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Thread: Rams Injuries
This is part of an article by Bill Barnwell that he wrote for Grantland last week about how the Rams are consistantly great at getting injured.
Why can't the Rams ever get a healthy season from their offense?
During their Week 1 loss to the Lions, the Rams' offensive linemen began dropping like flies. Center Scott Wells, signed away from the Packers during free agency, suffered a fractured foot that forced him to be placed on injured reserve and miss the remainder of the season. Left guard Rokevious Watkins, a fifth-round pick who won the starting job as a rookie, suffered an ankle injury that forced him to miss Week 2. And left tackle Rodger Saffold had the scariest injury of all, a stinger that had him down for a long time and caused him to be carted off the field.
Saffold actually recovered well enough to start against the Redskins on Sunday, but he suffered a sprained MCL on a fumble recovery that will cause him to miss a couple of weeks. His replacement was infamous Jets castoff Wayne Hunter, a poor pass protector on the right side who was now stuck playing the more difficult position of left tackle, and even he went down with an injury during the Redskins game. That left the Rams with a third-string left tackle and second-stringers at left guard and center. And they still won!
The weird thing is that this sort of injury stack isn't anything new for the Rams. During my time at Football Outsiders, I developed a metric called Adjusted Games Lost (AGL) that measured how significantly injuries affected a team, specifically focusing on their intended starters. In both 2010 and 2011, the Rams had the least-healthy offense in all of football. They were also the least-healthy offense in 2007, improving to the lofty heights of ranking as the third-most injured offense in 2008 and sixth-most in 2009. With injuries to those four linemen and a groin complaint by Steven Jackson, they're well on their way to topping the charts again in 2012.
What is it about the Rams that makes them so injury-prone? It's hard to tell. Normally, when a team suffers a consistent string of injuries over multiple seasons, I'm inclined to suggest that it's randomness or something about their player acquisition policies that's delivering health risks to the team. (The Colts, as an example, were perennially unhealthy on defense during the Bill Polian era, something likely owing to their philosophy of drafting smaller, faster players.) The Rams have been too hurt for too long, though, and they've rebuilt the roster under both Steve Spagnuolo and now with Jeff Fisher, who perennially had one of the league's healthiest teams in Tennessee.
It's unclear to me why the injuries are consistently occurring, but they're certainly meaningful. Research I conducted with AGL found that about 25 percent of a team's year-to-year change in wins is accounted for by the change in their injury rate. If you're looking for a reason why the Rams have been so downtrodden for years, injuries stand out as an obvious cause. And if the Rams can't stay healthy on the offensive side of the ball during 2012, it's going to be very difficult for them to get out of the NFC West basement.
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