Today it was reported that Jo-Lonn Dunbar will be suspended the first four games of the regular season without pay for violating league policy on performance enhancing drugs. The Rams have luckily been able to, for the most part, avoid the injury bug. However it’s the off the field stuff that has taken a hit on the Rams.
Dunbar will join Isaiah Pead on the suspension list week one. Pead however will be able to come back week two. Dunbar will miss games against the Cardinals, Falcons, Cowboys, and then the Thursday night showdown on primetime against the division rival 49ers.
These games will be very important for the Rams as they are all against NFC teams and two of them just happen to be against teams in the division. One of my keys to the Rams success in 2013 is getting off to a fast start, and Dunbar’s suspension certainly wont help that.
However just like every other situation in the NFL, when a player goes down or is unable to play the next guy is expected to step up and fill the role. The Rams went out in the offseason to grab former Ram Will Witherspoon who will most likely fill the void.
Last season Dunbar was one of the Rams’ key free agent additions along with Cortland Finnegan. Dunbar finished 2012 with 115 combined tackled, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions along with 4.5 sacks. Dunbar also had a career high of 13 stuffs which all combined for 38 lost yards. How will the Rams be able to compensate that? Easy, with the player they drafted 30th overall in the 2013 draft.
The Rams will be able to compensate for Dunbar alright. Sure they would rather have him on the field, but last season the Rams played with only two linebackers for the majority of the season because they didn’t have anybody to play the sam position. Alec Ogletree will be expected to play big and he could be tested throughout the first four weeks. It will be up to him whether or not to rise to the challenge. It’s time for Ogletree to prove to the Rams and the rest of the league that he was the best linebacker in the 2013 draft.
Dunbar will be allowed to participate in all team activities until the end of the preseason. After that he will not be allowed to play in any games, obviously, or participate in any team activities. Dunbar will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and this could cost him a shot at resigning with the team next season. Fisher will have a plan and he will somehow make it work. Sure this does hurt the team, but it may not hurt them as much as you think.