LA Rams defense is the Oz Tin man. It never replaced its heart.

Mandatory Credit: Tcn 0301 Sa Orchids 2
Mandatory Credit: Tcn 0301 Sa Orchids 2 /

The LA Rams have ignored the defense’s interior linebacker injuries for too long, allowing teams to attack the heart successfully

The LA Rams are now discovering that same ailment that has afflicted many other NFL teams this year. The team’s roster is slowly depleting. A siphoning off of talent that has been compensated with almost no response. The slow drip-drop leak that, left unattended, empties the pool. Or perhaps more akin to the Wizard of Oz Tin Man, a tough metal character on the exterior, but who was hollow inside, as he did not have a heart.

The Rams defense resembles that ‘no heart’ analogy right now. It was clear against the New York Jets that they were able to run plays at the middle of the Rams defense to keep Troy Reeder out of position. In fact, the Jets first touchdown ran two receivers into the middle of the defense. Then, running back Ty Johnson turned left and was left unguarded. Easy touchdown. Bad play.

Where is the heart of this defense?

The LA Rams have lost inside linebacker Travin Howard and Micah Kiser so far. Two of four healthy linebackers.  The team has also been forced to compensate for the loss of defensive back Terrell Burgess and Taylor Rapp. Although defensive backs, they have been instrumental in nickel and dime packages to reinforce the defense over the middle.

The Jets game was inevitable. And then, after weeks of lobbying the Rams to sign another linebacker in October, and then again in November, our worst fears came true. The team’s strong suit, the defense, simply has run out of healthy players capable of defending the middle of the field.

Interior linebacker Micah Kiser’s injury was described as a ‘banged up knee’ that could need as little as three weeks to heal. It’s now been five weeks, and there is no end in sight. Of course, Rams fans know that any ambiguous knee injury covers the range of a blister to a leg amputation. So in that context, we really have no idea when Kiser will be back, if ever, this season.

Window is closed

The window to find a free agent in time to make an impact has closed.  The Rams are now in the white water rapids of the season, and there will be no signings until the run their course in the NFL Playoffs. We were concerned over the belief that this defense, as good as it has played, could count on the play of Troy Reeder and Kenny Young to carry the load for the rest of the way.

Without a timeline, it may very well be that the Rams will be entering post-season without Kiser.  That’s disheartening. If the now 1-13 New York Jets can exploit a weakness in the Rams defense, you can bet better teams can do so. In the playoffs, the Rams will face very good NFL offenses.

Next. LA Rams injury update: Akers out, nobody off IR to face Seahawks. dark

No, injured linebacker Micah Kiser is not at a Pro Bowl level. But he did make things uncomfortable for offenses over the middle. Reeder is not there yet. His optimal role is sticking to a script, not trying to process what the offense is doing to change direction. Reeder is a vertical defender, a player who is not very good and clinging to a running back on routes to the flat. The Jets used that fact against him.

The Rams have played short-handed at the interior linebacker position all season. Unfortunately, now it could come back to haunt them. There is no Wizard of Oz to visit in this one. There is no wicked witch to vanquish. There is just the Tin Man defense of the LA Rams. And it doesn’t have a heart.