The Rams’ losses continue to mount, and not just on the field.
Center Brian Allen will sit out the rest of the season because of a knee injury that requires surgery, right tackle Rob Havenstein will be sidelined at least one game because of a knee injury, and wide receiver Brandin Cooks also will be sidelined another game because of concussions, coach Sean McVay said Monday.
A day after the offensive line was in injury plagued disarray during a 17-12 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Rams started to cope with the fact that they will have an even more inexperienced and undermanned group in Sunday night’s game against the Chicago Bears at the Coliseum.
That does not bode well for a team that is 5-4, in danger of falling off the pace for a playoff spot and possibly suffering a collapse less than a year after it played in the Super Bowl.
Austin Blythe will start at center, and Andrew Whitworth will play left tackle. Those are the only certainties for a position group that boasted near-unprecedented continuity during the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
“We’re working through those things right now,” McVay said during a news conference.
Allen and Joe Noteboom, both drafted in 2018, had replaced John Sullivan and Rodger Saffold, respectively. The Rams declined to exercise their option on Sullivan, a 10-year NFL veteran, after last season. Saffold, a 10th-year pro, signed a four-year, $44-million free-agent contract with the Tennessee Titans that included $22.5 million in guarantees.
Noteboom suffered a season-ending knee injury Oct. 13 against the San Francisco 49ers. Allen suffered a left knee injury during the second quarter Sunday at Heinz Field.
Havenstein played through a right meniscus injury against the Steelers but came out late in the game.
Rookies David Edwards and Bobby Evans, second-year pro Austin Corbett and perhaps Jamil Demby, who struggled in a reserve role earlier this season, will start or play against a Bears defense that features Khalil Mack and other outstanding pass rushers.
In what combination remains to be determined. The Rams are inclined to keep Edwards and Corbett at guard and possibly start Evans at right tackle, McVay said. But nothing has been decided.
“Ultimately, it’s about putting together the best five,” he said. “But, in a lot of instances, you prefer to not necessarily feel like you’re falling off at two spots, but just one if all things are equal.”
The Rams could seek free-agent help and also will monitor the waiver wire, McVay said.
The Rams made a calculated gamble by parting ways with Sullivan and Saffold and, perhaps more strikingly, not signing versatile veteran linemen to serve as backups for Allen and Noteboom.
Before McVay announced the news regarding Allen and Havenstein on Monday, Whitworth, a 14th-year pro, explained the challenges of operating with an inexperienced position group that sustains injuries.
“It’s one thing when you have it happen where you’re at a place where you got a lot of veteran linemen who are your backups,” he said. “Here, it’s a lot of guys that’s nobody’s ever played, so it’s a learning process a bunch of different ways.”
That cannot be used as an excuse, Whitworth said. But the learning curve is steeper in situations such as the one the Rams experienced against the Steelers, which became a revolving door of position switches.
“When you don’t have guys with game experience ... there’s a lot of things you have to go over and teach and almost kind of thinking back of all the things that come up when a guy gets in for the first time and goes through certain situations,” Whitworth said. “You almost can’t possibly go through all of them.
“There’s going to be some growing pains there.”
Defensive back Darious Williams, a special teams mainstay, suffered an ankle injury against the Steelers and will be sidelined “a couple weeks,” McVay said. ... McVay said he had not spoken with Al Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, regarding the play involving quarterback Jared Goff that officials ruled a fumble. Goff’s arm appeared to be coming forward to pass, but Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick returned the fumble 43 yards for a touchdown. “It’s one of those deals when you slow it down, you can certainly make the case” that it was not a fumble, McVay said. “In a lot of those instances, how you see it in live action is what’s going to end up being the final call. I’m not going to sit here and complain about things that didn’t work out in our favor.”