LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams' injury luck had been largely excellent during the first five years of coach Sean McVay's career.
His sixth season has been a prolonged test of the Rams' ability to persevere through a run of poor health at key positions.
They're meeting the challenge so far, even if they don't look like championship contenders just yet.
The defending Super Bowl champions are 3-3 heading into their bye week despite playing the season to date with a patchwork offensive line and a sketchy secondary. The loss of left tackle Joseph Noteboom to a season-ending torn Achilles tendon Sunday didn't stop Los Angeles from beating Carolina 24-10 to snap a two-game skid.
“Great job by our group finding a way to get it done,” McVay said. “Another example of being able to overcome adversity, whether it was injuries, or really putting ourselves in a hole.”
The Rams already were without starting left guard David Edwards (concussion), starting center Brian Allen (knee) and starting right guard Coleman Shelton (knee). They lost rookie guard Logan Bruss for the season in training camp, and they even lost backup guard Tremayne Anchrum on his first play as Shelton’s replacement at right guard.
Los Angeles has a share of the NFC West lead despite all of its problems, and reinforcements are on the way. McVay said Monday that Allen is expected to return when the Rams come back from their bye to host San Francisco on Oct. 30.
Allen won't be alone, either: The Rams expect injured defensive backs Troy Hill and Cobie Durant, injured receiver Van Jefferson and suspended defensive lineman Bobby Brown all to be available for their next game. Hill and Durant both got hurt early in the season, while Jefferson hasn't played since having knee surgery in training camp.
Not just injuries are eating into the Rams' depth: McVay confirmed the team is trying to trade running back Cam Akers, its highest draft pick in the past five years, after he apparently clashed with the coaching staff for undisclosed reasons. McVay said Akers “probably” will be leaving after just 19 games with the Rams, including the Super Bowl.
“There is a possibility that we could try to help him look for a fresh new start with a new team," McVay said. "That’s something we’ve explored. If that doesn’t come to fruition, then we’ll figure out a solution how to best move forward with him here.”
All-Pro defensive back Jalen Ramsey is having another elite season, and he even has sacks in back-to-back games after playing his entire career without a sack before that. Ramsey's hard-hitting play and his leadership are keeping the Rams' defense competitive despite untested or underachieving players all around him in the secondary.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Rams' rushing offense remains ineffective with just 70.5 yards per game, the second-fewest in the league. Akers wasn't performing impressively even before he fell out with the coaching staff, and Darrell Henderson hasn't been effective, either. Les Snead is the boldest general manager in the league, and he's undoubtedly sizing up the possibilities for a new ball-carrier during the bye.
Alaric Jackson was an undrafted free agent signee last season who barely played as a rookie. He took over at right guard in Week 2 after Allen's injury forced Shelton to move to center. Jackson did a serviceable job, but the longtime Iowa left tackle looked even better when he got to play his natural position Sunday after Noteboom's injury. He might be good enough to persuade the Rams to move forward with him protecting Stafford's blind side.
Tight end Tyler Higbee didn't factor into the Rams' game plan much, recording season lows of one catch on two targets. His blocking wasn't graded particularly well, either. It's likely no more than a blip for a key component of LA's offense.
The Rams also lost backup DB Grant Haley to a sprained knee ligament Sunday that's expected to sideline him for at least a month. ... NT Greg Gaines only played 12 snaps against Carolina because of shoulder soreness, but McVay doesn't think it's a major injury.
5 — A season high in receptions for Allen Robinson, the Rams' previously underwhelming free-agent acquisition. Los Angeles' decision to dump Robert Woods for Robinson looks dubious so far, but Robinson finally got six targets from Stafford and responded with a season-high 63 yards and a TD on a fade route.
Ramsey said the early bye week is a fortunate break for the Rams because of their injury woes. But it also gives them an extra week to think about the Niners: San Francisco has won seven consecutive regular-season meetings with LA, dominating this NFC West rivalry.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL