Since taking over the Los Angeles Rams in 2017, Head Coach Sean McVay has been adamant about averting the risk of preseason game injuries. Starters and key reserves are just not allowed on to see the field.
But this is the NFL and training camp injuries cannot be deterred. While veterans can usually overcome the missed time and snaps from minor camp injuries, it's the younger players who have the most to lose from the loss of reps.
Recently, four Rams players who have not carved out permanent roles, have been challenged with minor injuries. Should they miss extended time, will it, or should it, become enough to put them on the roster bubble?
Edge Chris Garrett
The Rams have had a rash of groin injuries this preseason, and the latest to be afflicted is Garrett, the second-year outside line backer from DIII Concordia College. His speed off the edge and his flash versus the Las Vegas Raiders in last years preseason have made him a fan favorite.
Although Justin Hollins has the inside track for the edge role opposite veteran stalwart Leonard Floyd, any of the other candidates could move up the food chain with good camp. Garrett would have certainly received the lions share of snaps with Floyd sitting out the preseason games. If it takes weeks instead of days, he could easily slide onto the bubble.
Terrell Lewis and Daniel Hardy will be the main recipients of the starting snaps, but long shot rookies Benton Whitley and Brayden Thomas will get plenty of work, as well. Another player who could get plenty of game time is Earnest Brown. He has been working with the edge unit as well as the defensive line and would be classified as a stand up defensive end instead of outside linebacker.
More from McVay: "Good step in the right direction" and on schedule for Stafford's increased workload ("the plan all along").— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) August 9, 2022
- Garrett hurt his groin, "days or weeks" timetable.
- More precautious on Floyd ankle
- Frustration with pre-snap penalties from offense, credits def.
Inside linebacker Travin Howard
In what is becoming a yearly proposition, Howard is battling an early season impairment. This year it’s a groin injury that required surgery. He was placed on the Non-Football Injury List with a active designation, meaning he can come back to the team when healed.
Reports are optimistic on his return before the regular season, but with Christian Rozeboom and rookie Jake Hummel absorbing the ILB and special teams snaps, the oft-injured Howard could end up as odd man out. If he cannot heal up in time to compete for roster spot, the Rams could park him on the Physically Unable to Perform List for six weeks or the Injured Reserve List for four weeks. Being on either list would not count against the roster.
#Rams LB Travin Howard, who landed on the PUP list with a groin injury, is scheduled to have core muscle surgery from noted sports hernia guru Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia early this week, sources say. Based on the timing, he has a solid chance to be ready for the season.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 23, 2022
Wide receiver Jacob Harris
The good news is that it’s only a strained groin and he should return to action in a couple weeks. The bad news is that it’s Harris’ third injury in a little over year with the Rams. Last year, it was core surgery early in training camp and was followed up by season-ending knee ACL and MCL tears in week nine of the regular season.
Harris was drafted in 2021 as a hybrid tight end/wide out, but made the permanent move to the receiving room this off season. He seemed to be locked at WR6 for his special teams play and was expected to battle with Bennett Skowronek and Tutu Atwell for a share of offensive snaps. His speed, athleticism, and draft status will almost certainly lock in a roster role, but without sufficient rehab time groin pulls can be easy to re-injure or slow to heal.
To be sure, JJ Koski, Landen Akers, Austin Trammel, Warren Jackson, and rookie Lance McCutcheon are all long shots, but Koski and Akers have NFL game experience with LA and can play special teams.
Wide receiver Brandon Powell
Banged his knee up in Tuesday’s practice and is waiting test results. McVay’s comments about Powell not playing preseason games seems to point towards him having locked down the primary kick returner job. No reports updating his injury status as of yet, but if he has to sit out for much more than a week and Van Jefferson gets rehabbed for week one of the regular season, the Rams wide receiver room gets crowded.
There may be nothing to see here, but at the same time. Raymond Calais, Kyren Williams, and Tutu Atwell have a lot to gain by getting his return reps. Calais looked like he was gong to win the kickoff return job last preseason before foot/ankle surgery scuttled him for the year. Williams is the kind of hot-motored type of player who will attack any role he is offered and the Rams coaches like him. Atwell has that playmaker skillset that needs touches in space.
Rams head coach Sean McVay said WR/KR/PR Brandon Powell banged his knee and team is waiting for results. However, McVay didn’t seem concerned, and said Powell was a player who wasn’t going to play in the preseason anyway.— Stu Jackson (@StuJRams) August 10, 2022
The give and take of training camp injuries
Minor training camp nicks to Matt Stafford, Van Jefferson, Leonard Floyd and Jalen Ramsey have allowed more reps to players down the roster chain. The Rams young secondary and receivers have been been getting shoutouts for their camp performances. Unheralded, developmental players, edge Daniel Hardy for example, are getting noticed for more than special teams play.
When established players sit out practice, it gives backups and young players a chance to impress coaches. It’s a hard road for the third team to get noticed and play their way up the roster. Any chance to shine in the NFL is a big deal.
Injuries, however minor, can put players involved in roster battles at a big disadvantage. Dispassionately, if the four players highlighted above were placed on the Rams practice squad, only Powell could be a serious candidate to be poached. And in truth, he had previously bounced around between four teams in three years and was out of a job when LA signed him last season.