With Talib and Peters, LA Rams have a secondary on lockdown
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters were laughing and joking like old friends shortly after the start of their first day together at the Los Angeles Rams’ training complex.
The Rams’ opponents might not have that much fun this fall when they face two of the NFL’s best pass defenders in the same secondary.
The defending NFC West champions kicked off their offseason by acquiring bookend elite cornerbacks in two trades that were formally announced Wednesday. Talib and Peters say they’re thrilled to play under coordinator Wade Phillips on a defense undergoing an intriguing overhaul.
“These guys are special players,” head coach Sean McVay said. “They bring a great passion for the game. You can see these are both cerebral players, and then they have the physical talents to match up. Guys that love football, these are the types of guys we love to be around.”
Rams general manager Les Snead has created a seemingly stellar secondary after entering the season with the uncertainty of top cornerback Trumaine Johnson, slot cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman and starting safety Lamarcus Joyner all heading for free agency.
They lost Johnson to a lavish deal from the New York Jets, but the Rams re-signed Robey-Coleman, franchised Joyner and swung trades for two cornerbacks with seven combined Pro Bowl selections to play alongside Joyner and safety John Johnson III in a potent starting lineup. Los Angeles even added talented veteran cornerback Sam Shields, who missed last season due to concussions, as a probable backup alongside 2017 starting cornerback Kayvon Webster, who has a long road back from a heel injury.
Peters has known for nearly three weeks that he was headed out of Kansas City, where he spent his first three NFL seasons. When he heard last week that Talib would join him with the up-and-coming Rams, the Oakland native was thrilled.
“Oh, let’s do it,” Peters said. “For me, I get to have another All-Pro corner on the other side, so now you don’t know where you’re going to go. And then when you’ve got a safety like Joyner and then you’re adding Sam Shields and you keep Robey? Come on now. It’s just going to be fun. You’ve got to find a way. Pick your poison.”
Talib and Peters both paid attention last season when McVay and Phillips led this long-struggling franchise to its first winning season since 2003 and its first playoff appearance since 2004. After winning the Super Bowl two seasons ago under Phillips’ direction in Denver, Talib was eager to be a part of another potential powerhouse.
“I saw a bunch of guys having fun,” Talib said of watching the Rams last season. “They were playing for somebody who they believed in. You watch half the teams in the league, they just go through the motions and kind of collect a check, but there’s another half of those teams, and playoff teams, they’ve got a coach who they respect, and whatever he’s preaching, he’s got guys believing that they can really go do it.”
Peters and Talib are two world-class talents with just enough apparent questions surrounding them to make them available to the Rams.
Peters, who was dismissed from his college team at Washington, argued with an assistant coach late last season with the Chiefs, leading to a one-game suspension. McVay and Snead are confident Peters’ competitiveness is the only reason for the trouble, and he intends to direct that energy toward the Rams’ goals.
“When we look back into the game, passionate players have always been the ones that got the bad rep of not being a team player and being selfish,” Peters said. “That’s not the case for me. My ultimate goal is to be a winner. I was born a champion.”
Talib has been in scrapes with the law, his employers and opponents during his 10 professional seasons. His rivalry with receiver Michael Crabtree has attracted the most attention, but teammates also praise his loyalty and competitiveness. McVay, who is 20 days older than the 32-year-old Talib, expects the veteran to be an immediate team leader.
The additions came at a cost to the Rams, who had to trade defensive captain Alec Ogletree to the New York Giants to make room for Talib.
“It’s rare to be able to acquire two players of this caliber,” McVay said. “So when the opportunity does present itself, you want to be ready.”