Raheem Morris was on the advice of his father and took a chance on D.J. Durde, and the Los Angeles Rams defensive line coach has never looked back.
Durde emerged as an end for the Cowboys, and the Rams defence has struggled this season, but Morris has never lost faith in his own ability to mentor the players. Morris, the Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator in 2006-07, was hired as the Rams defensive line coach in 2014, and now he has the first full-time American to coach in the NFL.
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“He went from being a defensive end at Alabama to, I remember I used to go up with him in a tree in Mobile and take pointers on how to use technique to pass rush and do things the right way and knowing he would be at the game management table some day,” Morris said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “So he took the leap and I was already a head coach.”
Durde, who was the first British player selected in the draft, is 6ft 2in and has been playing at right defensive end this season after he played left defensive end in the NFL for three seasons. At 26, he is still growing into his body and is underperforming as a result, with only three sacks this season and two last year. But Morris had faith that, if Durde worked hard, there was no telling what could happen.
He said: “We made him do a lot of things the right way, the way we think it should be done. We didn’t ever make him go be a jackhammer.”
Now he and the Rams are desperate to string together some positive results. Los Angeles is last in the NFC West, and have lost three in a row, dropping from first place in the division with seven games to play. Last season, they finished a game behind the Seahawks, and many felt they could have won the Super Bowl. But injuries and inconsistency have wreaked havoc, with players such as Aaron Donald and Kayvon Webster struggling. Those losses – and some costly missteps against the Seahawks in last week’s 28-24 defeat – have added to the struggles.
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Now the Rams are trying to adopt the approach Morris has used in all his years of experience to combat all kinds of adversity.
“I think we got to embrace these challenges and be able to kind of strip it down, make those choices and go out and to take the high road and know that you’re going to face adversity and we need to embrace it,” Morris said. “I think this is a great opportunity for us as coaches to learn how to manage adversity and how to deal with certain situations.”
They host the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.