Disaster or defensive back?
If you want to know how Rochell is doing in his Organized Team Activities (OTAs) so far in the Rams offseason program? He’s the defensive back who was beaten for a touchdown by 6-foot-5 rookie tight end Jacob Harris. In shorts and no pads, without the ability to jam at the line, and with limited personnel, Harris came down with a jump ball. Of course, in the comments read so far, some have already determined that Rochell needs to seek employment in some other industry.
That’s a bit of overreacting and extremism.
One-on-ones in OTAs by nature favor the receiver. It’s a track meet, and the disadvantages imposed upon defensive backs early in the season are designed to aid their ability when the pads go on and they can jam at the line of scrimmage. If you want to make a permanent decision on the future of an NFL player based on a few days of shorts and sneakers, good luck with that.
Much like the play of an offensive line, playing in a defensive secondary requires a lot of communication, familiarity, and faith. You see, defensive backs must rely upon one another to hand off, or switch, coverage on their designated receiver if they enter another zone or if the offense floods multiple receivers into one area. Clarifying responsibilities is an integral part of stymying any attempt to tangle up defenders in crossing routes or rub routes. That communication gets worked out in training camp.
While Robert Rochell is indeed a rookie with a great deal to learn about NFL defenses, he has an amazing set of talents to help him do so quickly. And he needn’t learn it all overnight. When will Robert Rochell become a starter in this defense? Injury aside, I expect him to be in the sub-package rotation fairly early. Say, by week six or thereabouts? Of course, that can be sped up if he shines when the pads go on.
Robert Rochell may not impress everyone, but I look for him to impress the coaching staff this offseason. He can learn from veteran Jalen Ramsey, and he simply needs to fit into the Rams’ existing defense effectively. After a few weeks, it will start to make sense and he’ll feel much more natural in drills and coverages. Robert Rochell may not be a day one starter. But I would be very surprised if he is not starting by the time the playoffs arrive.