Rams mailbag: Discussing injuries, discipline and, of course, the quarterbacks

Rams mailbag: Discussing injuries, discipline and, of course, the quarterbacks
Rams defensive back E.J. Gaines takes a break during training camp at UC Irvine. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

The Rams will try to solidify their spot a top the NFC West on Sunday when they play the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

The Rams are 2-1 for the first time since 2006.

Now, on to your questions. Keep them coming at @latimesklein or

Cornerback E.J. Gaines and receivers Nelson Spruce and Pharoh Cooper practiced this week, and all or some could play on Sunday against Arizona.

Gaines sat out last season because of a foot injury, but he has yet to play this season because of a quadriceps injury suffered during the exhibition season.

Spruce made the team as an undrafted free agent despite playing in only one exhibition. He caught a team-best six passes against the Dallas Cowboys but suffered a knee injury.

Cooper, a fourth-round draft pick, injured his shoulder after making an acrobatic catch in the third exhibition against the Denver Broncos.

It’s valid to say the Rams need better discipline.

Defensive end Eugene Sims was ejected during the Rams’ victory last week at Tampa Bay, becoming the third Rams player to be booted during exhibition or regular-season play. (Defensive end William Hayes was taken off for an ankle injury, but eventually returned.) 

Cornerback Lamarcus Joyner was ejected from an exhibition against the Kansas City Chiefs after he got into it with receiver Jeremy Maclin.

Defensive tackle Aaron Donald was ejected during the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers.

The Rams have committed 27 penalties, fourth-most in the NFL, for 249 yards (third most).

About the only update I can give you at this point is that I am not aware of major hurdles that must be cleared that would prevent the stadium from being constructed in time for the 2019 season.

I got a birds-eye view of the site on my flight home from Tampa, Fla., last week. There were tractors lined up on the sprawling acres of dirt, but I did not see much activity.

Rookie tight end Tyler Higbee was the talk of training camp.

The former Western Kentucky standout looked as if he might make an immediate impact as a receiver and blocker.

Well, Higbee’s a rookie. Despite his 6-foot-5, 243-pound frame, he’s still learning. And the coaching staff, apparently, is still learning to trust him.

Higbee has one catch for two yards. Veteran Lance Kendricks has six receptions for 76 yards.

Quarterback Jared Goff, the No. 1 pick in the draft, remains Case Keenum’s backup for now.

The pressure on the Rams to play him has dissipated some because the Rams have won two games in a row and Keenum passed for two touchdowns against the Buccaneers.

Rams Coach Jeff Fisher correctly noted that Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz, Dallas’ Dak Prescott, New England’s Jacoby Brissett and Cleveland’s Cody Kessler all have started games because of injuries in the league.

If Keenum gets injured, we’ll probably see Goff.

Case Keenum was sacked only once against the Buccaneers, so the offensive line deserves credit for keeping him out of harm’s way.

Keenum has been sacked six times in three games.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has been sacked 13 times. He is one of 11 quarterbacks who have been sacked more than Keenum.

I don’t think the line’s performance as pass blockers factors into when you might see Goff.

Keenum’s performance — good or bad — will have a far greater influence.

Goff has looked OK in practice, but Keenum is the starter, so he gets the majority of work.

I’m not in team or position-group meetings so I’m not privy to whether he is making strides understanding the offense and defenses the Rams are preparing for.

Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, the No. 1 pick in 2015, said last week that the only way for a quarterback to know if he’s ready is to play. 

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, the first pick in the 2003 draft, sat for his entire rookie season. He said this week there was value in waiting

Your question arrived before Thursday night’s NFL game, so perhaps the rankings have changed.

Keenum is averaging 186.3 yards passing per game, which ranks 34th in the NFL, according to

Goff will play when Keenum is injured or the Rams offense stagnates to the point that coaches feel they have to make a move.

Of course, if the Rams start to lose consistently, the Rams brain trust might just decide to go all in with Goff.

Every team, every head coach and position coach and every player would like to be perfect.

The Rams are no different.

But they’re self-induced mistakes such as penalties cost them in a defeat against the 49ers and nearly cost them in victories over the Seahawks and Buccaneers.


Did Fisher anticipate the loss of Rodney McLeod ’cause that guy is balling in Philly right now.

— Miles Zander

Coach Jeff Fisher and the Rams anticipated the possible loss of Rodney McLeod because he was a free agent.

He did what most players with that opportunity do: He went to the team offering him the most money.

McLeod signed a five-year contract reportedly worth $35 million.

I ask Jeff Fisher a lot of questions during news conferences. He’s not happy about some of them, but he so far he’s answered every one.

I grew up in Los Angeles. I followed the Rams but never had a rooting interest. I still don’t.

I do, however, root for great stories to develop so I can report and tell them.

It’s not my job to tell anyone to quit their job. Or to ask the head coach to consider staff changes.

I will, however, monitor and report about the performances of all those coaches. You can make your own judgments based on what you see when you watch the Rams, and I will try to provide some context.

USC Coach Clay Helton calmed the Trojans masses by leading USC to victory over Arizona State.

Let’s be honest: With two of the first three games against Alabama and Stanford, it was not going to be easy. And playing at Utah on a short week after playing Stanford is not easy.

In 2014, USC also lost at Utah in the final minute.

Helton deserves a chance to coach the entire season.