Shows like Last Chance U have shown American audiences how many hungry, resilient, and truly talented football players can be left in the unknown ether of training camps and workouts. Football remains embedded in the appeal of Americana because of the underdog stories that are found in every season of the NFL.
Rams fans can attest to this notion as the poster boy for the ultimate Rudy-like career in the NFL was a revered Rams quarterback and Hall of Famer Kurt Warner. While every late-round, undrafted pick has a long way to go from reaching Arian Foster or Tom Brady status, a 53-man roster allows for a player to stand out in each team.
The players to watch for the 2020-2021 Rams may include rising talent like WR Josh Reynolds, who is slated to fill in the void left by Brandin Cooks, newly acquired outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, emerging safety Taylor Rapp, and Cam Akers, the versatile Florida State rookie running back sliding into contention for the coveted position of RB in Sean McVay’s offense. But the Rams player with the most upside and potential to break out as the Rams surprise player of the year is cornerback Troy Hill.
Who Will Be The Rams Surprise Player Of 2020-21? A Look At Emerging Cornerback Troy Hill
The only time you may have heard of the 2015 undrafted Rams corner is when a veteran player shows up to the locker room requesting a jersey number swap. Troy, a 2x jersey swapper for the likes of Eric Weddle and Jalen Ramsey, has enjoyed a long tenure with the Rams but never appeared to leap beyond the competition of E.J. Gaines, Trumaine Johnson, Nickell Robey-Coleman, and Kayvon Webster in past years. With each player mentioned now in a different organization or out of football, Hill’s role opposite Jalen Ramsey will be faced with exceptional competition as the team fortifies a defense that ended the year hotter than expected.
A team not too far from the days of a balanced secondary led by elite veterans Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, Troy Hill is playing to not only secure the starting job granted to him because of turnover (or lack of turnovers) but to prove his salt coming off an above-average outing.
Hill’s time on the bench had to come to a halt and once it did, he impressed. Allowing a completion percentage of 45.1% (minimum 300 snaps) under his coverage, he is one of three players last year that allowed a rate under 50%. The Youngstown native proved to be as efficient as names like Denzel Ward, Casey Hayward, and Marlon Humphrey, ending the year with two interceptions, twenty-three receptions allowed, and an overall PFF grade of 76.4. Not bad.
Focusing on defense as a security blanket for the developing Jared Goff can be the Rams blueprint for returning to the Super Bowl. During the 2017-18 season, a campaign that stirred the NFL into believing that the Rams were on the doorstep of becoming a dynasty with the innovation of rookie head coach Sean McVay’s play-calling, the Rams’ defense ranked sixth in interceptions, 10th in touchdowns allowed (a great feat for a team with a high-scoring offense), and was built as a formidable defense around Aaron Donald and an outstanding secondary.
Reverting back to Wade Phillips’ scheme by acquiring Jalen Ramsey and confidently holding plans to extend the 3x Pro Bowl corner, the Rams lackluster result on offense during the 2019-2020 season is convincing Stan Kroenke to guide some coaching decisions back to an old, proven formula and Troy Hill’s emergence is key.
With all eyes on the NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers to emerge as favorites from the stacked division, the Rams have their best odds of upsetting the division as the Cardinals continue to find their groove under the sophomoric tandem led by Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury, while the Seahawks continue with a Patriots approach of squeezing every hope into their star quarterback without an urgency to acquire talent.
This places the Rams at an arm’s length from taking the most difficult division in the league. Two years removed from the Super Bowl can result in a nose-dive for most teams, but the Rams are still in it to win it. And possibly just a player away from hoisting the Lombardi. No pressure, Troy.