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Which Rams players were forced to step up vs Cardinals and how did they do?

LA was missing many key starters on Monday, but came away with a victory because of impressive depth

Syndication: Arizona Republic Michael Chow-Arizona Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

The LA Rams faced a complicated dilemma heading into Monday Night Football: they were tasked with winning their most important game of the season at the same time that the roster was hit with unprecedent bad news related to players testing positive for Covid-19 in the days leading up to the game.

Darrell Henderson, Tyler Higbee, Jalen Ramsey, Rob Havenstein, and Dont’e Deayon were all ruled out within the three days leading up to kickoff and the Rams had to call up six players from the practice squad just to be able to field a full roster.

Rams 30, Cardinals 23.

Good job, Sean McVay. Great job, backups!

How did those backups do and what could it mean for LA’s future at those positions?


Joseph Noteboom in place of Rob Havenstein

I do not advise people to use PFF grades, especially immediately following a game, until someone explains to me how it is possible for one person to watch and grade 58 offensive snaps for all 11 offensive players, and a corresponding 58 defensive snaps for all 11 defensive players; as well as the 78 defensive snaps that occurred for the Rams on Monday night, and the corresponding 78 offensive snaps for Cardinals players.

That’s a total of 11 Rams players per snap x 136 snaps for a total of 1,496 individual grading moments.

Somehow one unpaid or low-paid entry-level grader was able to have 1,500 opinions last night and this morning you get to tell people that Joseph Noteboom had a “69.5” at right tackle...whatever that means.

In last week’s media survey, I asked if PFF grades were useful and 53% of fans responded with “Sometimes”, while 27% said “Yes” and 20% said “No”. I’m okay with the “Sometimes”, and I don’t think that assigning a grade to an offensive lineman within hours of a game ending is one of those times.

(Survey remains OPEN by the way, so if you disagree with me—GOOD!—go vote!)

How did Joseph Noteboom perform in place of Havenstein at right tackle? I’m not sure, I would need more time to go back and watch Noteboom. And if I do, I assure you that I won’t simultaneously be able to come away with a grade for the tight end and the running back and Arizona’s slot cornerback and the Cardinals’ strong safety, all while watching the play only one time. That doesn’t ring “possible” to me.

Instead, here’s what I feel I can say about Joseph Noteboom starting at right tackle last night: LA found out late in the week that Havenstein would be out, Noteboom didn’t even get to practice at right tackle, then made his first career start at the position while facing Chandler Jones and a top-five Arizona defense. And the Rams offense mostly went off without a hitch.

The Rams have a big decision to make with Noteboom next year and Sean McVay is going to need to decide if he’s a super-utility player or a full-fledged long-term starter along the offensive line. It’s safe to assume that Noteboom and his agent won’t be open to re-signing with the Rams if they don’t guarantee him a starting position, because surely one of the other 31 teams will do that.

If Andrew Whitworth does not retire—so far we haven’t necessarily had any indication that he will or that he should—then where does Noteboom even fit in? These could very well be the last days in LA for the Rams’ top pick in 2018.

Coleman Shelton in place of Brian Allen

The 26-year-old Shelton is finally getting his chance to prove what he can do in the NFL, making his second straight start in place of an injured Brian Allen at center. McVay’s been effusive in his praise of Allen all year, but can the Rams get away with doing just as well when Shelton is the man in the middle?

Allen is an unrestricted free agent in 2022, while Shelton is a restricted free agent. It’s hard to judge at this time how much teams will respect Allen on the free agent market, as Austin Blythe’s starting experience with LA didn’t do him any favors when he tested it earlier this year. In that sense, Allen might even be cheaper than giving the tender to Shelton, but it’s possible that the Rams could decline to offer Shelton a tender and then re-sign him for a low one-year pact.

That is, unless Shelton impresses McVay even more than Allen has.

Sony Michel in place of Darrell Henderson

Sony Michel or Darrell Henderson? Tell me what you think in the comments.

Michel has 44 carries for 200 yards over the last two weeks. As a matter of fact, Michel’s two games with 20+ carries over the last two weeks is as many 20-carry games as Henderson has in his entire career.

Kendall Blanton in place of Tyler Higbee

Needing a starting tight end, McVay gave Kendall Blanton 52 snaps on Monday night and the 26-year-old former undrafted free agent caught two passes for 29 yards on three targets. Can Blanton fill a “Gerald Everett” type role moving forward?

Los Angeles Rams v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Brycen Hopkins in place of Kendall Blanton

LA’s fourth round pick in 2020, many things had to happen for Hopkins to finally see the field on offense. First, Everett had to leave in free agency. Then Johnny Mundt had to go on injured reserve. Then Tyler Higbee had to go on the Covid-19 reserve list. Hopkins saw a career-high 20 snaps on Monday, following his 14 snaps against the Jaguars in Week 13.

Through 34 snaps, Hopkins is yet to see a target from Matthew Stafford. I wonder how his blocking has been.


David Long, Jr. in place of Robert Rochell (or something)

I don’t want to mince facts about whom was replacing whom at cornerback—the point is that LA was short-handed by a lot at corner and we all know it.

If PFF is “sometimes” useful, then at least we can fact-check stats like the ones that they’ve apparently posted about David Long’s late-notice start against one of the most talented receiving units in the NFL: two receptions, 11 yards allowed on seven targets.

Depending on the reality of those stats, it seems like Long was far more adequate on Monday night than he’s been at any other point in this season, this year, or his career.

Kareem Orr in place of Dont’e Deayon?

The former UDFA out of Arizona State/Chattanooga, the soon-to-be 25-year-old Orr played 40 defensive snaps against Arizona. He was often cited as one of the potential problem areas for the Rams defense on Monday, but all things considered seemed to hold up as well as could be expected.

Syndication: Arizona Republic Michael Chow-Arizona Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

He certainly was not a leak that Kyler Murray could exploit all night and that’s impressive enough; 40 snaps played for a guy who was about ninth in line for the throne prior to last week.

Terrell Burgess in place of Jalen Ramsey (Star)

If there is an especially concerning area of the draft for Les Snead, it seems to be day two. The Rams’ second and third round picks of late are not having the kind of impacts that one hopes for or expects from a day two pick. Unfortunately, despite Terrell Burgess often drawing praise and encouragement from coaches and teammates in practice has yet to show that type of impact on game day.

Burgess played 33 snaps on Monday night—14 more than his previous career-high. He had one tackle and was most notably found during Arizona’s successful onside kick attempt in the fourth quarter.

Of anyone in the secondary who might have a role on the defense moving forward, after Ramsey returns, Burgess might be the last guy on that list right now. He still seems to have a lot to learn and 2022 could be the earliest that he could reasonably be expected to contribute.