McGee competing for spot in Rams' secondary

Brandon McGee (Getty Images)

ST. LOUIS — The Rams used four draft picks this spring to try to upgrade their secondary, but the team could get a boost this season from a cornerback who was picked in the fifth round in 2013.

That player would be Brandon McGee, who played in 15 games as a rookie last season but as a backup and special teams player.

“Brandon McGee is coming on in his second year already,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said during OTAs, noting that all of the team’s second-year players had make significant strides.

McGee, a 5-foot-11, 193-pounder, has an advantage over the Rams newcomers in the secondary because he has experience. Obviously one year of action doesn’t make the University of Miami product a seasoned veteran, but it does make a difference.

“I feel confident, really, going into it confident,” McGee said of how his second training camp is different from his first. “I feel like I know the position better. I just know the game a little bit better and kind of know what to expect. We’ve got a great group of guys, too. We’re a young bunch but we help each other out a lot. We kind of have to. It’s good. I feel pretty confident going into this year.”

What else is different?

“Definitely knowing what’s expected and also just knowing where to be, kind of,” McGee said. “Cornerback in this league is just kind of one of them things you get better with over time, by experience, just feeling it out, going through the reps, just going against receivers. We’ve got a great group of receivers, too. Just the repetitions are really the tool to learning.”

There’s probably not another secondary in the NFL as young as this Rams group. Three of the team’s projected starters — cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson and safety Rodney McLeod — are entering their third seasons. The other, safety T.J. McDonald, his second.

McGee, 23, said the team’s young players rely on each other.

“It kind of keeps the room alive,” he said. “It kind of keeps the room fresh, because we’re all like learning from each other. Because we’re all learning basically the same thing at the same time. I guess our veterans in the room, three-year guys Rodney McLeod, Trumaine Johnson, Janoris Jenkins, those guys are always willing to help.”

The 149th overall pick of the 2013 draft learned plenty last season while competing on special teams and at cornerback, with most of his snaps coming at the nickel cornerback spot.

McGee trained in Fort Lauderdale in his first NFL offseason, including working out with Rams’ undrafted rookie free agent cornerback Marcus Roberson.

The former Hurricanes defensive back said he worked on his coverage skills, but also studied the playbook because he wanted to know not only his assignments but to have a better understanding of what all 11 defenders were doing on the field.

Now, in his second training camp, McGee gets to put that work to use.

The Rams drafted Lamarcus Joyner in the second round to be a nickel cornerback, the spot that McGee is also competing for. St. Louis even traded its fifth-round draft pick to move up a few spots to make sure it was able to nab Joyner.

Fisher and general manager Les Snead wanted competition in the secondary and now they have it with McGee, Joyner and others are fighting for positions.

“We’re all just competing, really, and we can’t really do anything but make each other better,” McGee said. “That’s kind of the goal going into every practice, just competing and pushing each other and just learning from each other honestly.”

And that will, in turn, help the defense.

Defensive end Robert Quinn said earlier in camp that new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was challenging everyone on the defense, but in particular the Rams’ back seven. The play of the secondary could go a long way in determining how successful St. Louis is this season.

“We approach every practice with a chip on our shoulder and we’ve done a good job thus far and I also think we can do better of just continuously executing day in and day out,” McGee said. “We’ve got one of the best d-lines, one of the best front sevens, in the game. It’s our job, if we don’t allow balls to go over our heads and we compete at a high level, we could do something special.”

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com

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