News Analysis: Off week won’t heal all these Rams injuries, but look who’s back
With an open date, the Rams spent last week evaluating and reassessing their roster.
Coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead have never shied from making impactful deals near the deadline, so the Rams could pull off one or several moves.
McVay has said the Rams are shopping running back Cam Akers — but did not rule out his remaining with the team — and Snead will no doubt be looking to add edge rushers, offensive linemen and possibly a running back or safety.
The Rams are preparing for an 11 game-stretch that includes road games at Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Kansas City, Green Bay and Seattle.
Many thought the Rams should help their offense with a trade for Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, but the 49ers beat their NFC West rival to the deal.
Receiver Van Jefferson, center Brian Allen and cornerbacks Troy Hill and Cobie Durant will return this week from injuries. Offensive linemen Joe Noteboom, David Edwards, Coleman Shelton, Tremayne Anchrum and Logan Bruss are on injured reserve, along with running back Kyren Williams, linebacker Daniel Hardy, safety Jordan Fuller and defensive back Grant Haley.
A look at how the roster might look and how the position groups are performing:
Quarterbacks: Matthew Stafford, John Wolford, Bryce Perkins — Stafford is off to a slower start than 2021. He has passed for six touchdowns with eight interceptions, two that have been returned for touchdowns. The 14th-year pro is completing an impressive 71% of his attempts, but the Rams won’t repeat unless Stafford eliminates costly turnovers. Wolford was inactive against the Carolina Panthers because of a neck issue. Perkins was active but did not play.
Running backs: Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown — The Rams are trying to trade Akers, who was absent from the game against the Panthers because of what McVay has described as an “internal” issue. Henderson responded by rushing for a touchdown in the victory. Brown was brought in to provide maturity to the position group. Ronnie Rivers had been on the practice squad but was elevated to the roster against the Panthers.
Wide receivers: Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson, Van Jefferson, Ben Skowronek, Tutu Atwell, Brandon Powell, Lance McCutcheon, Jacob Harris — Kupp leads the NFL with 56 catches, four for touchdowns. Robinson finally broke through against the Panthers with five catches for 63 yards and a touchdown. Jefferson’s return from knee surgery is expected to open the passing game and perhaps make Robinson even more viable. In Jefferson’s absence, Skowronek, Powell and Atwell made strides as pass-catchers and rushers on jet sweeps. Skowronek also has been deployed as a fullback.
Tight ends: Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins, Kendall Blanton — Higbee remains one of Stafford’s main targets. The seventh-year pro has 34 catches. Blanton stepped in after Hopkins was suspended for three games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, but he has been targeted only once since catching a 28-yard pass against the Arizona Cardinals. Hopkins returned before the Panthers game but played only nine snaps on offense and was not targeted.
Offensive linemen: Brian Allen, Rob Havenstein, Alaric Jackson, Bobby Evans, Oday Aboushi, Matt Skura, Chandler Brewer, Ty Nsekhe — Noteboom suffered a season-ending Achilles injury, so the Rams will have their seventh offensive line combination when they play the 49ers. It could be Allen at center, Evans at left guard, Jackson at left tackle, Aboushi at right guard and Havenstein at right tackle. The Rams last week signed Nsekhe off the Indianapolis Colts practice squad.
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Defensive linemen: Aaron Donald, Greg Gaines, A’Shawn Robinson, Marquise Copeland, Michael Hoecht, Bobby Brown — Donald has a team-best four sacks and has of late been rushing off the edge, sometimes from a standup position. Robinson and Gaines have plugged holes and Copeland and Hoecht have performed well in rotation. Brown is back after serving a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Inside linebackers: Bobby Wagner, Ernest Jones, Christian Rozeboom, Jake Gervase, Jake Hummel — Wagner is the Rams’ leading tacklerand also has two sacks. Jones is second in tackles and tipped a pass that was intercepted to seal the Rams’ victory over the Panthers. Rozeboom and Gervase have played well on special teams.
Outside linebackers: Leonard Floyd, Justin Hollins, Terrell Lewis — In his previous two seasons with the Rams, Floyd averaged 10 sacks. But Floyd, who is due to carry a salary-cap number of $22 million in 2023, has no sacks this season as teams have adopted the 49ers’ successful get-the-ball-out-quick strategy against the Rams. Hollins and Lewis each have one sack.
Cornerbacks: Jalen Ramsey, Troy Hill, David Long, Robert Rochell, Cobie Durant, Derion Kendrick — Injuries suffered by Hill and Long opened the door for Durant and Kendrick, enabling the Rams to develop depth. Ramsey added a new element to his already impressive tool box by recording the first two sacks of his career.
Safeties: Nick Scott, Taylor Rapp, Terrell Burgess, Russ Yeast — With Fuller sidelined because of a hamstring injury, Scott has stepped up. He made several big hits and intercepted a pass that sealed the victory over the Panthers. Rapp was sidelined for a game because of a rib injury but returned against the Panthers. Burgess played significant snaps in place of Rapp against the Cowboys, but he and Yeast have played mainly on special teams.
Specialists: Kicker Matt Gay, punter Riley Dixon, long-snapper Matthew Orzech — Gay has made nine of 10 field-goal attempts. Dixon has averaged 39.9 net yards per punt. Two kicks have been blocked. Dixon also has completed a pass.
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