THOUSAND OAKS — Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey described the team’s previous trip to Arizona as weird because he was one of five players placed on the COVID-19 reserve list and ruled out from the “Monday Night Football” matchup.
Ramsey is available to play Sunday against the Cardinals, but the same can’t be said about three of his fellow cornerbacks, giving the team a similar feel as last year in their return to Arizona.
Cornerbacks David Long (groin) and Cobie Durant (hamstring) were officially ruled out on Friday and starting cornerback Troy Hill (groin) was placed on injured reserve earlier this week.
Ramsey, Robert Rochell, a second-year player with only three defensive snaps this season, and Derion Kendrick, a rookie who was inactive the first two games, are expected to form the Rams’ cornerback rotation against Cardinals star quarterback Kyler Murray and his speedy wideouts.
“I still got to be able to do a lot of things for the team,” Ramsey said when asked about his role possibly changing Sunday because of the injuries. “Still got to be able to be versatile, continue to be a leader, help the guys who haven’t played a little bit more. Doesn’t really change it too, too much.”
The Rams’ secondary could also be without safety Jordan Fuller, who was listed on the final injury report as “questionable” with a hamstring injury. The team will not have wide receiver Van Jefferson for the third consecutive game and center Brian Allen for the second consecutive week. Running back Kyren Williams, outside linebacker Daniel Hardy and offensive linemen Logan Bruss and Tremayne Anchrum are also on the Rams’ injured reserve list, and tight end Brycen Hopkins and defensive lineman Bobby Brown are serving suspensions.
Ramsey might again refer to the Arizona trip as weird when he’s reminded of the long list of unavailable players next year.
“Holy, heck,” Rams coach Sean McVay said about the injuries. “I don’t know if we’ve ever quite experienced some of these injuries and situations ever, especially this early. It almost feels like COVID-esque type of things, but it’s never going to be an excuse for us. We’ve got to have guys ready to go, ready to be able to step up.
“It doesn’t seem like it was too long ago where I was addressing the team before we played these guys (the Cardinals) on Monday night and (Head Athletic Trainer) Reggie Scott comes in and says, ‘You’re losing two key critical starters,’ where we had already lost a handful of guys because they ended up popping a positive COVID. It feels similar to that situation with some of the things that have come up, none of which are an excuse for us not to be ready to go.”
To combat the injuries the Rams returned familiar faces in tight end Kendall Blanton and running back Malcolm Brown and surveyed opposing teams’ practice squads to take defensive end Takkarist McKinley and cornerback Shaun Jolly.
The Rams are hurting at several positions, but the biggest adjustments will need to be made by the secondary with inexperienced cornerbacks defending Cardinals receivers Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Greg Dortch, A.J. Green and tight end Zach Ertz.
Kendrick was thrilled to see Durant record an interception and a sack in his defensive debut last week against the Atlanta Falcons.
“It’s your turn, do what you’re going to do,” Kendrick recalled telling Durant after he was told he was replacing Hill on the field.
Now it’s Kendrick’s turn and he’s eager to show that his plays in training camp against Rams receivers Allen Robinson and Cooper Kupp weren’t a fluke.
“Just showing everybody that it wasn’t just a camp thing,” Kendrick said. “This is going on forever, so I’m ready for the opportunity to go against some of the best receivers that have been in this league for a couple of years and I’m going against a great quarterback as well.”
Ramsey said in training camp that it bothered him when the TV broadcast mentioned that the Rams’ secondary wasn’t the same without him on the field against the Cardinals last year. After hearing that, Ramsey elevated his leadership to ensure a drop-off wouldn’t occur again in case of emergencies.
“Yeah, it’s like coming to life basically,” Ramsey said. “Like the way last year went and the way a lot of different guys had to play in the secondary last year because of injuries or COVID-19 or whatever the case may have been, it helped me in my mindset of like trying to help prepare guys and make sure that everybody was ready in our room just in case something like were to happen, injuries or whatever the case may be.
“I feel like we’ve done a good job of that. So, hopefully we go out there Sunday and it shows that we are not really going to miss a beat. Everybody’s ready. It’s a next-man-up type of mentality.”
PRAISE FOR DURANT
Durant, the team’s fourth-round selection this year, won’t play against the Cardinals, but Ramsey has seen enough to say the Rams got it right by drafting the South Carolina State product.
“Yeah, it was a huge play,” Ramsey said of Durant’s 51-yard interception return. “Rams hit on another mid-round draft pick is honestly what was going on in my mind. But that’s what the Rams do, right? Like, that’s what the Rams organization is about.
“Like scouts, they find the good players, the players that are slept on and the coaches and all the leaders on the team helped develop those players and make sure they’re ready to play and make big-time plays like that. It wasn’t surprising to me if I’m being honest, but it was good to see it actually happen in a real game.”
LOVE FOR ODELL
Ramsey mentioned Odell Beckham’s standout performance in Arizona last year and that gave him an opportunity to tell the free-agent wide receiver that he’s wanted back.
“Odell had a great game,” Ramsey said. “Odell, come back.”
Beckham is recovering from the torn ACL he suffered in Super Bowl LVI, but the Rams could use his help this week and for the rest of the season.
McVay shared why the team decided to bring back Brown, who played with the Rams between 2015 to 2020.
“It’s awesome,” McVay said. “He’s a pro’s pro, a guy that I love being around. He’s always kind of embodied a lot of the things that I think are right about the Rams in terms of the accountability, the toughness both mentally and physically, reliability. A true pro’s pro that can compete really at a high level in both phases, whether that’s running the football, whether that’s protecting and being a legitimate receiver out of the backfield. I think he’s a great example in that room.”
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