The Rams didn’t land star running back Christian McCaffrey during their bye week, but they did see the return of many familiar faces to practice, including wide receiver Van Jefferson, center Brian Allen and cornerback Troy Hill.
Rams coach Sean McVay’s initial reaction to McCaffrey being traded to the San Francisco 49ers last week was: “Oh, (bleep). … They get another great player.”
The Rams were reportedly the other team that had trade talks with the Carolina Panthers for McCaffrey. The 49ers took a page from Rams GM Les Snead’s playbook and went all in for McCaffrey by sending four draft picks, including next year’s second- and third-round selections, to Carolina and absorbed the $36.6 million left on McCaffrey’s deal that runs through 2025.
Many teams wouldn’t pay that price for a running back because of the long-term ramifications, but the 49ers made the move to win now and the Rams can certainly respect that after hoisting the Lombardi Trophy last season with quarterback Matthew Stafford, cornerback Jalen Ramsey and edge rusher Von Miller – three players who arrived in Los Angeles after bold trades by the Rams.
The Rams tried to continue that aggressiveness, but their NFC West rivals wanted McCaffrey more. Now the Rams (3-3) will face the 49ers (3-4) and their new offensive weapon on Sunday at SoFi Stadium. The Rams defeated McCaffrey and the Panthers before the bye week but fell to the 49ers before they acquired McCaffery in Week 4. The 49ers lost to Kansas City, 44-23, on Sunday in their first game with McCaffrey.
“I think he’s a phenomenal player,” McVay said of McCaffrey. “Obviously, we saw him recently. I’ve always had respect for his game and the versatility. I think that’s your first inclination, and then you know what a great job (49ers coach) Kyle (Shanahan) and his staff do of maximizing and utilizing versatile offensive weapons. That was my first reaction.
“Then as a competitor, you say, ‘Hey, they got him.’ We’ve gotta be able to move forward accordingly and it just so happens that they’re on the schedule this week.”
The bye week came at the right time for the injury-riddled Rams, who announced Monday that linebacker Travin Howard, Jefferson and Hill were designated for return from injured reserve. Center Brian Allen and defensive lineman Bobby Brown also returned to practice. McVay hinted that Jefferson, Hill and Allen will likely be available to play against the 49ers – three players who weren’t on the field for the ugly “Monday Night Football” loss in Santa Clara.
McVay said Jefferson, who missed the first six games of the season with a knee injury, will give his offense a big-play threat.
“The overall productivity,” McVay said about what he missed the most from Jefferson. “Obviously, he brings a big-play element, but I think Van is a complete receiver. I think he showed that with the way he was progressing, really throughout last year and especially where he was at in training camp.”
The Rams struggled to generate explosive plays before the bye week and that was partly because of the injuries on the offensive line. Allen is on track to play in his first game Sunday since injuring his knee in the season opener against the Buffalo Bills.
If Allen returns, he’ll snap the ball to Stafford with a different offensive line combination compared to Week 1. Alaric Jackson, the backup who filled in at right guard, will be the starting left tackle moving forward, according to McVay. Jackson replaced Joe Noteboom, who ruptured his Achilles tendon against the Panthers.
McVay said he was pleased with Oday Aboushi’s performance at right guard against the Panthers, but he hasn’t decided whether he’ll keep the role against the 49ers. If Aboushi plays, the Rams could have a starting offensive line of Jackson, left guard Bobby Evans, Allen, Aboushi and right tackle Rob Havenstein.
The Rams’ offensive line struggled versus edge rusher Nick Bosa and the rest of the 49ers’ vaunted defense the last time the NFC West foes played each other. The Rams will have reinforcements for Round 2, but none of them will be named McCaffrey.
LATEST UPDATE ON AKERS
McVay mentioned that the team has had talks with other teams about potential trades involving running back Cam Akers.
“We’ve been in dialogue with some different teams,” McVay said. “Talked to Cam and talked to (agent) David Mulugheta and we’re just taking that a day at a time. There’s no new updates and, obviously, we’ll continue to work toward having more clarity, but as of right now, he’s on our team, he’s on our roster and we’re taking that a day at a time.”
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Akers was sent home by McVay for “in-house” reasons before the bye week and missed the game against the Panthers. McVay said there’s a chance Akers could practice with the team this week and didn’t rule out a possible return to the team, but he said it’s unlikely he’ll play for the Rams on Sunday.
“There’s still definitely an option for him to come back,” McVay said. “Always open-minded. We’re looking into the possibility of moving him to another team, but that does not mean 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 some finality to this scenario.”
KYREN NOT READY
McVay said the team is probably still a week away from discussing a possible return for rookie running back Kyren Williams, who went on injured reserve after injuring his ankle in Week 1 against the Bills.
Without Akers and Williams, Darrell Henderson will likely be the lead running back versus the 49ers with Malcolm Brown and Ronnie Rivers also getting carries.