The Los Angeles Rams are sitting several players on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers as they prepare for their wild card matchup the following week. We can add a new name to the list. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp was listed as questionable Friday afternoon, but the team has ruled him out for the game. He did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday due to a knee injury, and was limited on Friday.
Kupp and linebacker Mark Barron are the only two players on the final injury report, but there will be quite a few healthy scratches. The team is expected to sit quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley, offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, center John Sullivan, and defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan acknowledged disappointment that the Rams will not be sending out their best players. He was on KNBR Friday morning and talked about the Rams decision.
“Yea, definitely. I definitely wish they were playing their guys. It was nice when we started this three weeks ago, to play three teams in a row that were playing for playoff berths, and we had a goal to kind of treat it like our own time, trying to get to the playoffs — hoping that we’re in this situation next year. We were able to get those first two down, and looking forward to this third one hoping they were playing for a lot.
“We understand they’re not, and we’re a little disappointed they don’t have all their guys out there, but that’s not gonna change anything for us. We’re gonna go out and be the exact same, whether they’re playing or they’re not. They’ve got a bunch of good guys, I know guys like Aaron Donald and Gurley and people like that — it definitely helps that they won’t be playing, but I know they’ve got a number of other guys on that roster.
“One thing that people don’t realize, you only get to dress so many people on game day. So, I don’t care how many people you try and sit. You can’t not sit that many, as you don’t have enough people on your roster, and I’m sure they’ll probably get about three guys on each side of the ball. But, the way our rosters work, it’s pretty hard to sit a number of guys.”
I chatted with the Turf Show Times crew this week, and one thing I wanted to find out was how they felt about the decision to rest players. They generally seem fine with it given the context of the Rams situation.
I think first and foremost if you in a position of luxury where you can afford to sit guys out of precaution and still have the same home-field advantage, you have to do it. There's just very little to gain by winning on Sunday and to do so at the risk of losing a key player to injury just doesn't make sense to me.
The Rams have placed four players on IR in the last two weeks: CB Kayvon Webster, OLB Matt Longacre, S Marqui Christian and K Greg Zuerlein. Losing your CB2 is always a tough one, but the Rams are so solid elsewhere in the secondary, they can paper over that one. Depth like Longacre and Christian is often the glue that holds teams together, but every NFL team has to work with losing guys like that. The Zuerlein injury hurts, though. He was on pace for the NFL scoring record and was automatic within 50 and gave you the option of kicking field goals from the high 60s. His replacement missed an XP and a 36-yard field goal.
So I think if you remind fans of the injuries recently and ask if it's worth risking that with QB Jared Goff, RB Todd Gurley, LT Andrew Whitworth or DL Aaron Donald, you'll get a pretty consistent reply.
The Rams will have quite a few new started in place on Sunday. We know some of the names, but we’ll see some players on Sunday that even Rams fans don’t know a ton about. TST offered up some of those names.
Backup QB Sean Mannion's an interesting one since Rams fans hardly recognize him as well. The Rams took him in the third round in the 2015 NFL Draft to shore up the position in the post-Sam Bradford landscape. With Nick Foles coming in via the Bradford trade and Case Keenum shipped over for a 7th-round pick, many thought Mannion would win the job over the long haul. Instead, Foles got the early nod, Keenum replaced him late in the season and then the Rams made the blockbuster trade to get the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft for Jared Goff, who himself had to wait for the reins from Keenum. As such, Mannion has played just 60 snaps in his three professional seasons. He'll be a free agent after next year, and I'm not sure anyone has a real grasp for what kind of QB he can be other than the kind that Eric Dickerson clamors for after the horrorscape of a Jeff Fisher offense.
There's also some intrigue with the wide receiver depth. The Rams have drafted four receivers in the last two years and only rookie WR Cooper Kupp has been a mainstay on offense. Of the other three (WR Pharoh Cooper, WR Mike Thomas and WR Josh Reynolds), there's certainly room on the depth chart moving forward should any emerge as legitimate options. Reynolds has the nod as of now, but Cooper's athleticism has him in line to head to the Pro Bowl as a return specialist. The door's open nonetheless.
And I'm particularly interested in OLB Samson Ebukam. He's a fourth-round rookie out of Eastern Washington (Kupp's alma mater as well) who was late to football and will need some time to acclimate to NFL game speed as many small school players do. But the Rams don't have a great pass rushing depth chart right now. Ebukam has slowly seen his playing time rise over the course of the season, so I wouldn't be surprised if he's heavy in the mix on Sunday.
And in case you’re wondering, the 49ers have no plans on resting any players. Shanahan was specifically asked if C.J. Beathard might get some snaps. He said they will treat this like any other game.