Assessing The Rams Cornerbacks Depth: How Ahkello Witherspoon Will Drive The Secondary

The Rams cornerbacks desperately needed to size and experience With Ahkello Witherspoon they get both.

The Los Angeles Rams added a much-needed veteran, Ahkello Witherspoon, to a very young and inexperienced defensive backfield. He also brings another missing element to the Rams cornerbacks: Size.

What Witherspoon Brings to the Rams Cornerback’s Room

At 28, he is three years older than any other defensive back on the roster and has played in almost twice as many games as Jordan Fuller, the Rams most experienced DB.

Does this solve the Rams inexperience problem in the secondary? Far from it. Witherspoon missed much of last season with a hamstring injury and has never played in every game of a season in his five-year career. Meaning, there is a good chance that Rams will still have to rely on those young and inexperienced DBs for parts of 2023.

Aside from bringing experience, he also adds much-needed size and length. The former Colorado Buffalo ranks above the 90th percentile in height, arm length, and hand size. When healthy Witherspoon has by-in-large played on the outside. The Rams have two other cornerbacks above 6’, Robert Rochel and Vincent Gray. Gray is in his second season but didn’t play a snap in 2022. Rochel was essentially benched in favor of Derion Kendrick playing just 24 snaps last season.

The Rams next options at the position; Kendrick and TCU alum, rookie, Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson are 5’11” and 5’8″ respectively. Being over six feet tall isn’t a requirement to play wide corner, but it can get pretty dicey when you combine small stature and inexperience.

Simply put, adding Witherspoon gives the Rams a better answer to go against big dominant wide receivers.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams Minicamp
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How Will This Effect The Rams Cornerback’s Depth

As it currently stands, the Rams cornerback depth will be Witherspoon and Kendrick on the outside and Cobie Durant playing in the slot with Rochel, Grey, and Hodges-Tomlinson subbing in on the outside.

Witherspoon has nearly no experience playing in the slot. So, unfortunately, he can’t help behind Durant, but other options exist. Grey played all over the field while at Michigan, including in the slot. And with his size, he gives the Rams a much-needed ‘big nickel’ presence, which has become necessary in today’s NFL to body up against athletic pass-catching tight ends and super-sized slot receivers.

Hodges-Tomlinson is another name that has been bandied about. At his size, 5’8”, 178lbs, he is often thought of as a slot-only corner, but he only played a handful of snaps in that position in college. Other names in the mix will be rookie out of Oklahoma State Jason Taylor II and perhaps safeties Russ Yeast and Quentin Lake.

Conclusion: Any Defensive Investment Is Good At This Point

Witherspoon isn’t a silver bullet by any means, but it is an investment into the defense, the only significant signing the Rams have made this offseason. So any investment on this side of the ball should be welcome. The Rams have spent the least amount of cap space on defensive backs in the NFL, with $16.2 million invested across 16 players. (Not including Witherspoon) The league average DB cap spending is $36.8 million. They have also spent the least on the defense in general, but that’s another article.

The Rams defense is likely to be bad, very bad. Adding Witherspoon is a step away from being embarrassing. Something tells me the Rams aren’t finished investing on defense, particularly at edge rusher and maybe another nickel option. But with limited cap room available they will have to be creative to make it all work.