Rams cornerback competition revving up

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A year ago at this time, the St. Louis Rams appeared to have their cornerback duo of the present and future in place with Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson.

Then Johnson suffered a knee injury in the third preseason game that thrust E.J. Gaines into the starting job. The rookie sixth-round pick stepped in and looked every bit the part of experienced veteran, never looking back on his way to holding on to the starting job for most of the season.

With Johnson healthy and Gaines with a good season under his belt, the Rams enter this camp with a legitimate battle brewing opposite Jenkins.

"It'll be great competition," coach Jeff Fisher said. "We're going to kind of alternate them every day and see what happens. It's a win-win for us. We have a rookie from last year that played really solid defense for us and we've got a starter that unfortunately suffered an injury [last year] in the preseason and really never made it back other than some sub-stuff toward the end ... it's a good position to be in."

While Gaines finished the season (save for the concussion that cost him the final game) as the starter, he's actually a bit behind from a physical standpoint at the start of this camp. Fisher said Gaines had health issues he was dealing with but Johnson showed up in better shape than he's been in any of his previous three seasons.

So far, Gaines and Johnson have split work with the first-team defense much as they did during organized team activities. It would seem Gaines would be the preferred choice to win the job given that he is still under team control for three more seasons and Johnson is set to be a free agent after the year. But so long as the reps are being divided evenly, there's a chance for Johnson to reclaim his job.

If Johnson does win out or even if he doesn't, the Rams are in the fortunate position of being able to move Gaines into the slot to play the nickel much like he did at times last year.

Either way, Fisher and the Rams are happy with what they have at the position. They just need the preseason to sort it all out.

  • Barrett Jones took his turn working with the first-team offense at center Saturday. Tim Barnes did the honors Friday, which means Demetrius Rhaney will take his turn next. That's the same pattern the Rams followed in the spring.

  • Receiver Brian Quick was quite emotional when talking about how long and difficult his recovery from shoulder surgery was. Quick said he took a moment to savor the chance to be back in the game he loved when walked on the field Friday for the first practice. Fisher said there were initial concerns from medical personnel that the injury might be career-threatening. Quick said he did rehab every day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the road back.

  • A few highlights from the day. ... Safety Rodney McLeod came up with an impressive one-handed interception in team drills, picking off a floater from quarterback Nick Foles. ... Quick made a nice adjustment on a deep ball from Sean Mannion to come down with it despite tight coverage from Gaines. Quick is easing back toward full speed but looks sharp for someone just getting back from a serious injury. ... Gaines had a nice interception in 7-on-7 when Case Keenum attempted to hit Bradley Marquez on a deep out. Gaines read the route and broke on the ball with no wasted movement for the pick.

  • As expected, all signs point to Akeem Ayers being the presumptive leader to handle starting duties at strong side linebacker. He's getting most of the reps with the first team with Jo-Lonn Dunbar working more as the second-team middle linebacker.

  • The Rams are back at it Sunday night with practice set for 6:30 p.m. ET. It'll be the final practice of their "acclimation" period before putting the pads on Monday.