Injuries affect Rams’ shaky offensive line; Coach Sean McVay wants Cam Akers to step up
Rams center Brian Allen will be sidelined two to four weeks, rookie running back Kyren Williams six to eight weeks after undergoing surgery for injuries suffered during a 31-10 season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills, coach Sean McVay said Friday.
Allen suffered a knee injury, Williams an ankle injury.
Coleman Shelton, who started at right guard, will move to center, and Tremayne Anchrum will move into his spot at guard for a line that gave up seven sacks against the Bills, McVay said during a videoconference with reporters.
Left tackle Joe Noteboom suffered a knee strain and long snapper Matt Orzech suffered a calf strain, but both players are expected to be ready to play on Sept. 18 against the Atlanta Falcons at SoFi Stadium, McVay said.
If Noteboom is not available, A.J. Jackson would play in his place. The Rams are expected to address a possible backup for Orzech if he does not progress next week.
As good as Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills played, the Rams struggled with a number of issues in their first game since winning the Super Bowl.
What else was learned from the Rams’ season opener:
Running back Cam Akers needs more opportunities — and apparently more urgency
Akers played 12 snaps. He got only three carries and gained zero yards. McVay said Friday that Akers needs to maximize his opportunities with and without the ball.
“There were some instances where there were some positive things and some things that he can do better,” McVay said, “but do want to see just an increased level of urgency and accountability snap in and snap out from him.”
As a rookie in 2020, Akers rushed for 625 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed for 131 yards and 90 yards in two playoff games. Akers was sidelined nearly all of last season because of an Achilles injury.
“We’ve all seen how talented and what a special player this guy’s capable of being,” McVay said. “And I want to see him reach his highest potential. And that’s really all there is to it. ...
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“It’s more of a reflection of the confidence and I know what he can be … and I’m confident that he’ll be that guy that we’ve all seen at the right moments as this season continues to progress. And that’s our job to help get it out of him.”
McVay and new offensive coordinator Liam Coen said establishing a consistent running game was among their top priorities this season. The inability to run was a huge issue in the opener.
The Rams ran for a grand total of 52 yards. Darrell Henderson gained all except five of those yards in 13 carries.
Rams fans should not go into panic mode … yet
Look, the first game of any season isn’t a predictor of how a team will fare by season’s end.
Then again, only two of the last 10 Super Bowl champs — the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 2014 New England Patriots — lost the opener in their championship season.
The Rams should even their record Sept. 18 when they play the Atlanta Falcons.
If the Rams lose, panic absolutely will be appropriate.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford passed 240 yards for a touchdown and three picks as the Rams opened their Super Bowl title defense with a 31-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
McVay might want to reconsider his preseason philosophy — if a legitimate Super Bowl contender is the first opponent
You can’t really fault the Rams’ sixth-year coach for not playing starters in the preseason. McVay’s teams won five openers after he kept starters out of harm’s way by not exposing them to injury in meaningless preseason games.
But none of those season-opening opponents were as strong as the Bills, who are among the favorites to reach the Super Bowl.
Does the offensive line need to block better? Of course. The Rams won’t win many games if they continue to give up seven sacks.
Would the group have benefited from playing together a bit during the preseason?
The condition of Matthew Stafford’s right arm remains an issue
Stafford said he felt great going into the opener, the tendinitis in is his right elbow apparently under control or gone.
Had Stafford played well, there would be no reason to question whether he was indeed 100%.
But three passes were intercepted, two on tipped balls. Others were off target. And though there was no discernible problem to the naked eye, until Stafford plays better, questions will remain about the condition of his arm.
Allen Robinson needs more targets
The Rams signed Robinson to replace Robert Woods and complement star receiver Cooper Kupp.
But Robinson, a ninth-year pro who has eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving three times, was targeted only twice against the Bills, catching one pass for 12 yards.
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During his pro career, Robinson was targeted three times or fewer only once before, according to profootballreference.com. In Jacksonville’s 2017 opener, he caught the only pass thrown to him before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Kupp was targeted 15 times and had 13 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Tyler Higbee was targeted 11 times and had only five catches. He dropped two. Receiver Tutu Atwell dropped the only pass that came his way.
Aaron Donald did not play like the retiring type
Donald, who wears No. 99, began his ninth season by recording his 99th career sack.
Donald had flirted with retirement after winning the Super Bowl. The seven-time All-Pro and three-time NFL defensive player of the year ultimately returned to the Rams after receiving a massive raise.
The Bills, lead by Josh Allen, defeated the Super Bowl-title defending Rams 31-10 on Thursday night at SoFi Stadium in the first game of the NFL season.
Inside linebackers Bobby Wagner and Ernest Jones can be a force in tandem
Wagner, an 11th-year pro making his Rams debut, had seven tackles, including a sack.
Jones, a second-year pro, forced a fumble that was recovered by outside linebacker Leonard Floyd.
The secondary needs improvement
Cornerback Troy Hill intercepted a pass but defensive backs otherwise struggled against Bills quarterback Josh Allen, one of the league’s strongest passers and an outstanding runner.
Allen completed 26 of 31 passes for 297 yards and three touchdowns, and he rushed for a touchdown.
Allen threw a short scoring pass to Isaiah McKenzie, a medium-range touchdown pass to Gabe Davis and a long scoring pass to Stefon Diggs.
Josh Allen obliterated months of frustration tied to how last season ended for the Buffalo Bills in a commanding performance against the Rams.
SoFi Stadium is an attraction — for opposing teams’ fans as well
The Rams benefit from playing in a region as large as the Southland. However, it is home to transplants from all over the country and world and is also an attractive travel destination.
The Rams, accustomed to an onslaught by a visiting team’s fans — see last season’s games against the San Francisco 49ers — anticipated a strong turnout from the Bills Mafia. Because of the noise, the Rams operated at times with a silent count.
It wasn’t the first time. It won’t be the last.
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