THOUSAND OAKS (News4usonline) – When it comes to playing with a high IQ, Los Angeles Rams free safety Taylor Rapp is steeped in it. The third-year player from the University of Washington has developed into one of the best players at his position across the NFL.
“I always had the dream of playing professional in the NFL,” Rapp said. “I probably didn’t realize that I could make it to this level probably not until I got into college and stuff like that. When you’re a kid, obviously you have high dreams and stuff like that. But I probably didn’t realize it until college.”
In his first season in the league, Rapp earned his keep as a defensive playmaker. Fresh off being drafted in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Rapp went out and went manic on the NFL, recording 100 total tackles.
He did that in 10 of the 15 games he started in during the 2019 season. Rapp’s extraordinary rookie season flashed into a shortened year in 2020 when he had to overcome injury and sitting behind fellow backfield warrior, Jordan Fuller.
His production numbers dipped, but fast forward to 2021. Rapp is back in the starting rotation, teaming up with Fuller to form a powerful safety tandem.
The dividends are paying off so far for both Rapp and the Rams. In the team’s first couple of games, Rapp has played like a tackling maven, getting in on 18 total tackles. In the Rams’ opening-season win at home against the Chicago Bears, Rapp recorded 10 tackles, six of them solo.
Week 2 produce similar results for Rapp as he found himself getting in on eight tackles in the Rams’ 27-24 win against the Indianapolis Colts. If Rapp holds steady with those numbers, he’ll finish the 2021 season around 165 to 170 tackles for the season. That’s if he plays in all 17 games.
That’s a whole lot of ballin’ out. With that said, Rapp is not too eager to run with a tagline of being considered one of the premier talents at the safety position. Yet.
“I’m trying to get there,” remarked Rapp. “Last year, I was a little banged up and missed a lot of time and stuff like that. I’m not really too concerned about that title or anything like that. All I can really worry about is just being able to get better year in and year out, and the rest will take care of itself and stuff like that. I can’t really focus on that title best free safety or anything like that. Just try to focus on myself and try to get better every day, every practice, every game, and year.”
When you have to go up against some of the best wideouts in the league every day in practice, you can’t help but improve, Rapp said. When you think about the Rams and their explosive offensive talent at the wide receiver spot, team dynamos Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods have given Los Angeles a stout 1-2 punch for years.
Throw DeSean Jackson, Van Jefferson, and Tutu Atwell in the mix, and what you have is a scenario where both sides of the ball get better, he added.
“We have some of the best receivers on our team, especially with Coop [Cooper Kupp] and Robert [Woods],” Rapp said. “They’re able to do so much, not only in the passing game but in the running game, too. They’ve taught us a lot, especially us safeties. Me, Jordan, Nick [Scott], just how they’re able to attack blocks in the blocking game, in the running game, and stuff like that. [And] what kind of angles they’re working, what they’re trying to do, and stuff like that.”
Rapp continued, “It’s great going up against some of the best guys in practice because iron sharpens iron. Everyone knows that. Every chance we get to go out there and practice against them, play against them, compete against them, we’re only getting better.”
The one lingering question for Rapp and his defensive mates is how much better can they be than they were in 2020? Last season, the Rams ranked No. 1 in overall team defense. Their secondary was also top-ranked.
After Brandon Staley left to become head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, the Rams brought in Raheem Morris to be his successor as defensive coordinator. Morris came armed with a coaching style that was familiar to Rapp.
“I think that he’s an amazing coach,” Rapp said of Morris. “He shares the same philosophies and coaching style of my old coach at the University of Washington, Jimmy Lake. So, just having a lot of those philosophies and techniques carry over it helps me out a lot as a player.”
The Rams have given up an average of over 121 rushing yards per game so far this season and are 12th in overall defense. However, the stat sheet is not something the defensive unit is overly concerned about, Rapp said.
“I really don’t think that we’re too worried about any type of stats or anything,” said Rapp. “I know Raheem, and he’s not a big stat guy, either. At the end of the day, it’s about getting the ‘Dub’ and getting that win. I don’t think that we’re too concerned about that.”
Before the Rams got together with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a highly anticipated NFC showdown at SoFi Stadium, Rapp talked about some aspects of his game that he had worked on in the offseason.
“I don’t think that there was anything specific,” Rapp said. “My whole game was just getting everything better. There wasn’t anything specific, but jet being able to step up my game in every facet and improve on it from year in and year out.”
Speaking of Brady, the seven-time Super Bowl champion is off to a hot start with nine touchdowns in Tampa Bay’s two wins against the Dallas Cowboys (31-29) and Atlanta Falcons (48-25).
“He seems like he continually gets better every year,” said Rapp. “Right now, he’s probably playing the best football that he’s played in his whole career. Just being able to have that matchup, that challenge ahead of us, that’s something that we look forward to as a defensive unity and defensive secondary as well. We want to go up against the best. It’s going to be a very great challenge for us.”
Featured Image Caption: IRVINE, CA – AUGUST 10: Los Angeles Rams safety Taylor Rapp (24) during the Los Angeles Rams camp practice on Wednesday August 10, 2021 in Irvine, CA. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire)