THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Playing without starting quarterback Jared Goff, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, defensive lineman Michael Brockers and leading rusher Darrell Henderson Jr. against the Cardinals?
Not a problem, say their Rams teammates and coaches.
While their presence on Sunday will be missed due to a right thumb injury (Goff), being placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list (Kupp and Brockers) and injured reserve (Henderson), there's confidence in those tasked with filling their roles.
"I think the thing that's unfortunate is that guys like Michael and Cooper that are on the COVID list, that have really done everything right – that's what you just realize, that some of these things are out of your control," Rams head coach Sean McVay said during a video conference Thursday. "There are certain things that, not with those two, but maybe people have made decisions that are putting themselves at risk, but both of those guys have epitomized handling things the right way. That's what's really just unfortunate in such a big game and they're two key leaders, but they've been kind of involved from afar and I think their leadership, in their rooms and really with our team in general, has made us feel confident that the next people that will step up will do a nice job, really because of the way they pour into their teammates."
Without Goff, John Wolford will step in and make his first NFL start.
Without Kupp, McVay said it's "possible" Los Angeles could involve its tight ends more on Sunday, but the flexibility of their other top receivers will still allow them to adapt.
"When Cooper went out a couple years ago, you saw Robert Woods be able to have some position flex, Josh Reynolds can play either spot and then, the confidence in Van Jefferson is a good thing," McVay said. "You're never going to replace a player of Cooper's caliber, but we do have capable guys to be able to step in and move around accordingly."
At running back, rookie Cam Akers (ankle) is a game-time decision. Depending on Akers' availability, that could potentially put Malcolm Brown in the lead job on Sunday with rookie Xavier Jones in line for a bigger role.
"Oh man, Xavier, he'll be ready, man," Brown said during a video conference Monday. "He's a guy that's real shifty one-on-one. If it's one-on-one, you can bet on him making a guy miss. That's the type of (skillset) that he brings to the table."
Defensive lineman Aaron Donald said that Michael Brockers is someone "you definitely want out there," but it's up to the rest of the defense "to hold it down while he's gone." Morgan Fox – who has tallied a career-high five sacks and, at 18 total tackles, is one-shy of matching his single-season career high in that category – is expected to step up with Brockers out.
"We know that Fox is going to step up and continue to play at a high level, like you've been doing all year," Donald said. "As far as what we expect is still high expectations from Fox and we know he's going to fill the shoes and do what he got to do as far as being productive and helping us win this game."
The Los Angeles Rams were out on the practice field on Thursday for the final regular season practice of 2020. Check out some top shots from Thursday's prep for the Cardinals!