How Jalen Ramsey makes the Rams better: 'His swag is contagious'

How do NFL executives feel about Jalen Ramsey? (0:43)

Jeremy Fowler explains why NFL executives expect Jalen Ramsey to be the No. 1 cornerback in the league a year from now. (0:43)

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - He explained. He demonstrated. He even provided his own sound effects. If only the microphones weren't hot and the cameras weren't rolling.

"Yeah, 'Hard Knocks' gave away a little too much, huh?" Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey deadpanned before cracking a smile.

Ramsey and rookie wide receiver Van Jefferson battled throughout training camp, providing a show for the few allowed to watch. However, less obvious -- and perhaps never to be known if it weren't for the "Hard Knocks: Los Angeles" mics broadcasting for all to witness -- was what Ramsey said after the whistles.

And no, the all-world trash talker wasn't talking trash.

Instead, Ramsey provided Jefferson detailed feedback. He pumped his arms, showing the rookie how to sell a fade, then explained on a slant, "Just hit it and go -- you're fast, bro!"

Long before he signed his five-year, $105 million deal last month, the richest contract for a defensive back in NFL history, Ramsey oozed with confidence. He continues to talk an insane amount of trash to opponents. But above all else, Ramsey wants to be great and that means making sure his teammates are great, too.

"That's actually something that I've always done," Ramsey said, when asked if he typically provided feedback or had grown into a leadership role with experience. "I'm all about winning. So if I can help the team win, then I'm going to do that, for sure."

Then, Ramsey provided an unsolicited dose of self-awareness.

"I have not always been painted in the best picture of being the best teammate," he said flatly. "But if you ask my actual teammates, not maybe the media and the other people that don't like me, if you ask my actual teammates, they will always say that I've been that guy."

A second-round pick from Florida, Jefferson might be new to the Rams, but he offered a lasting impression of Ramsey.

"He's one of the best teammates I've had," Jefferson said. "And even though he's a big-money guy, he's still talking to me, making sure I can be better at things."

Ramsey arrived in L.A. from Jacksonville last Oct. 15, a day he says is among the best of his life. The Rams spent a king's ransom to acquire the three-time Pro Bowl selection and All-Pro, sending two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick to the Jaguars, whose relationship with Ramsey came to an impasse.

Ramsey's antics in Jacksonville became headlines when he critiqued every quarterback in the league, reported to training camp in an armored truck -- a clear indication he wanted a raise -- and engaged in a sideline shouting match with his head coach, earning a reprimand by Jaguars vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin. And that's just a partial list.

Since arriving in L.A., Ramsey had kept a relatively low profile until Sunday, when he exchanged punches with New York Giants wide receiver Golden Tate moments after a 17-9 victory that improved the Rams to 3-1. Outside of that incident, which stems from a family situation between Ramsey and Tate, Ramsey's been rather tame, relatively speaking.

His unfiltered opinion has been, well, a bit more filtered. However, he still doesn't care what people think, he doesn't pull punches when breaking down a play -- even when it's a teammate who blows a third-down assignment in Week 16 to keep the Rams out of the playoffs, and when he doesn't want to talk with reporters or grows tired of the line of questioning, he has no problem letting the media know.

But where it counts most, inside the Rams' locker room and on the field, he's ingratiated himself with teammates. "He's leading the charge," slot cornerback Troy Hill said. "He's bringing that energy and that spark."

When the Rams traded for Ramsey, they trusted he wouldn't hold out entering the 2020 season in pursuit of an extension and would become a pivotal part of their team.

Since arriving in Week 7 last season, Ramsey's delivered on both fronts -- and then some.

The secondary is a key component in first-year coordinator Brandon Staley's scheme, which has deployed five defensive backs -- including first-year starters Darious Williams and Jordan Fuller, throughout most of the Rams' successful start to the season.

Safety John Johnson III, a fourth-year pro who was voted a team captain, makes no qualms about who the leader of the secondary is -- even if that title is not official.


"His swag is contagious," said Johnson, whose own personality is among the most magnetic on the team. "I mean, he's a true baller."

Ramsey doesn't dawdle around the facility. He arrives at work to get after it, and teammates say it rubs off. He's a spokesperson among the defensive backs, and Johnson says he's fun to be around. "I'd rather not play with anybody else," Johnson said.

And this good-teammate version of Ramsey didn't begin with his fresh start in L.A., though it wasn't often highlighted during his three-plus seasons in Jacksonville.

"He's a good dude," said former Jaguars teammate Marqise Lee, who offered a rolodex of other Jaguars teammates he said would proudly vouch.

Lee and Ramsey were on the roster together for more than three seasons, though Lee spent 2018 on injured reserve because of a knee injury. Lee said that was the time Ramsey's leadership meant the most.

'I can honestly say, Jalen was one of the factors as far as in my life that helped me think about the positive," said Lee, now a member of the New England Patriots, although he opted out this season. "Me getting injured and experiencing injury in the NFL for the first time, I had a hard time adjusting to it."

"The main thing he kept telling me is at the end of the day, you can play here, you can play, it's just the injury you got to get over. I kept that in the back of my head 24-7."

Ramsey, who turns 26 this month, has also made a habit of expressing excitement, especially on social media, for former teammates who have also departed Jacksonville.

A few days later, Ramsey sent a shout out to former Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette, who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

And he's equally as excitable around the Rams' practice facility over far more mundane situations.

"That's classified!" Ramsey shouted, as he exited the facility, about 40 feet from where reporters conducted a Zoom video conference with receiver Robert Woods. After overhearing the question, "What has Ramsey helped you with?: Ramsey wanted Woods to reveal nothing.

"Don't tell, Robert!!" Ramsey yelled, as he climbed into his Mercedes G-Wagon to leave. "Rob!"

Woods smiled, and stayed away from specific technique tips. But what he revealed, perhaps, was even more interesting.

"One of the biggest things I would take away from Jalen is he also studies the defensive backs," Woods said. "So he's coming even giving us information on different cornerbacks that we face."

Ramsey said about his receivers: "I'm always trying to get the most out of all those guys, as far as the competitiveness. But even when I have opportunities to teach them, like, OK what I've done and what I've been successful on, and what they may see, what corners look at, yeah I'm always trying to give them tips."

Rams coach Sean McVay said Ramsey's been even better than expected, pointing to his competitiveness, versatility and intelligence throughout his first training camp with the team, carrying over to the season.

"The more you get to know him," McVay said, "The more impressed you are."

Three days before the season opener, the Rams signed Ramsey to the extension that included an eye-popping $71.2 million guaranteed. He will remain under contract through the 2025 season, making him a cornerstone of a defense that includes Aaron Donald, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year who is under contract through the 2024 season.

"Seeing his body of work, day in and day out is how you end up seeing this is what's real," McVay said about Ramsey. "Whatever the narratives were before, I haven't seen any of that. I've seen nothing but good stuff from him. That's why we're fortunate that he's going to be a Ram for a while."

Since his arrival, Jefferson, the rookie receiver, has quickly made an impression on coaches and teammates, including Ramsey, who says he's going to be "A great player in the NFL," and had no problem admitting the rookie beat him on several occasions during training camp.

"Any time I can help him out, then yeah, I'm definitely going to do that. It's not just him, it's any of our receivers," Ramsey said, before almost daring, "They'll tell you."

And indeed, they did.