Despite injury, Rams DB Witherspoon's presence ensures he leads on depth chart

Pittsburgh Steelers Ahkello Witherspoon
Pittsburgh Steelers Ahkello Witherspoon / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

Almost immediately after the LA Rams roster was assembled, for the most part, fans and analysts set about the arduous tasks of identifying starters and roster winners from among the familiar and not-so-familiar names who were added to the Rams. And perhaps one of the most urgent questions pivoted to the Rams secondary. For all intents and purposes, the Rams have abandoned all of the 2022 Day 1 starters, either by trade or attrition via the 2023 NFL Free Agency market, and are willing to go with a secondary of relatively untested players.

Well, to an extent.

One of the stickier roles to fill in the Rams secondary is that of the other starting cornerback. After all, the roles for the Rams secondary are beginning to take shape. We know that the Rams intend on slotting second-year defensive back Cobie Durant into the defense's 'star,' cornerback role. And by all accounts it appears that the team will be looking for veteran safety Jordan Fuller to fill one safety spot.

That means that competition for the other starting safety spot will likely be waged between second-year safeties Russ Yeast and Quentin Lake. But the fourth starting cornerback role, assumed to be a competition between rookie DB Tre Tomlinson and veteran Robert Rochell is unlikely to materialize. Rather, the Rams' front office took a shortcut by signing veteran free agent DB Ahkello Witherspoon.

Looks like a starting CB role is Witherspoon's to lose

Ahkello Witherspoon brings the size of Robert Rochell, standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 195 pounds, but delivers it in a veteran NFL defensive back who has started 40 of 60 NFL games. Best of all, he came at an affordable price.

Witherspoon knows where he stands in terms of the Rams depth chart. Because he has a sense of how important he is to the Rams defensive plans, he is not about to let a thumb injury keep him out of training camp practices. Prolonged absences in training camp opens opportunities for other players to move up and pass him on the depth chart.

And he is not interested in letting that happen.

While Witherspoon has seen his ups and downs in terms of NFL effectiveness, his best season by far occured in 2021, when he allowed just 37.8 percent of the passes to find their target. That was the same year that he had only allowed one touchdown pass, and held opposing quarterbacks in check to a measly 35.1 Passer Rating. While that certainly delighted the Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff, He was far less effective in 2022.

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The Rams have almost no choice but to give him the reins as their Day 1 starter. The Rams roster is teaming with young talented, but unproven, players who will need time to be entrusted in such an important role. For now, it looks like Ahkello Witherspoon will likely start for the Rams in 2023, bad thumb and all.