The Los Angeles Rams have a bad case of the injury bug so far in the 2022 season. Through five weeks, the Rams haven’t gone into a game with the same five starters on the offensive line a single time. On top of that, since Week 2, they’ve been without their second, third, and fourth cornerbacks. If that wasn’t enough, wide receiver Van Jefferson was put on injured reserve in Week 3 after some hope that he might return early in the season.
As it currently stands, the Rams have seven players on injured reserve according to Spotrac. This is the NFL average, but where the Rams injuries have occurred has been why the injuries have been such a struggle.
During the Sean McVay era, the Rams have typically been one of the healthier teams in the NFL. Football Outsiders has an adjusted games lost metric that estimates the impact of injuries on teams and provides a comparable total that explains why teams improved or declined from one year to the next. In McVay’s first year in 2017, the Rams ranked first in this metric.
Throughout McVay’s five seasons with the Rams, they have ranked inside the top-5 in adjusted games lost in four of them. Their lowest ranking came in 2019 when they ranked 10th.
It should be no surprise that the Rams’ least healthy season came in 2019 - the season following their Super Bowl run. The team is trending in that same direction health-wise in 2022.
However, looking at past Super Bowl winners, this drop in adjusted games lost has been a trend. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went from being the healthiest team in 2020 to ranking 16th in adjusted games lost last season. Only two teams that have won the Super Bowl in the last 11 seasons were healthier the season following their championship run. Among these teams, the average adjusted games lost was 17.
This drop in health after going to the Super Bowl makes sense as teams are playing sometimes over a month longer than others. This gives players that much less time to recover in preparation for the following season.
Getting everything to go right from both a schematic and team-building standpoint is only part of what makes repeating as Super Bowl champions so difficult. The other part is staying healthy. As the Buccaneers did last year, teams can bring back most of the same pieces or “run it back”. However, it’s hard to keep those pieces healthy over what has become an 18-game season.
It’s not a coincidence that 2019 and 2022 are both going to be the only years in which the Rams are likely outside of top-5 in adjusted games lost.
This is where depth plays a key role in teams making a Super Bowl run and repeating. Due to the Rams’ top-heavy roster building strategy, this depth is something that the team lacks. Their success relies on having the ability to healthy over the course of a season.
The good news is that while the Rams do have seven players on injured reserve, they haven’t necessarily been dealt with a catastrophic injury *knocks on wood*. Brian Allen should return next week, if not after the bye. That will allow time for Coleman Shelton to get healthy. Jefferson will be eligible to come back after the bye as well. The same can be said about Troy Hill, David Long, Cobie Durant, etc. This doesn’t even mention a potential return of Odell Beckham Jr. as he returns from his ACL tear that he suffered in the Super Bowl.
The Rams have dealt with several obstacles to begin the 2022 season. Some of that has to do with the injuries that they’ve faced. It’s fair to wonder if those injuries are in large part due to the teams’ Super Bowl run back in February.