By Sam McPherson
Perhaps the football deities are on the side of the Los Angeles Rams in 2016, now that the team has moved back to the proverbial City of Angels. The team’s bye week is affording several injured players extra time to heal and recover in order to be ready for a soft stretch of the schedule coming up for Los Angeles.
The Rams have only four active players with injury concerns right now, and three of them could be ready in Week 9 to face the slumping Carolina Panthers in Los Angeles. Defensive tackle Michael Brockers (thigh), offensive guard Jamon Brown (hand) and wide receiver Nelson Spruce (knee) are all questionable right now, and the extra week can only help each player get better.
Defensive Strength Sapped
Los Angeles has struggled on defense this year, unlike any prior year under Head Coach Jeff Fisher. Although the Rams are currently ranked 10th in yards allowed and 14th in points allowed, it’s been a grind with all the injuries, especially to the defensive line. L.A. has posted just 10 sacks so far this year, which ranks 27th in the league.
Since Fisher took over in 2012, the Rams have ranked second, third, 13th and 11th in the league in sacks, respectively. With the rest of the line healthy now and Brockers on the way back into the fold, the L.A. pass rush could return to its previous heights just in time to face the soft part of the schedule.
After registering 14.5 sacks in his first four years in the league, Brockers has now missed two games this year with injuries and has zero sacks. Getting him healthy and ready to attack from the defensive line’s interior really makes a difference for the outside pass rushers on the L.A. roster.
Offensive Depth Challenged
The Rams offense during Fisher’s tenure has always been mediocre, if not just outright bad. This season is no different, sadly, with inconsistent quarterback and running back production. Brown has started 10 games since the start of 2015, although he’s only played in five games this season. Whether he starts or not, his injury has impacted the depth on the offensive line, and that always hurts QB and RB effectiveness.
Likewise with Spruce: The undrafted rookie wideout has yet to see the field in 2016, but his dynamic abilities can only help the offense diversify itself, this opening up more running lanes for star RB Todd Gurley. Remember, Spruce caught six passes in his first preseason game, so the staff is very aware of what he’s capable of doing on the field.
Only One Serious Injury
Cornerback Trumaine Johnson’s ankle injury is expected to keep him out at least three more weeks, so he will not be ready to play against the Panthers and their solid WR corps in Week 9. With a little good fortune and healing recovery, Johnson possibly be ready in Week 11 against the Miami Dolphins.
For sure, though, the team will need his presence in the secondary when the Rams travel to New Orleans in Week 12 to face the Saints on the road. The Dolphins don’t possess the offensive personnel that the Saints do, so perhaps the team would be wise to give Johnson that extra week off in order to have him at full strength (or closer to it) for the New Orleans matchup.
Michael Brockers, DT (thigh)
Jamon Brown, G (hand)
Nelson Spruce, WR (knee)
Trumaine Johnson, CB (ankle)