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Rams defensive player to watch: CB Cortland Finnegan

Cortland Finnegan (left) and Lions’ Stephen Tulloch are separated by official Shannon Eastin after last Sunday’s game. They were just kidding. (Paul Sancya/The Associated Press)

How he beats you: The Rams signed Finnegan, who spent his first six NFL seasons with the Tennessee Titans, to a five-year, approximately $50 million deal in free agency. The move reunited Finnegan with Jeff Fisher, his former coach in Tennessee.

He made an impact in his first game, with a touchdown on an interception in last Sunday’s season-opening loss at Detroit.

Finnegan has 15 career interceptions and is known as one of the league’s more physical and effective cornerbacks. He is a rugged tackler, a relatively unusual trait for a cornerback, and has a reputation for trying to draw opposing wide receivers into confrontations. Finnegan and Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson had a notorious skirmish during a November 2010 game, with each pulling off the other’s helmet and Johnson throwing several punches.

“He’s the ultimate competitor, a great competitor,” Redskins wide receiver Josh Morgan said. “He’s one of those guys that plays—you know how they say play to the whistle? He’s one of those guys that plays until you walk back to the huddle…He’s just got a little extracurricular with him, you know.”

How you stop him: The key, according to Morgan, is to play your own game and not allow Finnegan to get to you.

“He pretty much tries everybody at least once or twice a game to see how you respond back to him, see how you react to him,” Morgan said. “And then he just can go out and be the football player that he is. A lot of people respect the football player. I definitely respect the football player he is. Some of the extra stuff, he can cut out.”

Retaliating, Morgan said, could result in a costly penalty.

“You don’t want to be the second guy because the second guy is going to get caught,” Morgan said. “He’s going to come at you and he’s going to be the first, second and third guy. You’ve got to remind yourself not to be that fourth and fifth guy, and throw your hands up and walk back to the huddle.”

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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