In a normal season, a Los Angeles Rams versus Seattle Seahawks matchup would be filled with storylines about West Coast rivalry, keys to victory, and the young coach/old coach comparisons. 2023 has not been anywhere near normal in L.A. There are still some good storylines, but they are dwarfed by the Rams injury list.
L.A. linebacker Bobby Wagner is playing against the team he spent his first 10 NFL seasons with, Aaron Donald is missing his first NFL game due to injury, and the Sean McVay vs, Pete Carrol head-to-head record favors the Rams 8-3. However interesting these tidbits may be, a litany of injuries are taking all the air out of the Rams pressroom.
Who’s next to get injured?
It’s probably easier to list who’s not injured at this point. The Rams are a close second to the Denver Broncos in having the most salary on the Injured Reserve List (IR). The L.A. total will certainly surpass the Broncs now that Matthew Stafford has been officially moved to IR.
The Rams have placed Matthew Stafford on injured reserve.— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) December 3, 2022
Another high-ticket player, Aaron Donald, may be next and two players, Brian Allen and Travin Howard, have missed multiple games since returning from a previous stint on the IR. For the Seattle game, Stafford, Donald, Howard, Terrell Lewis, and Lance McCutcheon have been ruled out, while Troy Hill, Allen, and Ernest Jones are game time decisions. Finally, according to the L.A. injury report, Tyler Higbee was rested all week and Ty Nseke was limited, but both are expected to go. Oday Aboushi and Cam Akers were out all week due to illness and have the same designation.
Rams getting close to Denver in salary on IR this week pic.twitter.com/OqZrsc8gxb— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) December 2, 2022
Which youngsters will step up in their place? And the return of Daniel Hardy
David Long is the conservative choice to get the nod at cornerback, if Hill cannot answer the call. But the Rams might be better served to get snaps for Robert Rochell, DeCobie Durant, or even Shaun Jolly. Long’s return next season is facing long odds, why not give these young fire-pissers a long look?
If Jones can’t go at off-ball linebacker, it’s a big chance for Christian Rozeboom. Maybe not so much for his future with the Rams, Jones and Wagner are locked in for the near future, but getting a solid performance on tape would go a long way to raising his stock with the other 31 teams.
In theory, Jones role could go a safety. While most teams are using the short passing game to attack the L.A. defense, Seattle coach Pete Carroll prefers a balanced run/pass scheme and would surely love to bully the Rams. If the ‘Hawks struggle to run the ball or follow the successful controlled pass formula, Russ Yeast could see a lot of snaps. Quentin Lake is likely to stay on special teams.
As much as I like the L.A. backup defensive tackles, they are a major downgrade from Donald and A’Shawn Robinson. Seattle averages 25 runs per game and will be tough test for the lineup of Greg Gaines, Marquise Copeland, and Jonah Williams. Although Michael Hoecht played well at edge last week, his more natural position is in the interior and should get plenty of work there.
Daniel Hardy could take up some of those edge snaps. The preseason fan favorite was designated for return from IR on 11/30, has practiced all week, and was activated to the 53 earlier today. What he lacks in technique and experience, he makes up for with plus athleticism and hair-on-fire effort.
Another possibility is Keir Thomas, who was signed to the roster from the practice squad this morning. He had a good preseason and saw minor action in the regular season’s first two weeks. He could be a good option when the Rams use their four man fronts, he primarily played with his hand on the ground in college.
Playing out the string
The Rams are spiraling downward, having lost five in a row and seven of eight. The roster has been decimated, over half the players on this week’s active roster were drafted in the sixth and seventh rounds or procured from the undrafted ranks.
Nothing will bail out this season, although a couple of wins would be nice. The Rams could possibly go two ways. They can proffer gameplans like used against the Kansas City Chiefs, conservatively run the ball, play at a slow pace, and run clock. Basically control the tempo as best they can and attempt to keep the score close. Or they can run their regular offense and see if the youngster and bottom of the roster replacements can offer anything of value going forward. In this instance, they run the risk of multiple turnovers and being boat-raced.
I’ll go first and vote for the latter. Put in those kids and let them work, start training camp now with live snaps.