Posted on August 2, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine

Los Angeles Rams Dominique Easley

Image via latimes.com

The Los Angeles Rams have been hit by a preseason injury that could be devastating for their defensive line. Multiple sources confirmed Wednesday afternoon that defensive end Dominique Easley has suffered a torn ACL. The injury will cause him to miss the entire 2017 season.

Easley suffered the injury during practice on Tuesday. He was carted off the field and underwent an MRI on the injured knee Tuesday night. The results of the MRI confirmed the torn ACL, a potentially devastating blow for the Rams, who were expecting Easley to be a starter on the defensive line this year.

Unfortunately, injuries have been a theme for Easley throughout his career, dating back to his college days at Florida. He tore an ACL late in his sophomore season but recovered and was able to play 11 games the following season. He then tore an ACL for the second time in late September during his senior season.

Easley was then drafted in the first round by the New England Patriots, but continued to struggle with injuries. He ended each of his first two seasons in the NFL on injured reserve. In April 2016, the Patriots released him after just two years in the league. Easley caught on with the Rams and ended up playing in all 16 games for Los Angeles last season, accumulating 3.5 sacks.

The loss of Easley to injury potentially leaves the Rams without either of their starting defensive ends. Defensive end Aaron Donald continues to hold out with the team’s first preseason game 10 days away. He and Easley were expected to start alongside Michael Brockers on the team’s three-man defensive front.

“I think when you’re talking about two very good players that are potentially unavailable, that’s a concerning thing,” first year Rams head coach Sean McVay said after Tuesday’s practice before learning the severity of Easley’s injury. “We’ve got guys that need to be ready to step up, and that’s why you’ve got a 90-man roster right now. Gives guys the opportunity in their absence.”

Players like Ethan Westbrooks, Matt Longacre, Morgan Fox, Mike Purcell, and Tanzel Smart began training camp as backups but may find themselves with an opportunity to fight for a starting spot with Easley unavailable and Donald’s status up in the air. However, none of those players are household names and all figure to be a significant step down from Easley and Donald.

“We would love for Aaron to be here and we’d love for Dominique to get a good report where he is healthy,” McVay said Tuesday. “But if that is not the situation then we have to be ready to react accordingly.”

The injury to Easley may not have a huge impact on the team’s negotiations with Donald over a new contract. But it would seem to put a little more pressure on the Rams to workout the contract dispute and get him to training camp as soon as possible.

If there’s a silver lining to Easley’s injury, it’s that it does give the Rams more than a month before the start of the regular season to figure out their defensive line. If the team’s internal candidates don’t step up, there may be time for the Rams to explore a trade for defensive line help, especially if Donald doesn’t end his hold out in the immediate future.

As for Easley, he now has to recover from an ACL tear for the third time in his career. The injury must be particularly frustrating for him after he showed signs of staying healthy and being a productive player in 2016. There are also few examples of players who suffered three separate ACL tears and went on to have productive careers in the NFL. Once again, it could be a long road back from injury for Easley.

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