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Rams have linebacker issues again with Travin Howard sidelined for season

Rams linebacker Travin Howard deflects a pass in the end zone against the Cardinals last season.
The Rams were hoping linebacker Travin Howard, shown deflecting a pass in the end zone against the Cardinals last season, would play a significant role before a knee injury ended his season.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

It is becoming an annually deflating occurrence for the Rams during training camp:

A young linebacker on track for a starting role suffers an injury that requires season-ending surgery.

Last year, that scenario befell Micah Kiser.

On Tuesday, coach Sean McVay announced that Travin Howard would miss the season because of a knee injury.

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“It’s really unfortunate for a guy that’s put in a lot of work, put himself in position to be a huge impact player for us,” McVay told reporters in a video conference before practice.

The Rams were counting on Howard, a seventh-round draft pick in 2018, to help fill the void left by the departure of Cory Littleton, who signed a three-year, $35-million free-agent contract with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Rams starting wide receiver Cooper Kupp is expected to sit out practice with leg soreness, giving rookie Van Jefferson more chances to impress at camp.

Kiser is recovered from the chest injury he suffered last August during a preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys in Hawaii. He is expected to be in the starting lineup Sept. 13 when the Rams play host to the Cowboys in their opener on “Sunday Night Football.”

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Howard appeared ready to play the other inside spot in defensive coordinator Brandon Staley’s hybrid 3-4 scheme. However, McVay said Howard last week alerted the medical staff to a knee issue.

“Kind of a weird deal,” McVay said. “He kind of felt something, but it didn’t seem like it was anything significant.”

Howard did not participate in the mock game Saturday at SoFi Stadium, and further evaluation revealed a torn meniscus, McVay said.

With Howard sidelined, Kenny Young and Troy Reeder will compete to start.

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The Rams acquired Young from the Baltimore Ravens last October as part of a trade that sent Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters to the Ravens. The deal opened the door for the Rams to trade for Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

Young, a 2018 fourth-round draft pick from UCLA, played only on special teams for the Rams last season, but he has been active in training camp practices and started the mock game.

John Wolford has no NFL regular-season snaps, but he believes in his skills and says he’ll be ready to go if Jared Goff’s streak of good fortune ends.

“He’s one of those players on defense you feel,” McVay said. “He’s picking up the system well. Very encouraged with Kenny’s play.”

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Reeder signed with the Rams last season as an undrafted free agent from Delaware. Kiser’s injury, suffered in the second preseason game, provided Reeder more opportunity to impress coaches. He moved into the starting lineup in the fifth game against the Seattle Seahawks and started eight games.

McVay said the Rams would not look outside the roster for depth. Rookie Clay Johnston, a seventh-round draft pick from Baylor, is among those competing for a spot on the roster, which must be trimmed to 53 players by Saturday.

“Feel good about the guys we have in house,” McVay said.

Etc.

Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd did not practice. He said afterward that it was a scheduled rest day. ... McVay said the Rams did not have interest in acquiring running back Leonard Fournette, who was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars. “He’s a good player but we feel good about the guys we have in house. We’re not looking at anyone externally.” Malcolm Brown, Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson are expected to share carries this season. Henderson remains sidelined because of a hamstring injury. He is not expected to practice this week. ... Taylor Rapp, who had been a limited participant the last two weeks because of a knee issue, participated in full-team drills.


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