By Sam McPherson
The Miami Dolphins come to town with a suddenly potent offense, and the Los Angeles Rams’ defense better be ready for them on Sunday. However, the Rams have four injured players on defense that are questionable for the game, and that won’t help Los Angeles put a stop to the Miami running attack led by Jay Ajayi, or the passing attack led by Ryan Tannehill. In their current four-game winning streak, the Dolphins have averaged 29 points per game and 180 yards on the ground per contest, while committing just one turnover.
To win on Sunday, the Rams will have to reverse those trends, and they’ll need as many healthy bodies on defense to do so. Miami’s defense is susceptible to a good game plan, though, as the San Diego Chargers demonstrated last week after running up 379 yards. In addition to breaking in a new quarterback, the Los Angeles offense also will need its players healthy, and right now, there are two players on the offensive line listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins.
Defensive Line Injuries Mounting
The Rams have gotten used to defensive tackle Michael Brockers and his groin injury at this point. He had one tackle last week against the New York Jets, but Brockers has just seven tackles total this season in seven games. After averaging 3.5 sacks per season in his first four years in the NFL, Brockers doesn’t have a single sack this year. He’s been hurt and ineffective, for the most part, and even though he’s not listed on the team injury report this week, it’s still questionable whether he will play on Sunday.
However, defensive end Robert Quinn is expected to play against Miami, despite being hospitalized with an illness this week and not participating in workouts on Wednesday or Thursday. That’s good news to counteract the bad: Fellow defensive ends Matt Longacre (hip) and Eugene Sims (concussion) are questionable for Sunday. Longacre hasn’t played since Week 7, and Sims had two tackles against the Jets before suffering his injury. Sims was unable to practice this week, and his availability for the Dolphins game is dependent on clearing league protocols for concussions.
Offensive Line Wounded
As No. 1 overall draft pick Jared Goff prepares to make his NFL quarterbacking debut, he will do so with some injuries on the line protecting him from the Miami front seven. Center Tim Barnes (foot) and guard Jamon Brown (hand) are questionable for the Dolphins game, and Goff will need all the time he can get to throw the ball. Furthermore, running back Todd Gurley’s disappointing sophomore campaign has to get better at some point. Now is the time with a rookie QB taking over, too.
Barnes has started 25 straight games for the Rams at center, and his presence on the line is vital to a rookie QB in terms of blocking schemes. Brown has started just one game in 2016, and he hasn’t played since Week 6. The Los Angeles offense has gotten used to playing without the second-year guard at this point, but missing Barnes on Sunday would be a whole different story.
Miami Also Facing Changes At Center
The Dolphins have their own problems on the offensive line as Mike Pouncey is doubtful for Sunday’s game. He’s started all 77 NFL games he’s played in since coming into the league with Miami in 2011. That’s the kind of presence you cannot replace, obviously, leaving the Dolphins vulnerable up front, too. Pouncey has a hip problem that he re-aggravated, and it’s no coincidence that he missed the first four games this season, too, when Miami struggled. He played in the last five games, coinciding with the Dolphins’ offensive resurgence with Ajayi’s running.
- Tim Barnes, center (foot)
- Jamon Brown, guard (hand)
- Lamarcus Joyner, cornerback (back)
- Matt Longacre, defensive end (hip)
- Eugene Sims, defensive end (concussion)