We’ve learned this week that the LA Rams and veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson have mutually agreed to pursue trade options for the underused pass catcher. Since that will entail Jackson being healthy and passing any orientation medical exam, the Rams have prudently announced that the team will not play Jackson in Week 8.
While that is completely understandable, he is not the only one sitting this week. Per The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue, both Andrew Whitworth and Sebastian Joseph Day are out for Week 8. So that has set quite a number of objects in motion. Let’s try to summarize while we have everything fresh in our minds:
Change I: Rams traded starting linebacker Kenny Young for next to nothing
The LA Rams defense may not be shutting down opposing offenses, but the team has been improving. One of the reasons for the improvement is the quality of opposing teams. But you cannot rule out the fact that his defense is still learning to work cohesively towards the same goal.
One thing that doesn’t help that cohesion is trading away a starting inside linebacker, Kenny Young. Let’s assume for the moment that this was the week to promote rookie Ernest Jones to a starting role. In what reality does that force the team to trade away the guy who just started at the position for the first seven games? If nothing else, demote him but keep him on the roster.
Right now, the shared game plan is to give Ernest Jones and Troy Reeder long looks at the role. The Rams need run defense, and Jones gives a bit more bump-n-thump in the hole. But it’s going to be a learning curve for the young man. If the Rams had kept Young, then they could work Jones up to a starting role. But as it is now? They will need to throw him into the deep end of the pool and hope he can swim.
Change II: Rams will sit DeSean Jackson in Week 8 pending trade
The news leading up to the Week 8 contest with the Houston Texans is everything but preparing for the game. For the second time, the LA Rams are in the news for a player on the move. Well, this time it is a bit different because this player, wide receiver DeSean Jackson, has reportedly requested to be traded in order to find a role on another NFL team with more opportunity.
More surprisingly than the request was the fact that the LA Rams agreed. Moving DeSean Jackson from the LA Rams offense will most certainly weaken their ability to score, and will most certainly strengthen whichever team he is traded to. This trade could reshape the NFL Playoff picture.
But it will bench Jackson for Week 8 as well.
The decision to sit Jackson makes sense as he and his agent work to find a team interested in trading for him. The problem is that benching Jackson can create unforeseen challenges with the Rams’ offense.
Change III: Rams will sit Andrew Whitworth in Week 8 with a sore knee
As soon as Andrew Whitworth was reported suffering from knee aches, the decision was crystal clear. Sit the guy. Of course, since then, the LA Rams traded one player, have another on the bench pending a trade, and now have a second starting sitting in defensive nose tackle Sebastian Joseph Day.
Of all four scenarios, I’m most comfortable with the fact that the Rams will likely start backup offensive tackle, Joseph Noteboom. Will he be as effective in 2021 as he appeared to be in 2020? I certainly hope so. The Rams need a win in Week 8, particularly with the competition stiffening in the upcoming weeks.
Getting playing time for Noteboom now will give the Rams front office enough intel to determine if Noteboom is the natural successor to Whitworth at left tackle, or if the Rams need to make some calls before the deadline to inquire for a new offensive tackle for 2022.
Change IV: Rams will sit Sebastian Joseph Day in Week 8 with an undisclosed chest injury
Nose tackle Sebastian Joseph Day has quietly assembled a very good season for the LA Rams. In just seven games in 2021, he has already matched his career total in quarterback sacks, and the number of defensive tackles is also experiencing a sharp uptick. But this is his contract year, and the LA Rams may not have enough in the kitty to pay the man in 2022.
While he is not ‘there’ yet, backup nose tackle Greg Gaines has been putting on a very impressive display in the past several games. Not just the plays that show up in the stats sheet, but the type of plays that show a lot of hustle on the football field and result in an incompletion on passing downs or little to no gain when running with the football.
With SJD sitting in Week 8, the Rams defensive line rotation will likely rely more heavily upon A’Shawn Robinson and Gaines. The Rams also have two younger defensive linemen in Michael Hoecht and Jonah Williams who have both demonstrated the potential for more playing time.
I enjoy the concept of working younger and deserving players into larger roles throughout the season. But this feels a bit like trying to do too much too soon. If Ernest Jones is trying to take charge of the defense, can you truly assess how effective he is if he is playing behind guys who have not had a significant amount of playing time on the football field themselves?
It seems an awful lot this week as the Rams prepare to play what could prove to be a significantly important game, that the news and the focus have been on everything but what happens on the football field. A little nervous energy is a good thing. But I crossed the ‘little’ line days ago. Hopefully, the Rams will not disappoint this week. But they are heavily favored, are going into this game with a depleted roster, and the Rams are heavily-favored on the road.
Is this the week for Tutu Atwell, Jacob Harris, or some other as-yet unused offensive skill player to debut for the LA Rams offense? I certainly hope so