The Los Angeles Rams are heading into a crucial matchup against the Carolina Panthers and could be getting more help defensively in the secondary.
Cornerback Trumaine Johnson has missed the last two games due to an ankle injury that he suffered late in the fourth quarter of the 30-19 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 9. With extended time off due to a bye week, Johnson appears to be headed in the right direction participating in Thursday's practice on a limited basis.
“He was limited today at practice, but only because we held him back," head coach Jeff Fisher said. "He wanted more – that’ll give you some idea – so that’s encouraging.”
Since committing to a franchise tag with the Rams in the offseason, Johnson has been the team's primary cornerback and performed well in that new role. At the time of the injury, the 26-year-old was playing at a high level leading the league with nine pass deflection along with 25 tackles and one interception.
Johnson's absence has forced the Rams to rely heavily upon undrafted rookie Troy Hill, who is fourth on the team with 34 tackles, and E.J. Gaines, who missed all of last season due to a foot injury. Lamarcus Joyner has also been featured a large role playing the nickel cornerback spot currently ranking third on the team with 41 tackles along with four pass deflections.
That said, Fisher believes that Johnson provides a huge boost to their secondary due to his experience and size being the only cornerback on the team that stands above six feet in height at 6-foot-2 that may bode well against the Panthers' tall receivers with Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen both at 6-foot-5.
“His experience and size factor and the match-up factor," Fisher said. "They’ve got big receivers and they can run, and he’s tall and he can play the ball. I was not, by any means, disappointed in the corner play in London against the Giants. I thought both (CBs) E.J. (Gaines) and Troy (Hill) played winning football in that game.”
Although Johnson has shown progression in his recovery from his injury, the Rams are still uncertain if he will be able to give it go against the Panthers on Sunday afternoon.
“I think he’s following the timeline that was given to us, which is encouraging," Fisher said. "Sometimes that type of injury can set you back a little bit longer, but he’s worked really hard.”
If he remains sidelined for a third straight game, expect the Rams to once again rely on the trio of Hill, Gaines, and Joyner to shoulder the responsibility.