Rams injuries might mean Lamarcus Joyner becomes more than safety valve against Saints

Rams injuries might mean Lamarcus Joyner becomes more than safety valve against Saints
Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner breaks up a pass intended for Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen during the first half last week. (Bruce Kluckhohn / Associated Press)

It might be a busier-than-usual Sunday for Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner.

With cornerbacks Kayvon Webster and Nickell Robey-Coleman trying to work through injuries, Joyner might be called upon for double duty when the Rams play the high-scoring New Orleans Saints at the Coliseum.


Joyner starts at free safety but also could be deployed as a slot corner against an offense led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees.

Joyner said Thursday that he was comfortable at either spot. But Brees makes any defense uncomfortable.

"You just have to take advantage of the few mistakes he's going to make," Joyner said.

Webster, who starts opposite Trumaine Johnson, went into concussion protocol during last week's defeat by the Minnesota Vikings. Robey-Coleman suffered a thigh injury.

Webster was limited in practice Thursday but coach Sean McVay said the corner might play against the Saints.

"He's on track to be available for us, so as long as we don't have any setbacks, the anticipation is to be able to have him," McVay said.

Robey-Coleman, who plays as the third cornerback in obvious passing situations, has not practiced this week.

The Rams' secondary depth improved with Troy Hill's return this week from a hamstring injury. The Rams also promoted Kevin Peterson from the practice squad.

Second-year pro Blake Countess can play cornerback and safety, but Joyner is the most versatile member of the secondary.

He played cornerback his first three NFL seasons before switching to safety this season.

"He's a tremendous player wherever we play him; it's just where we need to play him in this game," defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. "So we've worked some things out there.

"You may see him at both."

The Rams will need a strong performance from the secondary — and the entire defense — against a Saints offense that ranks first in the NFL. The Saints also are second in passing and third in rushing and scoring.

Phillips described Brees as "an all-time great" who employs "Peyton Manning-type preparation."


Phillips was on the San Diego Chargers staff in 2004 and 2005 when Brees was the team's quarterback.

The Chargers had finished 4-12 in 2003, but went 12-4 in 2004.

"I know what he can do," Phillips said.

So does Joyner, who was on the field last year when Brees and the Saints routed the Rams 49-21 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

"The biggest thing is, you have to be expecting adversity at any given time in the game just because of the playmaker Drew Brees is," Joyner said.

Along with neutralizing Brees, the Rams must control a rushing attack that features running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara and has averaged 144 yards rushing per game.

The Rams gave up 177 yards rushing last week against the Vikings. The Rams rank 28th in the league against the run.

Phillips said the Rams have been "up and down" against the run, but he pointed to their Week 7 performance against the Arizona Cardinals. A week after Adrian Peterson rushed for 134 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Rams limited him to 21.

"Adrian Peterson had a tremendous game, and then when we played him, he couldn't make the line of scrimmage," Phillips said. "So, we can play good run defense and I think we will."

In the Saints' rout of the Rams last season, Saints coach Sean Payton went out of his way to embarrass former Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

Payton and Williams coached together with the Saints from 2009 to 2011. They won a Super Bowl together but also received suspensions in the aftermath of the infamous Bountygate scandal.

"All I remember was I wasn't playing in the fourth quarter because we were getting beat so bad, so that's not a good thing," Rams running back Todd Gurley said.

Gurley said he did not begrudge the Saints for running a trick play that resulted in a touchdown to cap the victory.

"It's football," Gurley said. "If you don't want nobody to score, then stop them.

"That's always been my philosophy is, 'Let's run the score up.' I feel like that now.

"We've got a high-powered offense it's like, 'Hey, we've been getting our tails kicked the last 10 years, so let's do the opposite now.' "

Defensive lineman Aaron Donald did not practice because of illness. Linebackers Mark Barron (hand) and Bryce Hager (shoulder), running backs Lance Dunbar (knee) and Malcolm Brown (knee) also did not participate. … The Rams re-signed tight end Johnny Mundt to the practice squad. Mundt had been on the roster for two games while Derek Carrier was sidelined because of a hamstring injury. Carrier returned to practice this week.

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein