The Rams are placing third-year wide receiver Van Jefferson on injured reserve as he continues to work his way back from offseason knee surgery that’s kept him mostly on the sideline. The move has raised questions as outsiders become less-and-less clear on the true status of Jefferson.
Jefferson had a breakout year during his sophomore season, starting every game while reeling in 50 passes for 802 yards and six touchdowns after only amassing 220 yards in his rookie year. Jefferson was second in receiving yards and touchdowns for the Super Bowl LVI champions.
The receiving corps has looked quite different to begin this year without four of last year’s six receivers. DeSean Jackson was released midseason last year by request, Robert Woods was traded to the Titans for a sixth-round pick, and Odell Beckham Jr. remains a free agent after tearing his ACL in the NFL’s season finale. With those three gone, Cooper Kupp, Jefferson, and Ben Skowronek were the only returning receivers from last year. Luckily for the Rams, Kupp, last year’s Offensive Player of the Year, has been his usual self, averaging 118 receiving yards per game in the first two weeks of the season.
The frustration from those following Jefferson’s injury stems from continuous statements from head coach Sean McVay that Jefferson has been “week-to-week” since the start of the season. This has kept optimism alive that Jefferson could return any week or game. But waiting until Week 3 of the season to place Jefferson on IR ensures that he will miss the next five weeks (four games and a bye week), dousing any lingering threads of weekly optimism. If Los Angeles had any idea that Jefferson would be out long-term, it could’ve placed Jefferson on IR far earlier, allowing him to come back as soon as he’s ready, as opposed to now being without their No. 2 wide receiver until the end of October.
In Jefferson’s absence, Stafford has relied on Kupp, tight end Tyler Higbee, free agent addition Allen Robinson, and Skowronek as his top targets. They haven’t been utilized much, but Brandon Powell, Tutu Atwell, and undrafted rookie Lance McCutcheon have served as backup receivers so far this year.
To fill Jefferson’s spot on the active roster, cornerback Grant Haley has been signed to the active roster from the practice squad. The Rams brought back linebacker Keir Thomas to fill Haley’s spot on the practice squad. Wide receiver Jacob Harris has also been called to action as a standard gameday elevation from the practice squad. Harris missed the back half of his rookie season last year after suffering ACL and MCL injuries and made the shift from tight end to receiver.