VIII: Rise up, Rochell
Another rookie who is counted upon to step up in a big way is defensive back Robert Rochell, who will truly need to crash and burn in some horrific fashion not to be in the running for a starting role playing opposite DB Jalen Ramsey. After all, he was a five-game starter in 2021 and will have another round of OTAs, training camp, preseason games, and practice to re-queue for another chance to start in this secondary.
I may be the only person who believes that Rochell can earn a starting role, and even demonstrate just how high that ceiling of his can go in 2022. If that is the case? I’m okay with that. While so many were quick to judge and be critical of the defense a year ago, I watched how Rochell handled the pressure in his rookie season.
Let’s look at some statistics. Rochell allowed just 14 of 23 passes thrown at his receiver to find their mark, for a very respectable 60.9 completion rate. While he did allow one touchdown, he also recorded an interception. And in 234 defensive snaps, he recorded 14 tackles. He would have had far better statistics, but he injured his knee against the Detroit Lions in Week 8 and was limited the following week as well. He also injured his ribs against the Jacksonville Jaguars and would finish out the remainder of the season on IR.
This defensive back stands 6-foot-2, weighs 195 pounds, and runs a 4.41-second 40-yard dash. Despite the presence of Jalen Ramsey, Darious Williams, Donte Deayon, and David Long Jr., he started five games and would have started many more if not for ongoing injuries. So why are so many doubtful of his ability to rise to the occasion for 2022?
I, for one, am a bit more optimistic. I think he starts and has a better-than-expected season. That won’t eliminate the need for more depth for the secondary. But the Rams started Rochell in five games in 2021 and won the Super Bowl. I think he is a front-runner for a starting role this season. And I think that the Rams’ defense will be all the better for it.