Rams' plans at cornerback without Hill

September, 1, 2009
9/01/09
5:20
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


Steve Spagnuolo coached defensive backs for the Eagles early in this decade. For him to inherit and then promptly trade a cornerback with a first-round pedigree must tell us something, particularly. But what?
 
 AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
 The Rams' decision to trade Tye Hill shows the team has confidence in its young corners.


The 185-pound Hill is smaller than the cornerbacks Spagnuolo has coached recently with the Giants. That would be a matter of preference and not something that would automatically rule out a player. Hill was recovering from knee surgery, so it's possible he wasn't at full strength. But if he had the potential to become a top-flight player, a team could live with short-term issues. On another level, Hill might have stood as a symbol of the Rams' past, although lots of other Rams players share that distinction.

As much as anything, the Rams' decision to trade Hill to the Falcons -- presumably for a late-round draft choice -- reflects what the team thought about Hill relative to the promising young corners already on the roster. The group features 2007 third-rounder Jonathan Wade, 2008 fourth-rounder Justin King, 2009 third-rounder Bradley Fletcher and free-agent rookie Quincy Butler. Wade is the favorite to start opposite Ron Bartell. King has bounced back from toe surgery. The current Rams leadership drafted Fletcher. Butler has been a surprise of camp.

If the Rams had kept Hill, perhaps they would have felt compelled to start him -- at the expense of developing other talent. The team must have felt as though the other corners on the roster could provide similar or superior production -- and at lower prices. As for Hill? He was considered a highly promising player not long ago, as this 2008 Scouts Inc. profile shows:

Hill is a third-year player who only started four games last year due to injury. He is an athletically gifted player with good agility and straight-line speed. He has smooth hips with quick feet and good acceleration. He excels in man coverage due to his ability to flip and run without giving up much separation. He has very good speed to run deep. He's an aggressive player in man coverage who will challenge receivers early in routes and is not afraid to try and make plays on the ball down field. A confident player in his speed to close quick and make up ground as the ball arrives. When playing off the ball he will often shuffle to gain depth. He has a good short burst to close on an angle but is somewhat inconsistent as a tackler. Against the run, he will give effort to make plays but not a consistently physical force on the outside. Hill is a solid starter when healthy who still has upside and hasn't reached his full potential yet.

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