The Rams, mostly immune from major injuries and losing streaks during coach Sean McVay’s first two seasons, are trending a different direction in his third.
Offensive lineman Joe Noteboom will have season-ending knee surgery, safety John Johnson will have an MRI exam for a shoulder injury that could possibly require surgery, and cornerback Aqib Talib is headed to injured reserve, McVay said Monday.
“It’s definitely been a little bit different,” McVay said, adding, “We’ve gotten a couple things that haven’t worked out in our favor.”
Noteboom and Johnson were injured Sunday during the Rams’ 20-7 defeat by the San Francisco 49ers, a loss that extended the Rams’ losing streak to three games and dropped their record to 3-3 overall and 0-2 in the NFC West.
Talib did not play against the 49ers because of rib fractures suffered during the Rams’ loss to the Seattle Seahawks the week before.
“I don’t think it’s deflating,” McVay said of the losses and the injuries. “It’s just something that we have to navigate through.”
The injuries sustained by Noteboom and Johnson are the latest to befall a team that lost a few key players because of season-ending injuries in 2017 and 2018 – receiver Cooper Kupp among them – but largely maintained continuity, especially in the offensive line.
Star running back Todd Gurley did not play against the 49ers because of a left thigh bruise he suffered against the Seahawks. His status for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons will be determined this week.
“We’re hopeful to be able to get him back for Atlanta,” McVay said.
Malcolm Brown, who started in place of Gurley against the 49ers, suffered an ankle sprain during Sunday’s loss and will be evaluated daily, McVay said.
Add those injuries to the broken jaw suffered by linebacker Clay Matthews against the Seahawks, a setback that McVay has said could sideline the team’s leader in sacks for six weeks.
Jamil Demby or possibly rookie David Edwards could start in place of Noteboom, Marqui Christian would start in place of Johnson and Troy Hill will continue to start in place of Talib, McVay said. The Rams also might seek a veteran lineman to add depth, McVay said.
Noteboom, a third-round draft pick in 2018, played as a swing tackle as a rookie. After veteran Rodger Saffold left the Rams to sign a huge free-agent contract with the Tennessee Titans, Noteboom moved into the starting lineup at left guard.
“It’s a big loss,’ McVay said of Noteboom. “He had done a nice job. I thought really, he was on track. … He made a lot of progress in the early stages of this season. A lot of things that he can really draw on to learn from.”
Veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth said the loss of Noteboom would require the line to adjust again. Demby started in place of right guard Austin Blythe against the Cleveland Browns while Blythe was recovering from an ankle sprain.
“You just grow through it,” Whitworth said. “There’s no excuse in this game and nobody feels sorry for you. We go back to the drawing board, find the guy that’s going to be there and put in the work and get prepared to play well.”
Johnson, a third-year pro, is regarded as a rising NFL star. On Sunday, he grabbed his right shoulder after 49ers running back Tevin Coleman scored on a first-quarter touchdown run. Johnson was examined on the sideline and removed from the game, but he eventually returned before he was declared out.
Asked if Johnson’s injury could require surgery, McVay said, “ That’s something that could potentially come up.”
This is the second consecutive season that Talib will spend time on injured reserve. In 2018, Talib suffered an ankle injury in the third game against the Chargers and did not return until Dec. 2 against the Detroit Lions.
Talib, 33, is in the final year of a contract that pays him $8 million this season. He will be eligible to return to the roster in eight weeks.
“I’ve appreciated the way that he’s consistently led, been a great sounding board for a lot of the guys, and his understanding of the system that we’ve been running the last couple of years,” McVay said. “I think he’s a Hall of Fame player.”
Talib’s absence forces the Rams to “take a big hit” to their leadership, defensive tackle Michael Brockers said. But veterans such as himself, safety Eric Weddle and others will step up, Brockers said.
“We can have that leadership and that camaraderie and that unity that we had before,” Brockers said.
The Rams are off Tuesday. They will resume practice Wednesday…. Quarterback Jared Goff turned 25 on Monday.