Is E.J. Gaines Creating a Cornerback Controversy For the St. Louis Rams?


One of the St. Louis Rams rookies that is making quite the impact this season is cornerback E.J. Gaines. Of the Rams’ rookies, other than defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Gaines might be making the most impact of the eleven players that the Rams selected in the draft.

Coming from Mizzou the Rams cornerback didnt have to travel far when he was drafted in the sixth round of the draft by the St. Louis Rams. For the Tigers, Gaines was a playmaker on defense as he had five interceptions in his final season with the team and also had a fumble recovery for a touchdown in the SEC Championship game against Auburn.

Due to his size Gaines was taken later in the draft, however, because he was a playmaker, was good in run support, and is a more physical cornerback, he fit exactly what the Rams look for on defense.

“He showed good quickness and was very smooth in his (pro-day) workout, showing he has good hands. If he were 6-foot tall, he would be drafted a lot higher.” — Gil Brandt

With Trumaine Johnson suffering a sprained MCL in the third preseason game agains the Cleveland Browns, Gaines has gotten more opportunities and has done a lot with them.

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In only four games this season Gaines has one interception, but has came close numerous times. He also recovered a fumble last week against the Philadelphia Eagles. Unfortunately the Rams offense was only able to score points off of the interception, but Gaines is still creating opportunities and making plays. At the end of the day, thats all you can ask for.

According to Pro Football Focus, Gaines has the 17th highest cornerback grade in the NFL, which isn’t too bad. That is a higher grade than Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson, and Darrell Revis. He is also the highest graded cornerback on the team.

Gaines has only allowed 12 receptions this season which is seventh for cornerbacks with 240 or more snaps and he has only allowed 57.1% of balls thrown his way to be caught. Gaines has played extremely well this season and has been a big reason for the Rams having the number one pass defense.

What makes this more impressive is the lack of safety help that he has had and for a rookie, that can be difficult. Still, Gaines’ longest reception is a 23-yard reception which once again ranks seventh among cornerbacks with more than 240 snaps.

Due to his high level of play throughout the first four games and Johnson getting close to being healthy, the question of whether or not Gaines should maintain the starting role on the outside or at the very least take over the Lamarcus Joyner‘s role in the slot.

Joyner hasn’t been a disappointment, but he hasn’t impressed either. Last week against the Eagles he got in a miscommunication situation with safety Rodney McLeod which resulted in a touchdown. This season he has 47 snaps in the slot according to Pro Football Focus while receiving a 67.8 NFL rating, 8th worst among slot cornerbacks.

Gaines does have experience playing in the slot, but do you take him away from the outside, a position he has succeeded in this season? Trumaine Johnson played the slot cornerback role in his rookie season and some in his second year, but with his 6’2 frame, the outside would seem to be a better fit.

What the Rams do at cornerback when Johnson returns will be interesting. Gaines has obviously played well enough to earn the number two cornerback spot or at the very least take over the slot cornerback role. One things however remains certain. With Jenkins, Johnson, and Gaines, the Rams have three solid very solid cornerbacks, something they haven’t had in awhile.