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2020 positional preview: Safeties

Photo credit: Rick Scuteri/AP photographer.

The Los Angeles Rams’ defensive secondary could be exciting to watch this season, but as usual it is going to depend on the injuries that may or may not occur. But, that is true for every team, and since we are only concerned about the Rams here, we have a feeling this season’s starting backfield could be extremely exciting.

It features two returners, both starters, one for the other in 2019, and now projected to both be in the lineup in 2020, with an enormous amount of talent and versatility.

“We’ll both be a little more versatile,” said John Johnson III to the Los Angeles Times in April. “And I also think Taylor Rapp is a little more versatile than he thinks he is, so I think we’re going to have to get that out of him.”

Versatility, speed, depth and good fortune will be key for the Rams safeties’ room this season.

THE RETURNERS

John Johnson III – Johnson is a 4-year pro playing in his contract year. Last year’s starter alongside Eric Weddle, he was having a career year before being sidelined by an injury after six games. He was on pace for five to six interceptions, he had two at the time of the injury and was in on 51 tackles. Johnson will have to hit the ground running in training camp, show his leadership skills and come into camp in great shape if he is looking for a multi-year extension.

Johnson is a fluid safety, who plays well in man coverage, and sometimes has an issue against the zone because he plays the ball too much, looking for the spectacular play. It is these types of plays that tend hurt the Rams’ secondary because there is no one behind them to prevent the TD catch and run.

Taylor Rapp – Rapp is a second-year pro as a free safety. He took advantage of Johnson’s unfortunate injury and he seamlessly stepped into the starting role. Rapp is signed through the 2022 season, and his play on the field only got better and better.

Based on his stats, one could say this budding star could be one of the great ones after just 10 games as a pro. His stats were amazing with 61 tackles and 38 assists (99 total). He had two interceptions and one for a TD, so the sky is the limit for him.

Nick Scott – Second-year pro, who is signed through 2022, and could be the heir apparent to the defensive backfield if injury besets the Rams again in 2020. He figures to give Johnson a breather here and there as the season moves forward. Terrell Burgess may give Scott a run for his money in camp. Scott will have to continue to progress and work on his coverage across the middle of the field and the crossing routes that cause confusion in the backfield.

Travin Howard – second-year pro out of TCU in the 2018 NFL Draft, Howard didn’t play much, but got in on 19 tackles (16 solo) over nine games during the 2019 season. This kind of production shouldn’t surprise the Rams. While playing for the Horned Frogs, he became the first player in TCU history to lead the team in tackles for three-straight years.

Tackling is always a key factor in the secondary and we are pretty sure Howard’s technique must pretty good.

Terrell Burgess – Burgess was the 104th overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft when the Rams decided they wanted to find safety help other than through free agency. Utah had just the man to fill out a versatile role L.A. was seeking.

In a previous Rams Talk article, we discussed the team having players who could play many positions. Burgess is one of those players. He played cornerback and safety for the Utes in a strange 4-2-5 defensive alignment.

Burgess showed he could “D” up against tight ends in the league and can man up against receivers as well. Training camp will give us an indication of how the Rams might use him.

OTHERS IN THE MIX

Three other players also have a shot to make a name for themselves in camp: Jake Gervase a second-year free safety, who was signed as an undrafted free agent last season and is now under contract for 2020. He will have to produce in order to be seen and possibly head somewhere else next season or make a huge impact for another chance at a Rams contract.

Jordan Fuller and Juju Hughes both rookies will be working to find a spot on special teams or a spot on the Rams practice squad this season.

Sources: Los Angeles Times

You can follow Bob Smith on Twitter @amoresports. Be sure to follow Rams Talk on Twitter @TalkRams.

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