How Rams rookie Derion Kendrick caught corner of sticky-fingered Allen Robinson’s eye

Rams wide receiver Allen Robinson II runs after a reception during training camp.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)
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New Rams receiver Allen Robinson is one of the NFL’s best at beating defenders to catch so-called “50-50” balls. The eight-year veteran routinely out-leaps, out-muscles or out-finesses cornerbacks.

But rookie Derion Kendrick apparently is not intimidated by any receiver’s reputation and resume.

After four training camp practices, Kendrick has established himself as a player to watch, making numerous plays, several while covering Robinson.

The trend continued Wednesday during a full-squad drill when Kendrick broke up a laser pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford to Robinson in the front of the end zone. Later, he knocked away a 50-50 ball intended for Robinson in the back corner of the end zone.

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“He’s playing hard and he’s a good competitor — and that’s what you want a far as young guys, veterans, whoever,” Robinson said. “You want that competition in training camp. That’s what gets you ready for the season.”

The real test for Kendrick and other rookies begins Friday when, after a day off Thursday, the Rams are expected to don pads for the first time.

But Kendrick already has impressed coaches and teammates.

“He’s got kind of a nice play-swagger,” coach Sean McVay said, “and he’s an excitable personality.”

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Kendrick, a sixth-round pick, is competing for a role in a secondary that includes star Jalen Ramsey, veteran Troy Hill, David Long and second-year pro Robert Rochell.

The 6-foot, 190-pound Kendrick played as a reserve receiver for Clemson’s 2018 national championship team before switching to cornerback.

Rams cornerback Derion Kendrick runs during practice Tuesday in Irvine.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)
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After the 2020 season, he was removed from the program, reportedly for repeated violations of team rules. Kendrick transferred to Georgia before the 2021 season, and intercepted four passes for a team that won the College Football Playoff and produced 15 NFL draft picks.

Kendrick probably slipped in the draft because of the circumstances surrounding his departure from Clemson, and because of what was reported as a 4.77-second, 40-yard-dash time at Georgia’s pro day workout.

“People had doubts about whether I can run or not, but by my film you should know that,” he said this week. “I’ve never been a 40 guy. ... I don’t run track — I try to play football the best I can.”

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Kendrick aims to demonstrate that he was undervalued in the draft.

“It’s time to prove my point,” he said, “and keep my head down and keep working.”

Kendrick said his experience blending into a new team at Georgia has helped him acclimate to another new situation. He seeks advice from veterans on the field and in the defensive backs meeting room.

“I just try to play my role, just do what I can try to learn off everybody and just gain the trust of everybody,” he said.

Kendrick is building his case.

This week, he broke up a long pass near the goal line that was intended for receiver Tutu Atwell. The play set off a celebration among defensive backs, including Kendrick.

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“When I met him, he was already out of his shell,” safety Nick Scott said, laughing. “That’s the thing you love about him. Playing that DB position, you got to have a level of confidence and he came right on the field. He was confident. That’s just kind of his personality and it only helps him on the field.”

Apprised of Scott’s comments, Kendrick chuckled.

“Off the field, I’m a little more quiet. ... joke around a little bit,” Kendrick said. “But on the field, everything comes out.”

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Practice observations

  • Stafford’s right arm continues to look just fine. He made several no-look passes, including a touchdown pass to receiver Van Jefferson.
  • Robinson made several impressive catches and continues to draw raves from coaches and teammates.

  • Hill, back with the Rams after playing last season for the Cleveland Browns, intercepted a pass by Stafford during a full-squad drill.
  • Back-up quarterback John Wolford passed for several touchdowns against the No. 1 defense, one to second-year pro Ben Skowronek. Tight end Brycen Hopkins dropped Wolford’s most impressive pass — a bullet near the right pylon at the goal line. Wolford and Hopkins later connected for a touchdown.

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