Rams Are Counting on Jackson, Henley : Football: At least one of the young cornerbacks will have to start this season if the Rams follow through on current plans.

From Associated Press

Young cornerbacks Darryl Henley and Alfred Jackson are expected to show significant improvement this year since the Los Angeles Rams will be counting on one of them to start this season.

Neither second-year man started last season.

At least one will have to start this season if the Rams follow through on their plan to move four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Jerry Gray to free safety.

The Rams took Tuesday off while moving their equipment to UC Irvine. The veterans are required to report today.

The Rams need enough depth to allow Gray to concentrate on safety.

Bobby Humphrey, acquired from the New York Jets for a fifth-round pick on draft day, is the only other experienced cornerback on the roster.

"We need both of them to contribute this year," Coach John Robinson said of Henley and Jackson. "But I have high hopes for both of them."

Henley, a second-round pick from UCLA, saw considerable action last year in the Rams' nickel defense. He had some down moments, but made good progress near the end of the season.

"Darryl is an experienced cornerback who played in a passing conference (the Pacific-10) and is ready to compete now," Robinson said. "He learned a lot last year and he now knows what it takes to compete in the NFL."

Jackson, a fifth-round pick from San Diego State, was moved from wide receiver to cornerback. He spent half the season on the injured reserve list, but showed promise late in the year.

"A. J. is coming from farther back than Darryl, since he didn't play cornerback in college," Robinson said, "but he has a real knack for the position.

"He's got great instincts going after the ball and he covers a lot of ground."

Steve Shafer, Rams' secondary coach, has been impressed by what he's seen in mini-camp and in the early portions of training camp.

"There's no reason to think Darryl can't be an effective cornerback this year," Shafer said. "A. J. has much more to learn, but he's made excellent progress in all aspects of the position."

More is expected immediately from Henley, who was an All-American as a senior at UCLA.

"From a mental standpoint, I think I'm 80% better prepared," Henley said. "I'm not saying I'm not going to get beat now and then, but I'll be able to deal with it."

Jackson knows he must prove himself in his second season at the position.

"I still have room to improve in a lot of areas," he said. "My main concern is just earning a spot on the team.

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