Fri, 27 Nov 2020

Taylor Rapp: "I've always prepared like I'm going to be a starter"

Los Angeles Rams
26 Oct 2020, 17:24 GMT+10

Stu Jackson

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- A training camp knee injury hasn't stopped second-year Rams safety Taylor Rapp from making an impact.

Though those live reps during his absence were allocated to rookie Jordan Fuller and opened the door to Fuller starting, in turn leading to a different role for Rapp, he still prepared like the same player who started 10 of 15 games as a rookie.

That mindset, and the increased reps as a starter while Fuller heals a shoulder injury, have allowed Rapp to step in without missing a beat.

"Anytime you can get more comfortable with the defense and get more reps, obviously you're going to feel a lot more comfortable, you can play loose out there, play free," Rapp said during a video conference Wednesday.

In 2019, Rapp was the Rams' third-leading tackler with 100 combined, adding a pair of interceptions and eight pass breakups. It was a performance that had him tabbed as Los Angeles' key homegrown player heading into the season by NFL.com.

Then came the knee issue during the second week of the Rams' acclimation period in early August just as training camp was getting underway, which sidelined him until early September. While the mental reps he took during that time were still valuable, the lack of live reps was an unwelcome obstacle since there were none for any player during the virtual offseason program. Then came the role change with Fuller being named the starter.

"It's definitely been tough for me, but every week I really prepare like I'm a starter no matter what," Rapp said. "If I'm an actual starter playing 100 percent of the defense (snaps), or whether that's 15, 20, 30 snaps on defense, or just a special teams player, I'm going to prepare like I'm a starter."

That mindset has served Rapp well. When Fuller first sustained his shoulder injury in Week 3 at Buffalo, Rapp stepped in and played 55 percent of the defensive snaps after 24 percent in Week 2 and 21 percent in Week 1.

As Fuller's replacement in Week 4 and in Week 6 (after Fuller re-aggravated the injury), Rapp played 100 percent of the defensive snaps as a full-time starter, finishing with the most and third-most total tackles on the team respectively in each of those games.

"Anytime you lose a player like Jordan, it stings," Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley said during a video conference with reporters following Week 3. "But we have full confidence in those guys to play equally good football. E.J. (Ejiro) Evero does a great job coaching those guys."

Fuller is eligible to return from injured reserve in Week 10 against Seattle (Los Angeles has a Week 9 bye). Rapp, who has tallied 32 total tackles and one pass breakup so far this season, re-emphasized that he'll prepare the exact same way as he did the first six weeks of the season.

"You never know when someone goes down, obviously (with) the unfortunate injury with Jordan," Rapp said. "So you always want to be prepared."

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