As the confetti settles on the Rams‘ big win, an ominous cloud emerged as news broke that linebacker Justin Hollins will miss 8-10 weeks with a pectoral injury. Justin Hollins had recently emerged as a solid edge rusher opposite Leonard Floyd, finally fulfilling the Rams’ search for a second reliable pass rusher. Through three games he had 12 combined tackles, two sacks, and a QB hit. Sadly the Rams must once again search for someone to help Leonard Floyd as he’s dealing with a nagging ankle injury of his own. What’s also unfortunate is that the Rams don’t have a proven internal option that immediately stands out.
The good news is the Rams got two options available to them in the midst of the Justin Hollins injury. Obo Okoronkwo came off the IR and rookie Chris Garrett came off the Covid list. The bad news is, while Obo has shown flashes over the years and has a deep well of untapped potential, he’s often injured. In theory, he’s the most logical person to rush the passer but he, sadly, can’t be trusted to stay on the field.
Garrett is someone that became a bit of a training camp hero because he was a 7th round pick from a Division II school who against all odds made the team and became part of the rotation. While that’s all well and good, he hasn’t played a regular-season snap yet so everything about him is purely speculative.
If Obo and Garrett aren’t the answer then the Rams’ other internal options are second-year Terrell Lewis and utility player Terrell Burgess. Terrell Lewis finally had a big coming-out moment laying the WOOD on Gronk Sunday against the Bucs. The problem is that if Obo is oft-injured then Terrell Lewis might as well change his name to Elijah Price because he’s made of glass. Lewis missed all of his rookie season with various knee ailments and was encased in bubble wrap and foam all training camp like he was Jake Berman. That hit on Gronk was brutal but fans were not only concerned for Gronk but for Lewis too. There was an immediate sigh of relief when he got up to celebrate his tackle. The Rams can’t rely on Lewis because he’s brittle. He isn’t a starter but someone who can deliver a home run play on defense as part of a rotation.
Burgess is the last resort as he is currently fulfilling the Rams’ role of slot corner and can moonlight as a rusher in limited packages but he’s not going to convert to full-time linebacker like Mark Barron.
So what do the Rams do if their internal options fail to answer the Justin Hollins conundrum? Well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices out there barring a trade. Some have thrown out Dante Fowler or someone of that ilk. The scary thing is the only thing worse than a Dante Fowler impersonator is if the Rams actually go with Dante Fowler.
There is a Jamie Collins trade out there, both because Collins is disgruntled (understandably) with the Lions and the Rams obviously have a good relationship with that front office (thanks again for Stafford and you’re welcome for Brockers and Goff). The Rams freed up a little space and could absorb his $4 million base salary, in theory. The question is whether the Rams would actually want to give up another pick when they’ve lived and died by their late-round picks. There aren’t any other clear trade candidates out there but who knows, Les Snead is a practitioner of the dark arts.
***After the publishing of this piece, Jamie Collins was released by the Lions. Look for the Rams to look into signing him.
Justin Hollins’ loss is a significant one as their defense doesn’t have much depth in their front-seven. Their linebacker rotation is lacking in reliable options so that’s something Raheem Morris and Chris Shula need to sort out, and fast, lest the good feelings of the Rams’ finally being taken seriously as a perennial contender could take a huge hit. Hollins will, in theory, be back in week 14 but there’s no telling what condition the defense will be in by then. Hopefully, the rest of the defense can generate the pressure while the Rams once again figure it out at edge rusher. Here’s to a speedy recovery for Justin Hollins.