Rams’ David Long Jr. Highlighted as the NFL’s most underrated slot CB

There is no doubt the Los Angeles Rams saw cornerback as a key position needed to lose Darious Williams in free agency this offseason. They traded for Troy Hill and then drafted both Decobie Durant and Derion Kendrick on Day 3 of the draft, bringing aboard three cornerbacks in a span of a few hours.

That was a bad sign to be taken for David Long Jr., but he still stands to have a good chance with a starter alongside Jalen Ramsey and Hill this season. While he had his share of ups and downs last season, he finished the year on a positive note by playing some of his best football in the playoffs.

That late-season stretch earned him recognition from Doug Farrar’s Touchdown Wire as the NFL’s most underrated slot defender.

The common narrative with the Rams is that they sacrificed their draft picks for a few big names, and dream-teamed their way to a Super Bowl win. A good story, but not the whole story – in truth, general manager Les Snead and his staff have done an outstanding job extracting player value in the later rounds. Long, taken in the third round of the 2019 draft out of Michigan, is but one example. Long had limited reps in his first two NFL seasons, but in 2021, he had 671 snaps and became one of the league’s better slot defenders. From inside, Long allowed 12 catches on 21 targets for 66 yards, 42 yards after the catch, no touchdowns, one interception, and the league’s lowest opponent passer rating allowed at 43.0. (Miami’s Justin Coleman ranked second with a 61.1 passer rating allowed).

In four playoff games, Long has never had an overall grade worse than 55.4, according to Pro Football Focus. He was particularly good in coverage, allowing 13 catches on 20 targets for a total of just 79 yards and zero touchdowns with one interception.

It was good to see him bounce back after being taken out of the starting lineup earlier in the season, getting replaced by Robert Rochell for a few games. And that response is late in the year, with Long’s arrow pointing up in the 2022 campaign.

“I don’t think it can be minimized what a good job David Long did last year, as well,” McVay said last week. “I thought he played really well throughout the playoffs. Handful of important, significant snaps. “

He’s definitely a player to watch in the secondary as he looks to hold off Rochell and the Rams’ other young cornerbacks.

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