IRVINE, Calif. — The Los Angeles Rams needed a cornerback. In Kayvon Webster, they got a starter, a valuable special teams contributor, and a key conduit in helping explain what new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips wants to do.
“Unless something changes, he’s starting and he’s been very important to us,” Rams head coach Sean McVay said. “I love the way that he works and he has been a joy to be around.”
In short order, Webster has proven his value in several areas. Most notably, he has been working opposite franchise-tagged Trumaine Johnson with the first unit during offseason workouts and now into training camp. It might seem like an unlikely jump for someone who only started two games in four seasons with the Denver Broncos before signing a two-year contract with the Rams in March, but not to Webster or Phillips.
In Denver, Webster saw his opportunities limited by a deep and talented secondary despite being drafted in the third round in 2013. Instead, he honed in on special teams duties, making the most of opportunities as a backup, and learning from the likes of Aqib Talib. Webster won a Super Bowl and was named a team captain for his special teams work.
All the while Phillips kept telling Webster his opportunity was right around the corner.
“He believed in me when I was in Denver,” Webster said. “He always kept me positive and he always told me my time was coming. Right now is my time to show people what I got.”
Everything would line up for Webster to get that chance with the Rams. They needed to add depth at corner after E.J. Gaines, a favorite project of former head coach Jeff Fisher and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, had been limited by injuries over the previous two seasons. Phillips joined McVay’s staff, providing great insight into what Webster might be able to provide in a larger role.
For the Rams, Webster could fill multiple roles. He could help the Rams adjust to Phillips’ 3-4 defense. At worst, Webster might be a cornerstone special teams player. At best, he could be the answer at corner the team had been looking for since tagging Johnson and letting Janoris Jenkins leave as a free agent after the 2015 season.
So far, the best-case scenario is looking like the more probable one.
“But since the day that Kayvon has got here he has represented great work, great player on the field,” McVay said. “I think he has been a huge addition to our secondary, and you look at he and Trumaine Johnson and they offer a nice pair at the corner spots.”
When it comes to special teams, McVay will defer to coordinator John Fassel on how to use Webster there.
“I think Bones will pick and choose his spots, when to utilize him,” McVay said.
Gaines said Webster has been just as important in the class room. While the coverages are similar to last season, Williams was “line up and play”, Gaines said, while Phillips wants to use misdirection to create confusion. Webster is creating the lines of communication necessary to play that way.
“He’s actually been a big part of a lot of the defensive room because he really was the only one who knew the defense coming from Denver,” Gaines said. “He helped me as far as where to line up. He helped me a lot in just coming in and learning the playbook and getting a feel for Coach Wade.”
Webster chooses to downplay his role as a vocal leader, instead choosing to lead by example. When it comes to playing for Phillips, however, Webster doesn’t have to say much at all about the coach who believed in him.
“You just try to go out and play your heart out for a guy like him,” Webster said. “He doesn’t ask much of you but to give 100 percent effort.”