LOS ANGELES – As we all know, the official professional football season begins on September 10th. There are still two months to go, but in the meantime there are some key preseason position battles for fans to look for.
Troy Hill vs. Darious Williams for Cornerback
Troy Hill is entering his fifth year of professional football and fourth season on the Los Angeles Rams. His experience level is clear. He started in 43 regular season games with 73 solo career tackles, four interceptions, and 13 pass breakups. Hill has also displayed an exceptional level of teamwork. Four years on the squad plus fulfilling a role on special teams gives Hill an advantage over other athletes vying for the CB spot.
More statistics also separate Hill from the crowd. First, in 2019 he allowed the fewest receptions (23) of any CB with a minimum of 200 coverage snaps. The same year he was recognized by Pro Football Focus as one of the top 25 CB’s of the year.
However, Hill suffered an injury in December of 2019. He fractured his thumb while tackling a RB during the first quarter of the Dallas game. The injury required surgery so he was unable to play in that weekend’s game against the 49ers as well. Darious Williams, a defensive back at the time, actually stepped in for Hill in both games and performed well.
In the Dallas game, Williams’ snap count was 61 out of the total team snap count of 70, and his total of five tackles were both season bests. After the game, Rams’ head coach Sean McVay noted, “I thought [Wiliams] did a nice job…Really, just in terms of his competes, his toughs, you look at the way that he was able to make some plays.”
It’s no surprise that this season’s CB battle is between Hill and Williams.
Darious Williams started his pro career with the Baltimore Ravens in 2018, but was claimed by the Rams off of waivers a few weeks into the same season, and he made his Rams debut in December of 2018. Immediately he saw action in four defensive plays and 16 special teams plays. He’s been in the league for less years than Hill, but has also nabbed four interceptions.
One of Williams’ strengths is his humility and team-mindset. When Hill was injured in 2019 and he had to step in he said, “Obviously you want Troy to be back. He’s one of the leaders, especially in the secondary. But if Troy needs time to heal, that’s why I’m here, so I’ll be ready.”
This points back to Hill’s advantage. He has many years of experience on the Rams’ and possesses natural leadership qualities.
The vital skills of a CB are intense speed and the ability to intercept passes. Taking everything into account, I predict Hill’s experience will outweigh Williams’ skills. Williams needs more time to develop a high level of play to reach his already great potential.
The winner of this battle gets to play alongside a man who needs no introduction, Jalen Ramsey. Playing professionally since 2016 on the Jacksonville Jaguars and joined the Rams for the 2019 season. Since the beginning of his professional career he has made a total of 10 interceptions. In the 2019 season alone he was responsible for 43 solo tackles. That is well under the amount of solo tackles Hill made in the same season (27.)
Ramsey has had a big impact on the Rams as a leader as well. Hill described Ramsey’s presence on the team in an interview in 2019. He said, “When you got a person like that who can come in here and take away one side of the field, it allows us to do a lot of different things. So I mean, that was big for us, him coming in and just the energy he brings and the competitive nature. It’s just got that trickle-down effect and you can see why he [is] one of the best.”
There’s no doubt the Rams’ CB group is deep and will have a skilled CB to lead at the forefront. However, we will have to wait until preseason ends in early September to see whether Williams or Hill will join the CB’s of the team.