rose Joyner’s five children, Lamarcus saw and dealt with more than his share of tough times as a youngster in the projects. But after vowing never to disappoint his mother, he stuck to a plan of using education and football as his escape.

    “I’ve been running away from that place all my life, which is why I do what I do on the field and in the weight room and the way I respect people,’’ the 23-year-old said. “I just kept my faith in the Lord. ... To add on to what he has already given me with my ability, I just added the extra work and listened to the great men in my life.

    “To be here, far from where I come from, there’s no better feeling. It’s a dream come true.’’

    For their part, the Rams feel similarly blessed to have Joyner, a talented and versatile defender who also can return kicks.

    “We’re really excited about him,’’ Rams coach Jeff Fisher said during a draft-day news conference. “He’s just an outstanding player. He played all over their defense. He played outside, he played in the slot, he played high, he blitzed, so he’s a plug-in day one nickelback.

    “Typically, the nickel is aligned on the slot or around the line of scrimmage. He’s very, very aggressive, tackles well (and) he’s an outstanding blitzer.’’

    And Joyner, a hitter who plays bigger than his 5-foot-8, 182-pound frame would suggest, seems a perfect fit for the attack-minded scheme employed by new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

    “I think I fit great in this defense,’’ Joyner said. “I love the mentality of Gregg Williams. He’s a very aggressive coach and I’m a very aggressive player. I think I’m a guy who can have an impact.’’

    After three seasons commuting across town to Southwest High to escape his neighborhood, Joyner finished his prep career at perennial private-school power St. Thomas Aquinas and was named USA Today national defensive player of the year.

    As the top-rated cornerback prospect in America, Joyner had scholarship offers from virtually every major program in...
    -05-19-2014, 05:33 PM
  • MauiRam
    Rams' Joyner making progress going into Year 2
    by MauiRam
    By Nate Latsch

    ST. LOUIS — Rams cornerback Lamarcus Joyner described his rookie season as a “humbling experience” after the team’s OTA session on Thursday.
    “Definitely a humbling experience for me, both on the field, off the field — there’s just a lot of things that come with this league,” he said.

    The Rams’ second-round pick (No. 41 overall) in 2014 out of Florida State, the diminutive defensive back failed to make much of an impact for the team during his debut season.

    Drafted to man the nickel cornerback position in Gregg Williams’ aggressive defense, Joyner finished with 48 tackles, three passes defensed, one sack and one quarterback pressure in 10 games.

    Joyner struggled early on, came on after a slow start but was then sidelined by an injury. He returned for the final two games.

    What was the hardest part about his rookie campaign?

    “Just adapting. Just learning the system. Just coming from a successful year at the college level and you think you know everything and you’re just on the wrong path, you need to get adjusted,” Joyner said. “Coach (Gregg) Williams was a great example of molding me out of that and molding me into the young man I am now.”

    What the 5-foot-8, 184-pound defensive back is now is a player who is far more aware of what he is doing in the Rams’ defensive scheme, a player fighting for snaps among the team’s cornerbacks and a player who has earned some praise for his play so far during OTAs.

    “I feel like my approach is different and that’s probably coming from the more understanding I have, the more wisdom I have and just knowing what I’m doing,” Joyner said. “Instead of running out there like a blind dog in a meat house and you don’t know which way to go, I know what I’m doing, so now I can pretty much contribute to the defense.”

    How much different does Joyner feel now within the defense than he was a year ago as a rookie second-round pick? Joyner said the coaches have used the words “light years” to describe the difference.

    “I feel great, I feel like I’m settled in, I’m there mentally, which is the most important part at this level,” Joyner said. “I’m already blessed with the God-given physical ability, so I’m pretty caught up.”

    Joyner said he is now at the point where is able to react to what is unfolding instead of having to think about what he should do.

    He’s come a long way over the past year, a period of time with plenty of ups and downs for the second-round pick who helped Florida State win a national championship in his final season with the Seminoles.

    Joyner took some time after his rookie season to reflect and refocus.

    “I definitely got away and had to refocus and ask myself what it is about this game that makes me want to come to work every day and I came to the realization that I still love football,”...
    -06-13-2015, 01:16 AM
  • MauiRam
    Get to know a rookie: Marcus Roberson
    by MauiRam
    By Nick Wagoner

    We’ve officially reached the closest thing to a dead period the NFL has to offer these days as organized team activities are over and training camp has not yet arrived.

    That means vacation time for the players, coaches and, yes, reporters. In the meantime, let’s get to know some of the lesser-known additions to the Rams' roster: the rookie free agents.

    Marcus Roberson
    Position: Cornerback
    College: University of Florida
    Height: 6-0
    Weight: 191 pounds

    Stat to know: After earning playing time as a freshman, Roberson had his best season as a sophomore when he finished second in the Southeastern Conference in pass breakups with 12. He added a pair of interceptions and a forced fumble in what would be his best season. That was 2012, so it's been a little while since Roberson produced at that level. But he flashed enough promise to make him the type of prospect that intrigued many draft pundits after that season and into this year.

    Road to the roster: A long and lean corner more known for his zone skills and work in off-coverage, Roberson may not be the ideal fit for what defensive coordinator Gregg Williams wants to do, but it should be noted that Williams has a history of making it work with players of all abilities. The Rams have room for a young corner to earn his way to the roster and Roberson could be that type of player after injuries and off-field issues pushed him from a potential Day 2 pick to undrafted rookie. Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson and Lamarcus Joyner are the only corners that appear to be locked in to roster spots. From there, the Rams will likely keep one or two more with Roberson having to overcome the likes of Brandon McGee, E.J. Gaines, Greg Reid and Darren Woodard to land a spot on the 53-man roster out of training camp.
    -06-22-2014, 03:12 PM
  • MauiRam
    Mizzou Product Gaines Working To Make Rams ..
    by MauiRam
    Nate Latsch,

    ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — Rookie cornerback E.J. Gaines had one of the first highlights of the Rams’ initial full-squad training camp practice when he snagged an interception of an errant Sam Bradford pass on Friday.

    While one play during one training camp session isn’t going to help the sixth-round pick from the University of Missouri win a roster spot, especially when the players aren’t even wearing pads yet, it’s certainly a good start for a young player looking to make his mark.

    “It felt good getting back out there with my teammates, making a couple plays,” Gaines said. “It felt good.”

    And that interception?

    “Interceptions always feel good,” Gaines said, smiling. “They always do. Just getting out there, getting back on the grass and getting back to competition.”

    Gaines participated in the workouts on Tuesday and Wednesday with his rookie teammates and a few other more veteran players. But Friday was the official start to his rookie season, what he’s been working for.

    The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder proved himself at the college level with the Tigers, earning all-conference accolades in both the Big 12 Conference and Southeastern Conference during his four years at Mizzou.

    He expressed some initial disappointment in falling during the draft, before the Rams picked him with the 188th overall selection, but said Friday that no longer bothers him after arriving in St. Louis and seeing the family atmosphere with his new team.

    “You don’t get treated any differently when you get here,” Gaines said. “They constantly say you have to make the team, whether you’re a first rounder or a free agent. I’m just ready to go out here and make plays and try to make this football team.”

    That’s easier said than done, of course. But it’s feasible that Gaines landed in the best possible spot to begin his NFL career.

    The Rams went into the 2014 draft looking to solidify their secondary and appear to have done just that after using four of their 11 selections to take defensive backs — corners Gaines and Lamarcus Joyner (second round) and safeties Maurice Alexander (fourth round) and Christian Bryant (seventh round).

    Gaines adds to a secondary that has to rank among the youngest in the league, considering starting cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson and starting free safety Rodney McLeod are all beginning their third seasons and strong safety T.J. McDonald is going into his second.

    “We don’t really have any true veterans, any real older guys,” Gaines said. “Everybody is young. I just try to come in here and follow in those footsteps, Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson and kind of look at what they are doing and try to do the same thing.”

    The 22 year old will need to show that he’s a quick learner.

    Gaines, who spent most of his...
    -07-26-2014, 11:32 PM