Right tackle Rodger Saffold will miss his second straight game with a knee sprain. Defensive end William Hayes suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury against the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday. Both players are valuable members of the team, and their presence will be missed in Thursday's critical battle with the 49ers.
Saffold moved to right tackle after the Rams signed former Miami Dolphins left tackle Jake Long in the offseason. He picked up his new position well, and the Rams didn't give up a sack when he was on the field during the first two games of the season. With Saffold out of the lineup in Week 3, the Rams offensive line gave up six sacks and struggled to open up holes for the team's running backs.
It's easy to take Saffold for granted. He's missed a lot of time due to injuries over the past couple of years. However, it's clear that the offensive line works much better when he is in the lineup. Right tackle Joe Barksdale has done an admirable job as a backup, but he and the rest of the line were clearly outmatched by the Cowboys. The 49ers defense has multiple playmakers in its front seven, and it's fair to say that the Rams' hobbled offensive line will have its hands full once again.
Hayes is one of the main reasons for the emergence of the Rams defensive line over the past two years. The team tied for first in the NFL last season with 52 sacks, and Hayes deserves much of the credit for that accomplishment. The Rams successfully used him in a defensive line rotation that includes starters Michael Brockers, Kendall Langford, Chris Long and Robert Quinn.
The word "rotation" is the key here for the Rams. The team's pass rush succeeds by keeping the defensive line fresh into the fourth quarter. The Rams will have to find a way to keep their defensive front ready to go with Hayes on the bench, and that may be a tough task with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and running back Frank Gore lining up against them.
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