THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Linebacker Travin Howard will miss the upcoming season after tearing the meniscus in his knee, sidelining a probable starter for the Los Angeles Rams.
Rams coach Sean McVay announced Tuesday that Howard will need surgery.
“It's really unfortunate for a guy that's put in a lot of work, put himself in position to be a huge impact player for us,” McVay said. “We have total trust that he'll come back stronger and continue to be a big part of our organization moving forward.”
McVay also said the Rams are “not looking outside” the organization for additions at inside linebacker, where the team is quite inexperienced. Micah Kiser, Troy Reeder and Kenny Young are Los Angeles’ top remaining inside linebackers.
Howard was a seventh-round pick in 2018 out of TCU. He didn't suit up for the Rams until last season, when he led the team in special teams tackles while getting 102 snaps on defense.
Because of his athleticism and his play on special teams and in practice, Howard was expected to join Kiser as the Rams' two new starters at inside linebacker this season. Instead, Howard noticed the injury during practice last week, and an examination revealed the torn meniscus.
“It's a big loss because of how well he had been playing, and I feel terrible for him,” McVay said.
Los Angeles' defense has undergone major changes since McVay replaced coordinator Wade Phillips with Brandon Staley in the offseason, and the personnel shuffle has left the Rams with an experience deficit at linebacker.
The Rams lost Cory Littleton to Las Vegas in free agency after he started every game and led the team in tackles. Los Angeles shuffled several players through the other starting spot at inside linebacker last season after losing Kiser, who was expected to start before he tore his pectoral muscle during a preseason game and missed the entire year.
McVay said he is happy with the Rams' depth at the position, although the group was quite inexperienced even with Howard available.
Kiser has never played a defensive snap in a regular-season game, while Reeder got only 298 snaps as a rookie last season. Young played nearly 36% of the Baltimore Ravens' defensive snaps as a rookie in 2018, but the UCLA product played exclusively on special teams for the Rams last season after they acquired him in a trade for cornerback Marcus Peters.
The Rams drafted inside linebacker Clay Johnston in the seventh round last spring, and they signed CFL veteran Derrick Moncrief last week.
“Those guys have done a nice job,” McVay said. “We're going to ask some younger guys to step up. You just hate it for T-Howard, but it does present an opportunity for some other guys to see if they're capable and fill the void.”
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