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Five things to watch after the Rams bye week

The Rams have 11 games games left following a Week 7 bye.

As they begin preparation for Week 8 against the 49ers and the remainder of the regular season, identifies five storylines for fans to watch.

1) Reinforcements on the way

In positive injury news, wide receiver Van Jefferson, center Brian Allen, defensive back Troy Hill and defensive lineman Bobby Brown III all returned to practice this week.

While the Rams will take things a day at time with Jefferson and Hill, according to head coach Sean McVay, the expectation is for them to be able to contribute immediately. McVay said "yes" when asked directly on Monday if Allen will be back this week.

Jefferson and Allen's returns should provide a boost to Los Angeles' offense. Jefferson, who established himself as vertical threat in the passing game last season (50 catches, 802 yards, six touchdowns in 17 regular season games), should help open things up downfield. Allen's rapport with quarterback Matthew Stafford can't be discounted, either.

Hill's veteran presence – and ability to create takeaways, as seen with his interception this season – will no doubt help the secondary.

As for Brown, McVay said they're still figuring out his availability for Sunday's game against the 49ers.

2) What comes next with running back Cam Akers

McVay confirmed last week the Rams were exploring trading Akers, but didn't rule out Akers potentially returning to the team, either. McVay effectively echoed those comments again Monday, telling reporters the Rams have had dialogue with other teams about Akers, and also spoken with Akers and his agent, but are still keeping the option of returning to the team open.

"There's definitely still an option for him to come back," McVay said. "Kind of like what you guys had asked me before we went on a little break. Always open-minded. We're looking into the possibility of moving him to another team, but that does not mean that that's the only thing that we're exploring. So we're open to a couple different things, as far as having some clarity and finality to this scenario and situation as it relates to Cam."

The trade deadline is Nov. 1 at 1 p.m. pacific time. Akers has 51 carries for 151 yards and one touchdown across five games this season.

3) Monitoring the offensive line

Allen is returning, and McVay also said Alaric Jackson will remain the Rams' full-time left tackle the rest of the season in wake of Noteboom's injury. However, the Rams are continuing to evaluate the right guard position.

Right tackle Rob Havenstein said postgame in Week 6 that Oday Aboushi at right guard gave the group much-needed communication, and McVay likewise praised Aboushi's experience and understanding even though Aboushi doesn't have a lot of experience in regards to some of the things the Rams are asking of him. Veteran Matt Skura, who was signed from the practice squad to the active roster on Oct. 11, primarily has played center but has played both guard positions as well (left guard last season for the Giants; right guard for the Ravens in 2017).

Los Angeles has started six different offensive line combinations in six weeks so far.

4) Multiple tests for pass-rush ahead

There will be several formidable tests for the Rams' defensive front the rest of the way, having to face Tom Brady in Tampa Bay, Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City, Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, then back-to-back games against Russell Wilson and Justin Herbert in Los Angeles over the final 11 regular season games.

Of course, Kyler Murray can't be ignored, even with how well the Rams defended him in the first matchup against the Cardinals this season. Nor should Geno Smith with how well he's been operating the Seahawks offense this year.

5) Mostly balanced remaining schedule

The Rams will only travel outside Los Angeles five times over the next 11 weeks (Week 17 against the Chargers is a road game, but at SoFi Stadium), which should be beneficial. Overall, they'll have only one back-to-back stretch of true road games over the remainder of the season.

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