Rob Havenstein’s uncertain status could force Rams to make last-minute game-plan change

The Rams Wire

The Rams were already facing the tall task of beating the Cardinals, who own the best record in football, on Monday night in Arizona. They were listed as underdogs all week, which wasn’t the least bit surprising.

But this matchup got even tougher for Los Angeles when Darrell Henderson Jr., Rob Havenstein and Dont’e Deayon were all placed on the COVID-19 reserve list over the weekend. Henderson landed on it Saturday, while Havenstein and Deayon were added Sunday.

The sudden and likely absence of Havenstein is a major hurdle for the Rams and could cause Sean McVay to make a last-minute change to his game plan.

Assuming Havenstein misses Monday’s game, the Rams will be forced to plug in a backup at right tackle. Logic would tell you Joseph Noteboom is the most probable candidate to replace Havenstein, which takes away a wrinkle within the Rams offense that McVay unleashed last week against the Jaguars.

Noteboom reported as an eligible receiver on nine plays in the win over Jacksonville. The Rams averaged about 9 yards per play on those snaps, gaining a total of 80 yards. Sony Michel averaged 9.8 yards per carry alone when Noteboom reported as eligible, taking full advantage of the extra blocker up front.

If Noteboom has to start at right tackle, he can’t sub in as the sixth offensive lineman like he did so successfully last week. That’s not to say the Rams can’t use Bobby Evans or Tremayne Anchrum as the extra lineman on occasion, but Noteboom is much better suited for that role than those two players are.

There’s also the possibility of starting Evans or Anchrum at right tackle and using Noteboom as the sixth lineman. However, do you really want Evans or Anchrum lining up across from Chandler Jones and Markus Golden 60 times tonight? That’s not exactly a recipe for success.

It’s no coincidence that McVay deployed this new-look offense with heavy packages and 13 personnel one week before facing the Cardinals, who have one of the worst run defenses in football. He was probably getting a feel for how it would look with Noteboom mixing in and Sony Michel pounding the ball up the middle.

It looked great, but he’ll probably be unable to use it again tonight in Arizona because of Havenstein’s expected absence.

So it’ll probably be more of what we’ve already seen throughout the year for the Rams. Straight drop-backs for Matthew Stafford, potentially less play action out of fear of Noteboom/Evans/Anchrum failing to sustain blocks long enough at right tackle and very few heavy packages, if any at all.

The Rams’ best chance to win this game is by running the ball and moving the chains against a defense that has struggled to stop the run all year. But without Havenstein – and not to mention, Brian Allen – that approach might have to change a little bit.

Learning you could be without your starting right tackle 28 hours before kickoff isn’t an easy hurdle for any head coach to clear. And so McVay certainly has his work cut out for him on Monday night.

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