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Rams Notebook: Smallest player on defense could be filling some big shoes

August 07, 2016 02:02PM
Smallest player on defense could be filling some big shoes

By Gary Klein

[www.latimes.com]


At 5-feet-8 and 184 pounds, cornerback Lamarcus Joyner is the smallest player on the Rams’ defense.

The third-year pro from Florida State is trying to fill a large role left by the free-agent departure of Janoris Jenkins.

With E.J. Gaines coming back from foot surgery -- and also sidelined of late because of a hamstring issue -- Joyner has been taking first-team reps throughout training camp.

Coty Sensabaugh, added during the off-season as a free agent, also has been in the rotation as defensive coordinator Gregg Williams searches for a starter to play opposite Trumaine Johnson.

The competition goes into the next phase on Saturday night, when the Rams play the Dallas Cowboys in their exhibition opener at the Coliseum.

Williams said during organized-team activities in June that Joyner “has been told his whole life that he’s not big enough to play,” so he will not back down.

“I wouldn’t say that my talent is better than any other guys,” Joyner said. “It’s just my heart and soul.”

Joyner was a second-round pick in the 2014 draft. He played in 10 games as a rookie and 16 last season.

“Like I said from Day 1: ‘If the coach said, ‘Lamarcus, you have to gain 200 pounds and go to O line or D end, I would give my heart and soul and do it,” he said.

Regardless of who starts, all of the players in contention for the spot will play in a defense that often features multiple defensive backs.

Sensabaugh, who played last season for the Tennessee Titans, is quickly learning the system.

“He sees things,” Coach Jeff Fisher said. “He’ll guess, but he guesses right, and you like to see that out of a corner.”

The Rams transformed the Coliseum into their home field Saturday for a trial run before hosting the Cowboys in a preseason game next week. Gary Klein, Sam Farmer and Lindsey Thiry recap the practice.
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Joyner said his first two seasons in the NFL have prepared him for his latest opportunity. Size, he stressed, is not an issue.

“I definitely learned that the NFL is 90% mentality and the other 10% physicality,” he said. “That’s all it is. The best man in the mind wins.”

Happy to be home

Akeem Ayers played at Los Angeles Verbum Dei High and UCLA, so the strong-side linebacker is looking forward to playing this season before family and friends.

Ayers played his first three NFL seasons with the Tennessee Titans. He was traded to the New England Patriots during the 2014 season and helped them win the Super Bowl before signing with the Rams in 2015.

“I’ll be able to have my family more involved,” he said. “They love to watch me play and have been so supportive, so just being able to have them here and be able to support me as an NFL player will be even better.”

Ayers is part of a linebacker unit that features Alec Ogletree in the middle and Mark Barron on the weak side.

Ayers has three career interceptions and 13 ½ sacks.

“We all have different skill sets and can bring something different to the table,” Ayers said. “Hopefully, I can put a lot more pressure on the quarterback when given the opportunity. I feel that’s something I do well.”

Making an impression

Receiver Duke Williams, an undrafted free agent, is coming off a week that included several noteworthy practice performances.

Williams played in junior college and at Auburn, but he did not finish the 2015 season after he was kicked off the team for punching a teammate.

Williams’ first training-camp practice with the Rams included multiple dropped passes. But he has since come on, impressing coaches and teammates during the first special teams workout and capping the first phase of training camp with multiple receptions Saturday at the Coliseum.

Williams dropped a pass thrown by rookie quarterback Jared Goff that was nearly intercepted, but Goff came back to him on the next play and he scored.

“Duke’s coming along,” Fisher said. “He’s making more and more plays. He’ll catch three, drop one, so we’ll need to get him to catch four, no drops – that type of thing.”

Notes

The Rams were off Sunday. They return to practice Monday at UC Irvine. The Rams practice at 3:30 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday.
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  Rams Notebook: Smallest player on defense could be filling some big shoes

RamBill804August 07, 2016 02:02PM