THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — When the Los Angeles Rams traded for cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters and signed defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, there were questions about how those three personalities might or might not coexist on the same defense. Wrapping up their mandatory minicamp Wednesday, the Rams are optimistic those concerns have been put to rest.
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — When the Los Angeles Rams traded for cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters and signed defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, there were questions about how those three personalities might or might not coexist on the same defense.
Wrapping up their mandatory minicamp Wednesday, the Rams are optimistic those concerns have been put to rest.
"They came in, they were open-minded, and they are coming out here and jumped right into the culture," cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman said of the three high-profile additions.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips meshed well with Talib when coaching him in Denver during the 2015-16 seasons, and his initial impressions of Peters and Suh have been just as positive. Already aware of the physical talent of Peters and Suh, Phillips praised the work ethic and intelligence of both men.
"You don't always know that," Phillips said. "I mean, sometimes a guy is really talented, but these guys are smart players and talented. And they do things so easily, so naturally. Ndamukong has so much power, you can see it. He just holds a guy off with one arm, those kind of things. And then the movement skills of Marcus are outstanding. He has great change of direction, he's got great hands."
As for Talib, Phillips said he remains as feisty as ever.
"If there's an argument or if there is something going on, Talib is going to take the other side. No matter what it is. He's going to argue about which rap singer is the best or whatever," Phillips said.
But Phillips likes how the the attitudes of all three carry over onto the field.
Phillips pointed to an interception Peters made last season for Kansas City, coming off his assigned receiver in man-to-man coverage and making a play on the ball.
"I like personalities because they are independent enough to do things on their own, and they have shown they are independent enough to be great players, too. You don't want a player who does everything you say. You want guys that have some initiative," Phillips said.
With Talib and Peters in the fold, Phillips now has the defensive backs to showcase his own creativity.
Talib and Peters can line up on either side of the field, which is an unusual trait in top cornerbacks, and it gives Phillips added flexibility in how to use them. Add in Phillips' confidence in deploying starting safeties Lamarcus Joyner and John Johnson in man coverage, and the veteran coach can call whatever scheme he can conceive.
"It gives you so many possibilities to double-cover somebody and put the pressure on one of those guys to cover his guy by himself, and I'm talking about any one of those four. They can help linebackers if they need help," Phillips said. "I mean, I can think of a lot of things to play, but I haven't always had the players to play those coverages and so forth and these guys can, so we've got a lot of versatility there."
The possibilities of a secondary with Talib and Peters and a defensive line that will put Suh alongside Aaron Donald have elevated the Rams among the early Super Bowl contenders, and Suh believes that potential is what has allowed the trio to integrate so seamlessly and will keep the team unified.
"I think it's easy," Suh said. "We all have one common goal, which is wanting to win and be successful. No matter how strong somebody's personality is or not, it's about as long as you have the same goal all meshing to where you want to be."
The swagger of Suh, Talib and Peters has rubbed off on Robby-Coleman, and the slot cornerback would be disappointed if the Rams do not have the top secondary and best defense in the NFL this season, provided everyone stays healthy.
"That's the level of confidence that we have," Robby-Coleman said.