LOS ANGELES (AP)Marcus Peters was in downtown Los Angeles last month when the Rams traded him to Baltimore. Instead of stewing over the news or heading straight to the airport, Peters made the 50-mile drive to the Rams’ training complex in Thousand Oaks to say his goodbyes in person.
Peters is a feisty competitor who clashed with teammates and coaches in his previous football stops. But he appears to have nothing but mutual love with the Rams, even after their partnership ended abruptly during its second season when Los Angeles blew up the back end of its defense.
“Happy to see him do as well as he is,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “He was a big part of a lot of things that we did well over the last couple of years. Other than this week, I’m nothing but a fan of Marcus Peters.”
Peters will see some of his friends again Monday night when the Ravens (8-2) visit the Coliseum to face Los Angeles (6-4), but the Rams defense looks a whole lot different than it did during their NFC championship run last year. Six of the Rams’ 11 defensive starters in the Super Bowl won’t be on the field Monday, including their entire secondary – and only one of those six absentees is still on the roster.
What’s more, vaunted star Jalen Ramsey is filling Peters’ role as the shutdown cornerback who typically faces the opposition’s top receiver. The Rams traded two first-round picks to upgrade to Ramsey from Peters, whose 26 interceptions are the most in the NFL since he entered the league in 2015.
“No, I don’t have a chip on my shoulder,” Peters said. “How did it end? I got traded, and I’m liking the situation I’m in right now. And I just keep moving forward. I don’t need any other stuff like that to be … I understand the business of football.”
In the merciless world of NFL personnel moves, the Rams’ complete reconfiguration of their secondary this season still stands out. Los Angeles traded both of its starting cornerbacks two weeks apart last month, sending injured Aqib Talib to Miami after it moved Peters instead of signing him to a long-term contract.
Both teams are still happy with how they emerged from their October transactions. Peters has been an immediate contributor to the Ravens, with his two interception returns for touchdowns highlighting his solid overall play.
Meanwhile, Ramsey has been the shutdown cornerback the Rams craved – so much so, in fact, that opponents have barely thrown his way since he pulled on a horned helmet. Quarterbacks are understandably focusing on slot receivers or those guarded by new starter Troy Hill, the former backup to Peters and Talib.
But it isn’t working for the opposition. The LA defense has been outstanding since the last game Peters and Talib played together at Seattle last month, allowing fewer than 13 points per game over its last five contests.
Ramsey’s presence has allowed Los Angeles to pressure passers more effectively while playing more man-to-man coverage, according to defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, and the results have been noticeable – although it might not matter as much against elusive quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Peters played every snap in the Rams’ two games before his departure, and he was comfortable playing on Phillips’ defense in his native California. The trade was undeniably surprising to Peters, even though he knew his future was in doubt heading into the final few games of his rookie contract.
The Ravens, who haven’t had a Pro Bowl cornerback since Chris McAlister in 2006, were grateful to get a defensive back of Peters’ pedigree and experience. Baltimore has allowed just 56 points while going 4-0 with Peters in its lineup, even beating New England.
“He is a savant when it comes to playing corner and routes and everything else,” Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale said of Peters. “That’s been really refreshing, because as I’ve said many times, knowledge is power in this league. And you can see with his play that he has a lot of knowledge.”
With Peters opposite playmaking young cornerback Marlon Humphrey, Baltimore’s defense is thriving. And Peters is only one part of the equation in Baltimore: When coach John Harbaugh was asked about Peters’ impact earlier this week, he used the opportunity instead to praise Peters’ backups, Brandon Carr and Jimmy Smith.
“For us to be able to try to do something special that we want to do, we have to get it to mesh and jell together and communicate, and that’s on and off the field,” Peters said. “We have to know how each other are feeling, so we can just play fast.”
The Rams have kept an eye on Peters since his departure. After their up-close look Monday night, they’ll continue to hope for the best.
“When you’ve got two pick-6s, it’s hard not to see that,” Rams running back Todd Gurley said. “We still stay in touch. If he ever needs anything from me, I’ve got family (in Baltimore). I’d definitely look out for him. That’s my guy. He’s going to always be my guy.”
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL