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What we learned about the Rams’ cornerbacks: Troy Hill back where he belongs

IRVINE — Troy Hill’s voice got louder when he said “I’m glad to be back here,” almost as if he was hitting the exclamation point button on a group text with iMessage.

But Hill stressing his joy for being back with the Rams wasn’t a knock on the Cleveland Browns, where the cornerback spent last season. There was no shade, and it was evident by the Southern California sunshine bouncing off his infectious smile after a training camp practice in late July.

“It’s a whole different atmosphere out here,” said Hill, who played six seasons with the Rams before his brief stay in Cleveland. “A whole different energy for me. I feel refreshed almost and just being back here and being around the guys. … It’s definitely a breath of fresh air.”

Initially, Hill was peeved at the Browns for pulling the plug after one season – he signed a four-year, $24 million contract with them. But as he got reacclimated with the Rams after a draft-day trade, it became less about proving Cleveland wrong and more about embracing the glee he got from being in a culture that better suits him.

Hill saw the Rams get to the mountaintop without him last season by winning the Super Bowl. He did the heavy lifting to get them close, only to endure an 8-9 2021 season and be thousands of miles aways when the confetti dropped from the SoFi Stadium rafters.

“No knock against them,” Hill said. “I just feel like at the end of the day, this is probably where I belong. A lot of things (were different). It’s a program that’s learning how to win and this is a program that already knows how to win and things like that, and they play to their players’ ability.

“I’m just excited to be here and no knock to Cleveland. It’s just a difference.”

Hill is back in a familiar setting, but the Rams have changed a bit with new faces in the secondary and coaching changes with defensive coordinator Raheem Morris and defensive backs coach Jonathan Cooley.

Rams cornerback David Long Jr. credited Hill as the first cornerback to take on the responsibility of playing inside and outside back in 2020, when the team emphasized hybrid roles for defensive backs under then-defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, now the head coach of the Chargers.

But another change for Hill is that he’s no longer the lone two-way cornerback. Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey has done that for multiple seasons and his role increased last season in the defense’s “star” position. With Hill in Cleveland, Long saw more opportunities, and at times struggled in the expanded role, but the cross-training paid off with strong performances during the Rams’ Super Bowl run.

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