Can LA Rams defense endure with so few inside linebackers?
The LA Rams run a 3-4 base defensive package. Somehow in the planning of building a roster for a 53-man active roster, the powers that be decided that the team needed five running backs on the roster. The team decided to carry ten offensive linemen and six defensive linemen. But when ILB Travin Howard fell to injury, the team decided that Micah Kiser, Kenny Young, and Troy Reeder would be enough depth at inside linebacker to handle the workload of 16 games.
That sounds great on paper. After all, theoretically, the Rams run a sub nickel and dime package frequently. And with an abundance of defensive plays, the Rams will be looking at one inside linebacker on the field at a time, not two. That should allow the team to maintain a good rotation and keep players healthy. Only that’s not how it seems to be working right now, just after four games in a 16 game season.
Time to reinforce the heart of this defense
After all, here is the latest injury report.
Rams injury report:
LT Andrew Whitworth – Rest
DT Aaron Donald – Rest
OL Bobby Evans (Shoulder) – DNP
LB Kenny Young (Knee) – DNP
LB Micah Kiser (Groin) – DNP
RB Cam Akers (Ribs) – Limited
S Jordan Fuller (Shoulder) – Full
— Lindsey Thiry (@LindseyThiry) October 7, 2020
Now, these are minor injuries, and the LA Rams are taking every precaution to minimize the wear and tear on so few players. But the depth chart of the position now has the two starters injured, and only backup Troy Reeder as healthy. Of course, the Rams did pick up ILB/OLB Justin Hollins and can use him in a pinch. After four games are the Rams in a pinch already?
Kiser injury could have an impact
Micah Kiser has been the glue of the defense. While he has shown some struggles at times, he knows where he needs to be and he has been making plays for the Rams. Kenny Young, so far, has been rather inconsistent. And Troy Reeder has not shown enough to make anyone confident when he takes the field. This would have been the perfect opportunity to call up drafted linebacker Clay Johnston from the practice squad. Unfortunately, he opted to sign with the Carolina Panthers to join his father and former college head coach, Matt Rhule
The Rams have some tough choices to make. With the imminent return to playing status, the Rams will need to make a room on the Rams roster for the return of OLB Terrell Lewis. If the Rams call up an inside linebacker like Christian Rozeboom, Danie; Bituli, or Derrick Moncrief, the team will need to clear roster spots.
Rams too shallow at ILB
Of course, it would all be so much easier if both Kiser and Young could just shake it off. Or if the Rams could rely upon a rotation that included both Hollins and Reeder as defenders capable of holding down the fort while either Kiser or Young take a break. But the reality is that the Rams current roster has 3.5 players supporting two significant roles on defense (.5 because Hollins will also play outside linebacker at times).
Back to the drawing board? I’m not sure. Linebacker is a position that is difficult to fill in the NFL this time of year. And the Rams track record at the position has not been stellar, as the team has lost an inside linebacker to another team twice in the past two years. For now, the Rams are beginning to show wear and tear at a critical position on defense. For a defense that needs to improve at run defense, that needs to be taken seriously.