By Sam McPherson
With 54 sacks in his six NFL seasons, Los Angeles Rams defensive end Robert Quinn has been a big part of the team’s defensive prowess since the start of the 2011 season. However, after missing last week’s game with a concussion, Quinn still hasn’t been cleared by the league’s protocol for head injuries, and he may miss this Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
In addition to Quinn’s unknown status for this weekend, running back Benny Cunningham is also doubtful due to a neck injury. He leads the NFL in kickoff return yardage this year, and if he doesn’t play, it will leave the already challenged Rams offense with even worse field position than usual.
Tough Season For Quinn And Defense
After playing in all but one game during his four seasons in the league, Quinn has now missed 11 games over the past two seasons. At age 26, he’s too young to be falling apart, but he missed eight games last season and now has not been able to go three times in 2016. This has affected his play on the field, of course.
After averaging double-digit sack totals during the 2011-2014 seasons, Quinn has just nine sacks combined now in the last two years put together. He posted five sacks in eight games in 2015, and this season, Quinn has four sacks in nine games. He clearly hasn’t been himself on the field due to the nagging injuries, and the concussion kept him limited in practice all this week.
The only other defensive injury to note is cornerback E.J. Gaines (thigh). He missed workouts all week with the injury and is also listed as questionable for the Falcons game. The Rams need all the live bodies they can get in the secondary for this matchup.
Cunningham’s Absence Tough To Manage
Most Rams fans would be surprised to know that Cunningham’s 599 yards on kickoff returns leads the NFL. In his four-year career, he’s returned 95 kicks for a 27.1-yard average. Last year, he had a 102-yard return that somehow didn’t result in a touchdown, and his contributions to special teams are a big reason why the team has been able to overcome a poor offense and still beat quality teams like the Seattle Seahawks routinely.
A neck injury has kept him out of practice all week, so it’s doubtful the team wants to take a chance with him on Sunday. As the backup running back on the team, too, for four years, he’s averaged 4.4 yards per carry and scored four rushing TDs since coming into the league in 2013. Toss in 93 receptions in the same time frame, and you can see what an important cog he is to the entire Rams organization.
Falcons Have Offensive Injury Woes
The bad news for Los Angeles is that All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones is expected to play on Sunday, and he’s as good as they come in the NFL these days. However, Atlanta’s offense probably will be without WR Mohamed Sanu, who is doubtful with a groin injury.
Along the offensive line, the Falcons also have two tackles with knee injuries listed as questionable: Tom Compton and Jake Matthews. Since Atlanta has the highest-scoring offense in the league right now, any injury to the unit could slow it down just enough for a defense like the Rams to take advantage.
E.J. Gaines, cornerback (thigh)
Robert Quinn, defensive end (concussion)
Benny Cunningham, running back (neck)