As injuries mount, meet the newest Rams … who used to be Rams
As they prepare for their NFC West opener against the Arizona Cardinals, the Rams on Thursday continued making moves to fortify a roster depleted by injuries and a suspension.
A day after signing edge rusher Takkarist McKinley, the Rams signed tight end Kendall Blanton and defensive back Shaun Jolly to the roster and veteran running back Malcolm Brown to the practice squad.
Blanton and Brown have history with the Rams. Brown played for the team from 2015 to 2020, and Blanton from 2019 to 2021.
“Just excited to be back in this culture, this organization that I had been in for so long,” Brown said. “Excitement is the only word.”
The Rams suffered a rash of injuries before and during their 31-27 victory over the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday.
Edge rusher Leonard Floyd played through a knee issue. Offensive lineman Tremayne Anchrum suffered a season-ending ankle injury and cornerback Troy Hill was put on injured reserve because of a groin injury.
Rookie cornerback Cobie Durant and fourth-year cornerback David Long suffered hamstring and groin injuries, respectively. And on Wednesday, the NFL suspended tight end Brycen Hopkins for three games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
The Rams signed McKinley off the Tennessee Titans practice squad, reuniting the former first-round draft pick from UCLA with defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, who coached him with the Atlanta Falcons.
In 2017, the Falcons selected McKinley 26th overall in the draft. The Falcons declined to exercise their fifth-year option, however, after McKinley generated 16½ sacks in his first three seasons. In his final season with the Falcons, he had one sack in four games before he was released at midseason.
McKinley, 26, played last season for the Cleveland Browns, and had two-and-a-half sacks in 11 games before suffering an Achilles injury.
Ten months later, he practiced for the first time as a Ram.
“It’s been a hell of journey, just to get back on the field, just to get to this point and just to be able to be back in an NFL locker room,” McKinley said, adding, “I’m just here to help however I can.”
Though Morris described his background with McKinley as “rocky” at times, he said they “always remained fairly close.” Morris said he never lost contact or a connection with player he counseled on and off the field.
“He’s a guy that I know can help us in a pass rush,” Morris said, “and he’s a guy that I think deserves a second chance.”
McKinley said he had a “closer than close” relationship with Morris.
“I’m thankful that we kept contact throughout the years, not even just on a football level, just on a personal level,” McKinley said. “He helped me out with things, being a father, just life.
“So, I’m forever grateful to coach Raheem.”
Blanton, 26, was a key player for the Rams during last season’s Super Bowl run. He caught seven passes for 75 yards and a touchdown in the playoffs before suffering a shoulder injury in the Super Bowl victory over the Cincinnati Bengals — an opportunity that opened the door for Hopkins.
In August, when the roster was trimmed to 53 players, the Rams cut Blanton. The Washington Commanders claimed him off waivers but later released him. Blanton signed with the Chiefs.
“He obviously knows the offense,” Rams tight end Tyler Higbee said. “So, he can get here and be ready to go without having a big learning curve. Excited to have him back.”
Brown, 29, signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2015 and was a solid backup to Todd Gurley and others for six seasons.
In 2020, Brown rushed for 419 yards and five touchdowns in 101 carries.
Before last season, he signed with the Miami Dolphins. Brown gained 125 yards and scored a touchdown in 33 carries in seven games before he suffered a quadriceps injury.
Brown is once again the elder in a running back position group that includes Darrell Henderson and Cam Akers.
“Malcolm is a pro’s pro,” offensive coordinator Liam Coen said. “Just does everything the right way, both on and off the field. He’ll be a great example for a ton of our younger players.”
Veteran defensive lineman Aaron Donald is happy to have Brown back on the team.
“He’s just a guy that understands what we’re doing here,” Donald said. “Been here, knows the environment. So, adding him back to the mix is going to be great.”
The Rams signed Jolly off the Cleveland Browns practice squad. He intercepted six passes in four seasons at Appalachian State.
Durant, Long and receiver Van Jefferson (knee) did not practice, according to the Rams injury report. Safety Jordan Fuller (hamstring) was limited. … The Rams waived linebacker Kier Thomas and running back Trey Ragas.