The Los Angeles Rams suffered some key losses to their secondary this offseason with the departure of safety John Johnson III and cornerback Troy Hill in free agency.
Losing two starters over the top was hardly ideal for the No. 1-ranked defense in 2020. Fortunately, the season showed the surplus of talent that the Rams have added to this group in recent years.
Safety Jordan Fuller emerged as quite a steal after the former sixth-round pick became a key member of the secondary. Despite being limited to a virtual offseason due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the rookie still started 12 games across from Johnson.
The Rams were left with a notable void to fill given the latter’s role as the outspoke leader over the top. Fuller acknowledged that the onus will fall on him to take up the mantle in the 2021 NFL season, via Gary Klein of the L.A. Times:
“I definitely take it on my shoulders,” he said, “and I know just all the DBs as a group are trying to take that on.
“He was a great leader, great communicator. Really, really smart. So that’s kind of part of the reason I want to work on my Football 101, like learning the ins and outs of the game because John was great at that.”
Fuller added that being more vocal comes with the territory heading into his second year:
“Year 2, there’s more expectations — you’re not expected to make rookie mistakes anymore,” he said. “Also, it’s just like natural for you to maybe speak up more as you grow and there’s younger guys that you need to pour into and lead along the way.
“But … it’s nothing I haven’t done before.”
It is certainly encouraging to see that Fuller has fully embraced being tasked with such an important role on defense. His stellar rookie season indicates that he is more than up to the task of taking over for Johnson in the years to come.
Fuller finished the 2020 campaign with 60 tackles, three interceptions, and five pass deflections. He will now be partnering up with safety Taylor Rapp as the new duo in a secondary that underwent some major changes on the roster and coaching staff this offseason.
Like Fuller, Rapp made an immediate impact in L.A. when he started 10 games as a rookie in 2019. The safety corps will be rounded out by Nick Scotland Terrell Burgess, who had also been in the midst of a promising rookie campaign until he was sidelined with a season-ending ankle injury.
Fuller was only one of a handful of two-time captains in Ohio State’s illustrious history, so leadership isn’t something he is foreign to and that will likely come out this season after the departure of Johnson.