The season’s end can’t get here fast enough for the Los Angeles Rams. And not because the Rams are officially out of playoff contention, that boat sailed weeks ago, it was just a matter waiting for the inevitable math.
The simple fact is that the Rams are running out of bodies.
Hours after the 24-12 Monday Night Football loss to the Green Bay Packers, L.A. announced that two more starters—center Brian Allen and wideout Ben Skowronek—were ruled out for the season, both with calf injuries.
Both the offensive line and wide receiver units have been hit particularly hard. While there has been much ado about the offensive line having a different lineup in 12 of 14 games, now the receiver room has a combined 29 pro starts and none of them has logged above 40-percent of 2023 snaps. Leave Van Jefferson out the equation, who himself missed the initial six games of the season, and those numbers drop to six NFL starts, with no player getting 20-percent of snaps.
Of course, the Rams are not going to come up short on filling out a game day roster, but what caliber are those replacements? Every player who steps foot on the field in the NFL has talent and you can easily see how the the stars shine, but even on the best teams, that’s only what, maybe 20 guys?
Most pros, even those below the standout level are still solidly athletic, (hopefully) well-coached, and motivated. Under normal injury circumstances, teams would just dig down below that surface layer of top-quality talent and and make a substitution. The rest of the team would close ranks around the newcomer and soldier on. Starting quarterbacks excepted, very few NFL personnel losses cause a complete disaster.
The Rams problems are somewhat different.
With so many injuries being focused on the offensive line and how early in the season they began, all the struggles of L.A.’s offense magnified, compounded and finally avalanched. Things have spiraled down from there.
Here is how *the players on the offensive line* (i.e., not counting TE, RB, etc) have graded in *true pass sets* only pic.twitter.com/YdxHMTEs0W— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) December 20, 2022
Of the Rams current active 53. Jake Gervase, along with Allen and Skowronek, have been shut down for the rest of the season. Aaron Donald, who may be shut down for the season, Marquise Copeland, Travin Howard, David Long, and John Wolford did not practice all of last week and are yet to get on the field this week.
Because of the Rams top-heavy salary decisions, there will always need a high proportion of late round and undrafted players. But at this point, the L.A. roster is made up of almost 55-percent from rounds 6, 7 and non-conscripts. Also, 19 players were undrafted, seven from round seven, three from round six, four from round five, six from round four, four from round three, six from round two and four from the first.
Yes, the Rams are bad. But are these players considered “the Rams”?
Here’s a Week 16 look at the roster with their draft round in parentheses.
Baker Mayfield (1)
Former number one overall pick added from the reclamation pile. He did spark the Rams in his debut, but it is hard to make a case for a future with the team. He strikes me as liking the spotlight too much to choose a backup role, but will the NFL even give him that choice?
John Wolford (U)-out and Bryce Perkins (U)
Wolford has battled with neck injuries and is out indefinitely. He probably originally sustained back it in the 2020 playoff game vs. the Seattle Seahawks. Bryce Perkins is probably best suited for the Canadian Football League. Both could easily be looking at uncertain futures after missing out on their big chance this season.
Cam Akers (2)
With just a little blocking help, Akers can move the rock. I am not 100% sure he was ever a true breakaway threat, but he is a tough, canny runner and adds value to the Rams roster. Just find it hard to believe that him and the Rams braintrust have truly kissed and made up. Hope so, I would like to see him back next year.
Kyren Williams (5)
His lack of playing time makes a fan wonder. If he is the future, one would think that he would be getting at least equal opportunities to show his stuff. Why would you want to save/hide him?
Ronnie Rivers (U) and Malcom Brown (U)
Easily replaceable pieces who aren’t seeing many snaps or touches even with all the injuries.
Van Jefferson (2)
A big disappointment in 2022. Injuries lingering from last season that stretched through the first six weeks and the Rams overall offensive struggles combined to turn this season into a backslide. Jefferson needs to see the field to show he has the skills to be WR2, or certainly, a stellar WR3.
Tutu Atwell (2)
Although he had rougher sledding against Green Bay, Atwell has been showing some of his college traits. And that’s a positive sign. The jury is still out on how good how will end up being, but the Rams injury situation has given him a chance to get much needed experience and exposure.
Bennett Skowronek (7)-out
No Ram has benefited more from the injury situation. Skowronek has received over 80-percent of offensive snaps. Now he’s gone for the season.
Brandon Powell (U), Lance McCutcheon (U), and Austin Trammel (U)
Powell is fun to watch, but not a full-time answer, He’s best as returner and gadget player. McCutcheon has battled a shoulder injury the past couple weeks and Trammel is a stopgap measure.
Tyler Higbee (4)
Quietly on pace for the most receptions of his career, but also for least yards per catch and worst percentage of passes caught since he broke in. Only 13 targets in the last four games, he is spending a lot of his snaps helping out with blocking, and that is not his strong suit.
Brycen Hopkins (4)
The invisible man. Served a three game NFL suspension and no one noticed. Hopkins has logged 100 snaps and been targeted six times. For next season, the Rams certainly need an upgrade.
Ty Nsekhe (U), Matt Skura (U), and Coleman Shelton (U)
Backups? Maybe. Dispassionately, only Shelton because of his two-position ability. But as the lion’s share of an NFL starting offensive line, sorry, no.
Oday Aboushi (5), Zachary Thomas (6), and A.J. Arcuri (7)
Two developmental rookies, Thomas and Arcuri, and Aboushi, a street free agent who has been a career vagabond/backup.
Rob Havenstein (2) , Brian Allen (3)-out, and Bobby Evans (3)
Hav has really struggled with speed rushers this season. It’s always been his weak spot, but this year it has been glaring. I cannot decide if he’s playing hurt or if his eight years in the NFL are finally beginning to wear on him.
The best thing to say about Evans is that he’s finally played himself off the field.
Matt Orzech (LS), Riley Dixon (P), and Matt Gay (K)
No injuries of note from a solid crew. Gay did, however pour out a half-can of whip ass on a kick off last Monday.
Aaron Donald (1)-out
The best. Any talk about moving on from him is misplaced anger.
Jonah Williams (U), Marquise Copeland (U)-out
Both are high-effort players who are best suited to backup roles.
Greg Gaines (4)
It took two years to regularly see the field, but Gaines has been a solid contributor in his last two. He missed Week 10 and was limited in two others. He has fought through shoulder, knee, ankle and hand injuries.
Bobby Brown (4)
Amassed his highest NFL snap count (45) on Monday night. Brown missed the first six games on suspension. Injuries are giving him a big chance to show he can prosper in the pro game and will go a long way to deciding his future.
Larell Murchison (5)
High-effort, inside player, claimed off waiver on December 12, previously played for the Tennessee Titans. On the small side for a 3-4 lineman, but plays relentlessly. He’s playing for a possible backup role next season.
Leonard Floyd (1)
Can be hit and miss. Very quiet for a 2-3 games and then flash with multiple sacks and pressures. Would like to see more consistency out of a guy whose cap number will be $22mil + in each of the next two seasons.
Michael Hoecht (U), Daniel Hardy (U), and Keir Thomas (U)
The value potential of these three is very good. Hoecht is certainly a versatile backup/special teamer. Hardy should see more snaps now that he’s had a couple weeks off of the Injured reserve List (IR). Thomas’ snaps have gone up in each of the last three games. The reps are good for the development of all three, but a future role as a starting edge may be a bridge too far. If the Rams went back to a traditional 4-3 base, yes. but it is hard to envision Hoecht and Thomas ever being more than mediocre in pass coverage.
Off ball linebacker
Bobby Wagner (2)
Another stellar year from the future Hall of Famer. The anti-injury player, 100-percent of defensive snaps, 118 tackles, eight for loss, five sacks and only one missed tackle. An excellent addition, 32 years old or not.
The Rams played hard on Sunday and no one played harder than LB Bobby Wagner. He had 7 tackles, 2 sacks and an INT against his former team. Wagner has tied his career best of 5 sacks on the season, with 5 games yet to play. Hopefully in year 2 as a Ram, Wagner returns to playoffs pic.twitter.com/aXIAS4SYOJ— RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) December 5, 2022
Ernest Jones (3)
Will get another couple years as ILB2 to learn from Wagner.
Christian Rozeboom (U), Jake Gervase (U)-out, and Travin Howard (7)-out
Special teamers all, who surely noticed the writing on the wall when the Rams signed Wagner.
Taylor Rapp (2) and Nick Scott (7)
Both are free agents next year and are limited in pass coverage. If the Rams don’t re-sign one, it creates another big hole to be filled for 2023.
Russ Yeast (7) and Quentin Lake (6)
Lake missed the first eight games with injury and has hardly played. Yeast is getting about 10 defensive snaps per game over the last month, another 12 on special teams. The biggest takeaway on these two is that the Rams have both starting safeties as possible free agent defections and these guys are not getting any extra snaps to show what they can do.
Jalen Ramsey (1)
Another star who is worth the money. Maybe not the best coverage season of his career, but he’s on track for career highs in tackles, forced fumbles, sacks, and lowest missed tackle percentage.
Troy Hill (U)
Missed five games mid-season. A good backup who can spot start, he’s payed his dues over an eight year career and plays with savvy, ball skills and tackles like a bigger player. A free agent next season.
DeCobie Durant (4)
Didn’t play much the first 11 games, but snaps have risen in each of the last three games. Not many tackles, he needs to take a page from Hill’s book on how a little guy can be an aggressive tackler. They are listed at pretty much the same size.
Derion Kendrick (6)
Has fallen out of favor, going from starter to logging only one snap in the last two games. Struggles when he has turn and run with opposing receivers, his strength is is in tighter areas and closer to the line of scrimmage. Maybe the Rams should consider a move to strong safety.
Robert Rochell (4)
Almost exclusively a special teams player in 2022. Elite athleticism and physical traits are not a guarantee for success, but it would seem that the Rams would let him learn by doing with the season they are having. They left Kendrick out there to sink-or-swim. Rochell gets a lot of special teams work and has been nicked up with knee, chest, wrist, and concussions.
Poached off the Cleveland Browns practice squad back in September. Jolly is a small, fast cornerback who excelled at zone coverage in college. He’s only been active in two games, with six special teams snaps.
David Long (3)-out
In his fourth season in L.A., Long has not broken through. He played fairly well down the stretch to last year’s Super Bowl win, but has struggled with soft tissue injuries this year. He seems to have lost the aggression and swagger he played with in college. Free agent in 2023.
The roster is not a one-way street
The player transactions are not all outgoing, the Rams have recently added three wide receivers all undrafted free agents, Jaquarli Roberson, Lance Lenoir, and Jerreth Sterns. Guard Chandler Brewer, who came off the practice squad and gave two solid starts before falling to injury, was designated for return from the Injured Reserve List and is back at practice. When Brewer is officially re-instated he will be the eighth and final return from IR designation.