September 21, 2016 at 11:36 am #194020
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The Rams need more help on offense a BIG way. Wide Receivers Pharoh Cooper and training camp phenom Nelson Spruce returned to practice this week. Both may be eligible to play this week against the Buccaneers.
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — It was only a light practice, but it was a welcomed sight nonetheless: E.J. Gaines, Pharoh Cooper and Nelson Spruce, all running around in helmets and cleats.
They could all play on Sunday for the Los Angeles Rams in a Week 3 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from Raymond James Stadium, but none of them really know just yet.
Gaines would be the outside corner, opposite Trumaine Johnson against a dangerous opposing quarterback in Jameis Winston. Cooper would line up as the slot receiver, hoping to jolt an offense that has the NFL’s fewest passing yards through the first two weeks and has yet to score a touchdown. And Spruce might play, too, acting as a sure-handed receiver who can help improve an NFL-low 22.2 conversion rate on third down.
Spruce brought that up himself.
“I’m quarterback friendly,” he said. “And I have sure hands, so in short-yardage situations, when we have to move the chains, I’m useful.”
The Rams targeted Spruce after the draft, were impressed with what they witnessed throughout OTAs and in training camp, then went to him frequently in the preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys, watching him make six catches for 51 yards and a touchdown. But Spruce also sprained his left knee in that game and was given a recovery timeline of four to six weeks. He was never certain he would make the team, until he did.
“It was pretty stressful,” Spruce said. “I had pretty much like a quarter and a half of work, and then in the end I had to just depend on that.”
Cooper didn’t carry that burden. He was the Rams’ fourth-round pick out of South Carolina and had already solidified himself as the No. 3 receiver when games began. Then, in Week 3 of the preseason, against the reigning Super Bowl champs from Denver, Cooper turned in a sensational catch, reaching his left hand in the air to snare a Jared Goff pass on a crossing route.
“When I caught it and I fell down, I knew something was wrong,” Cooper said. “I felt something in my shoulder. It was just kind of, like, stiff. So I came back. Adrenaline was still going, so I didn’t feel it too much. But I felt it a little bit.”
Cooper’s left shoulder continued to bother him as he swung his arms to run. He came out after a handful of plays, woke up the next morning in excruciating pain and thought he would require surgery until a subsequent MRI told him he could rehab the ailment for the next four weeks.
Cooper, who never missed a game due to injury in college, watched the first two regular-season games from the sidelines and thought about how he could help.
“I think I can be a big contributor to this offense,” he concluded, “whether it’s in the slot, outside or special teams.”
Gaines can fill a major void in the secondary, a unit that lost Rodney McLeod and Janoris Jenkins over the offseason.
The Rams used Coty Sensabaugh as the No. 2 cornerback in Week 1 and went primarily to Troy Hill in Week 2. Neither worked out very well. They’ve been waiting on Gaines, who spent all of the 2015 season recovering from foot surgery, then spent training camp dealing with a nagging hamstring and suffered an injury to his left thigh the same night Cooper got hurt. The 24-year-old Gaines believes he would bring some much-needed experience to his position.
He was asked about his anxiety level to return.
“I don’t think I can put it into words, to be honest,” said Gaines, who excelled as the No. 2 corner as a rookie in 2014. “I’m just excited; ready to get back out there and get on the field.”
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