As the 3-4 Los Angeles Rams prepare to host the 2-5 Carolina Panthers Sunday at the Coliseum, the home team still faces some injury questions on its defensive line. With the Carolina offense back at full strength itself starting both quarterback Cam Newton and running back Jonathan Stewart, the Rams may find it hard to slow down the Panthers offense if these injuries persist.

The good news is that those are the only injury challenges Los Angeles faces coming out of its bye week and heading into the final nine games of the NFL regular season. The Rams are trying to reach .500 for the first time since 2004, and the whole team has underperformed to some extent in 2016. The inconsistency on defense due to the injuries has been especially challenging for L.A. so far this year.

Defensive Linemen Still Questionable

Defensive tackle Michael Brockers (thigh) and defensive end William Hayes (ankle) would both come in handy for the Rams in trying to defend the reigning NFL MVP from Carolina and the Panthers offense. Brockers was a limited participant in practices this week, so he is in a better position perhaps to play on Sunday than Hayes, who was unable to take part in team workouts until Friday coming out of the bye week.

Brockers has the potential and has shown the ability in recent seasons to be a disruptive force up the middle, and nothing is more necessary this week than to mess up the timing of the Carolina offense. As everyone saw in the Super Bowl last year when the Denver Broncos frustrated Newton all day, pressuring him into mistakes is a key to beating the Panthers.

Other Rams Injuries: Mixed News

Once again, wide receiver Nelson Spruce has not participated this week in practice, so he is doubtful for Sunday’s game. The rookie wideout has yet to play in a game this season, which hurts the offense’s ability to open up the game plan with defenses stacking the line in so-far successful attempts to stop star running back Todd Gurley. On the bright side for the offense, guard Jamon Brown was a limited participant in workouts during the week, so he is questionable for Sunday. Any depth at the offensive positions can help the L.A. unit this season.

Cornerback Trumaine Johnson has missed two full games since fracturing his ankle in Week 5 against the Buffalo Bills. He participated in workouts this week, albeit in a limited fashion. That’s still good news for the Rams, and the word is he will be suiting up for Sunday’s game against Carolina. Newton likes to throw downfield to his tight end and wide receivers, so anything Johnson can contribute will be considered a plus.

Panthers Have Plenty of Injury Woes Themselves

It was surprising to see linebacker Luke Kuechly on the injury report for Carolina this week. Kuechly has a groin issue, but he most certainly will be on the field Sunday despite missing some practice time this week. Likewise, expect to see Stewart carrying the rock for the Panthers, after resting on both Wednesday and Thursday. Stewart participated in practice on Friday, and he will be in the backfield with Newton to attack the Rams’ defensive weaknesses upfront.

Carolina could have its own troubles upfront on the offensive line, though, as tackle Michael Oher (concussion) still hasn’t cleared protocols despite missing the last four games, and center Ryan Kalil’s shoulder situation is still lingering after he had to leave last week’s game in the first half with the injury. Newton and Stewart are good enough to survive without these two OLs, but it does mean the Panthers aren’t at full strength there right now.

Questionable:
Michael Brockers, defensive tackle (thigh)
Jamon Brown, offensive guard (hand)
William Hayes, defensive end (ankle)
Trumaine Johnson, cornerback (ankle)

Out:
Nelson Spruce, wide receiver (knee)

Post Author: Sam McPherson.

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