THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Raheem Morris, the Los Angeles Rams ‘defensive coordinator, rattled off the defensive backs’ names as if remembering his favorite sitcom characters.
There’s cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who is extremely smart and talented and will ride with you when you’re right but won’t hold back when he thinks you’re wrong.
Then there is cornerback Darious Williams or “D-Will” for connoisseurs. He is the analyst who delves deep into the lessons of the day.
Cornerback David Long Jr., or “D-Lo” – never to be confused with “D-Will” despite being good friends – is the one who is constantly working to improve his craft and prove he is eager to do it grow.
Safety Jordan Fuller is perhaps better known as the captain now, having been voted one by his teammates. He’s the serious guy known to be ripe beyond his 23 years and one NFL season.
• How Baker Mayfield reshaped his body
• Why Orlando Brown Left Ravens for Chiefs
• Derek Carr, Raiders WRs find rhythm
• Von Miller’s elite version has returned
• Seahawks pass rush as advertised
• Taylor Heinicke revives WFT
Finally, there’s Taylor Rapp’s security. A sawed-off, ready-to-go guy who’s fun to annoy him because he’ll be taken to extremes quickly.
“He’s great,” chuckled Morris.
Meet the top five at the Rams Secondary, a group that one relies on to produce the NFL’s best defense for a second straight season and help the Rams earn a trip to the Super Bowl LVI.
“We just have a lot of good players, but we have a lot of fun together,” said Fuller, a six-round pick in 2020 and a sophomore starter. “To be honest, coming to work is fun. We laugh all day, but at the same time we really laugh at work. “
The group’s skill and personality was evident in a 34-14 win over the Chicago Bears in Week 1, when they tortured quarterback Andy Dalton into random throws, brutalizing his receivers when the ball was in their hands, and then wild celebrated every stop.
On the opening drive, Long grabbed a tilted pass in the end zone to end the Bears’ scoring threat and kick off a touchdown drive that gave the Rams a quick 7-0 lead.
“I just felt like I was preparing for this moment the last few years I’ve been here,” said Long, a third year professional and a first year starter.
Later in the first quarter, Ramsey made three tackles for a loss, highlighting why Morris called for him to play all over the field this season, inside and out, so he could get involved in more action and not be lulled into boredom this is occasionally because it is a barrier and quarterbacks avoid it at all costs.
“I’m being put in positions I’ve never been in before, playing games and doing things for the team,” said the two-time all-pro.
Jalen Ramsey and David Long Jr. celebrate Long’s first career interception that ended a Bears drive deep into Rams territory. Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA TODAY Sports
Williams chipped in seven tackles and one pass diversion while Rapp had eight tackles. In his first game as a defensive caller, Fuller led the team with 11 tackles.
“I’m proud of everyone in this room,” said Ramsey, who had nine tackles and a pass diversion. “It takes a lot to do what we do. A lot of people are being asked to do other roles this year, bigger roles this year.”
At the start of the season, questions remained how the secondary would react following the departure of safety John Johnson III and cornerback Troy Hill, both of whom signed with the Cleveland Browns in Free Agency.
As the third pick of 2019 to have just one career start to the season, Long suffered growing pains throughout camp, particularly in a joint training session against the Dallas Cowboys and recipient CeeDee Lamb. But Morris and his teammates continued to express their confidence in Long, who will play an eclectic role this season.
“We have Raheem – I just wanted to feed on his energy and Jalen and Darious,” Long explained. “So after guys like Troy and all the other guys, I just felt like I wanted to step in and not miss a step in defense.”
Johnson’s departure meant a new reliable signal caller had to be found to route Morris’ game calls on the field. Fuller earned the chance early in camp and improved over the five weeks, earning the trust of coaches and teammates. And Rapp, who has made 15 starts in the last two seasons, stepped in to become the physical presence that Johnson left behind.
“[Rapp has] took his game to another level and we have a lot of trust in him and we will continue to build that trust in him because when we do he just lights up and plays fantastic, “said Ramsey.” And he and Jordan’s communication and their management in the backend cannot be taken for granted. “
All you need this week:
• Full schedule »| Tables »
• Depth diagrams for each team »
• Transactions »| Injuries »
• Ranking of the Football Power Index »
More NFL coverage »
Before the kick-off, Ramsey put in simple terms what he expects of himself in his sixth season.
“More. Just more – whatever that may be,” said the four-time Pro Bowl selection. “More.”
Morris grinned as he spent 2 minutes 53 seconds going through the characteristics of Ramsey, Williams, Long, Fuller and Rapp. It was evident that each player brings something unique to this year’s edition of secondary school, but it has stoked an obvious question.
How does Morris manage all of the personalities?
“That’s our job – managing really good football players and getting them to go out and play really well together,” said Morris. “How do you do it? The million dollar question. I’ll keep that to myself so I can remain a really good coach.”