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How Much Should Los Angeles Rams Be Leaning On E.J. Gaines?

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After missing out on all of 2015, can E.J. Gaines come back to form in 2016 and fill the hole left by Janoris Jenkins?

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

In the Rams' third preseason game in 2014, CB Trumaine Johnson sprained his MCL. The injury, overshadowed by the more notable knee injury suffered by Sam Bradford, sidelined Johnson four almost two months.

Stepping up to fill the void? Rookie CB E.J. Gaines. Gaines was a sixth-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft out of Missouri who had played well in the preseason but certainly wasn't expected to creep up the CB depth chart as quickly as he did. The ascent was even less likely as four rounds prior, the Rams had selected Lamarcus Joyner out of Florida St. Early on, the Rams had committed to sticking Joyner as their nickel cornerback; that left Gaines and Brandon McGee the main options to fill in for Tru. Gaines was so successful in his rookie season it raised questions about how to rotate Johnson back in once he returned from his MCL injury.

Last year, Gaines suffered a Lisfranc injury in just the second practice of training camp well before any preseason action. And while Marcus Roberson filled in admirably as the fourth corner behind Jenkins, Johnson and Joyner, he hardly had the same level of success Gaines did a year prior as the starter on the outside.

So now in 2016 with Janoris Jenkins gone, many Rams fans are eager to see Gaines back on the field across from Tru as the Rams starting corner duo. Some are overeager to the point of relying on it.

Consider that the Rams drafted both Gaines and Joyner as Jenkins and Johnson were entering their third seasons in the NFL. Clearly, Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher and Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams wanted to stack up at cornerback, and that's not even noting McGee was a fifth round pick in 2013 in between the stack up drafts.

The big question is if the Rams are done. Coming off of a season where the Rams posted the worst offense in the NFL in yardage gained, how much capital are they going to spend upgrading a defense that has seen some attrition with Jenkins, FS Rodney McLeod, DE Chris Long, MLB James Laurinaitis and DT Nick Fairley all having moved elsewhere?

It's a tough question to answer.

On one hand, you're already three deep with Tru, Gaines and Joyner at corner...but as they've shown, one injury (particularly one in the preseason) can turn the depth at the position into an issue of concern before things even get going.

So while we ramp up into draft season, I wouldn't be surprised if the cornerback position is one of early import for the Rams, Gaines or not.