New Rams receiver Allen Robinson is one of the NFL’s best players at beating defenders to catch so-called “50-50” balls. The eight-year veteran regularly passes cornerbacks with jumps, muscle, or finesse.
But rookie Derion Kendrick doesn’t appear to be intimidated by a recipient’s reputation and résumé.
After four training camp practices, Kendrick has established himself as a player to watch and made numerous plays, some while covering Robinson.
The trend continued Wednesday during a full-squad practice when Kendrick broke a laser pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford to Robinson before the end zone. He later batted away a 50-50 ball intended for Robinson in the back corner of the end zone.
“He’s playing hard and he’s a good competitor — and that’s what you want as young people, veterans, whoever,” Robinson said. “You want that competition at training camp. That makes you fit for the season.”
The real test for Kendrick and other rookies begins Friday, when the Rams are expected to put on pads for the first time after a day off Thursday.
But Kendrick has already impressed coaches and teammates.
“He’s got a nice style of play,” said coach Sean McVay, “and he’s an exciting personality.”
Kendrick, a sixth-round pick, is in contention for a role in a runner-up that includes star Jalen Ramsey, veteran Troy Hill, David Long and sophomore Robert Rochell.
The 6-foot-tall, 190-pound Kendrick played as a reserve receiver for Clemson’s 2018 national championship team before moving to cornerback.
After the 2020 season, he was pulled from the program, reportedly for repeated team rule violations. Kendrick moved to Georgia ahead of the 2021 season, intercepting four passes for a team that won the college football playoffs and produced 15 NFL draft picks.
Kendrick slipped into the draft likely due to the circumstances of his departure from Clemson and what was reported as a 4.77-second 40-yard dash time at Georgia’s Pro Day practice.
“People had doubts about whether I could walk or not, but my film should let you know,” he said this week. “I’ve never been in my 40s. … I don’t run on the track – I try to play football as best I can.”
Kendrick wants to show he was underrated in the draft.
“It’s time to prove my point,” he said, “and keep my head down and keep working.”
Kendrick said his experience on a new team at Georgia helped him adjust to a different new situation. He seeks advice from veterans on the field and in the defensive back briefing room.
“I’m just trying to play my part, just doing what I can to learn from everyone and just gain everyone’s trust,” he said.
Kendrick builds his case.
This week he broke up a long pass near the goal line intended for receiver Tutu Atwell. The play sparked celebration among defenders, including Kendrick.
“When I met him he was over the moon,” said safety Nick Scott with a laugh. “That’s what you love about him. When you play that DB position you have to have a certain level of confidence and he came straight onto the field. He was confident. It’s just a way of his personality and it only helps him on the field.”
Notified of Scott’s comments, Kendrick chuckled.
“Off the pitch I’m a little calmer. … fooling around a bit,” Kendrick said. “But everything comes out on the pitch.”
- Stafford’s right arm continues to look good. He made several no-look passes, including a touchdown pass to receiver Van Jefferson.
- Robinson made several impressive catches and continues to draw enthusiasm from coaches and teammates.
- Hill, back with the Rams after playing for the Cleveland Browns last season, intercepted a pass from Stafford during a full-squad practice session.
- Back-up quarterback John Wolford passed for several touchdowns against the No. 1 defense, one for sophomore Ben Skowronek. Tight end Brycen Hopkins dropped Wolford’s most impressive pass – a ball near the right pylon on the goal line. Wolford and Hopkins later connected for a touchdown.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/rams/story/2022-07-27/rams-rookie-cornerback-derion-kendrick-allen-robinson How Rams’ Derion Kendrick caught corner of Allen Robinson’s eye