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Rams still sorting through cornerbacks

12/3/2014

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams have yet to have a week in which they have all of their cornerbacks healthy and ready to play.

Recently, they've been without rookies Lamarcus Joyner and Marcus Roberson. But they have, however, had the services of their top three options in the form of E.J. Gaines, Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson.

Back before Jenkins and Johnson returned from knee injuries, many wondered how the Rams would deploy their corners if and when they were all healthy. Well, that still hasn't entirely happened but there have been clues along the way.

Before the season, the expectation was that returning third-year corners Johnson and Jenkins would be the starters. Then Johnson suffered a knee injury in the third preseason game and took about half the season to be ready to play. Jenkins suffered a knee injury of his own around the same time Johnson returned, leaving the rookie Gaines to take on a role beyond what anyone could have expected when the Rams drafted him in the sixth round.

Gaines didn't just step into the lineup, either. He's mostly excelled in his role as the starter, to the point where he now seems to be entrenched. Against Oakland last week, it was Gaines who played all 78 defensive snaps. Interestingly, Johnson was next at 57 snaps then Jenkins, who played 40.

But before passing judgment on what that means in the big picture, it's important to note what coach Jeff Fisher said about how the snaps were distributed.

“Our plan was to rest [Jenkins] a little bit because he’s still pretty sore off the MCL," Fisher said. "We alternated him -- Trumaine was feeling better."

It's worth noting that Gaines was not one of the players being alternated. He rewarded the Rams' faith with an interception and a fumble recovery as he continues to work toward becoming one of the draft's biggest steals.

Even when Jenkins returns to health, Fisher essentially confirmed that it's Gaines who has solidified his spot. Jenkins has had his share of struggles allowing big plays but Fisher said he and Gaines are asserting themselves for established roles moving forward.

"If we were going start the game tomorrow, we’d start with E.J and Janoris,” Fisher said.

When Joyner returns from a groin injury, it will be interesting to see where he fits but if nothing else, it seems Gaines has done enough to earn the trust of Fisher and the coaching staff.