Rams receiver Van Jefferson will have surgery on his left knee Tuesday, putting his availability for the Sept. 8 opener against the Buffalo Bills “up in the air,” coach Sean McVay said Monday.
“We’ll see how the surgery goes, and kind of have a better feeling,” McVay said, adding, “This gives us an opportunity to evaluate these other receivers.”
Jefferson underwent surgery on the same knee after the Rams won Super Bowl LVI. But McVay said the “little knee tweak” of the current situation requires “minor surgery” and was unrelated.
“He responded very well from that one,” McVay said of the first surgery. “So it is the same knee but it is a little different area. And it’s a minor thing that we’ll be able to clean up.
“So we’re encouraged.”
Jefferson’s absence plunges one of the NFL’s potentially most potent receiving corps into a series of question marks as the Rams prepare for the Bills, who are regarded as a Super Bowl contender.
Cooper Kupp, the reigning NFL offensive player of the year, and new addition Allen Robinson provide McVay and quarterback Matthew Stafford two elite targets.
But the loss of Jefferson could cut deep.
The third-year pro last season caught 50 passes, six for touchdowns. He also displayed deep-play ability and averaged 16 yards per catch.
Second-year pros Ben Skowronek and Tutu Atwell are in line to replace Jefferson.
Skowronek, a seventh-round draft pick, caught 11 passes for 133 yards last season. He can play numerous receiver positions and also excels on special teams.
Atwell, a second-round pick, is trying to come back from a disappointing rookie season. The 5-foot-9, 165-pound Atwell appeared overmatched and could not find a role as a receiver. He returned kicks for eight games until he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.
During the offseason, Atwell sought guidance from Kupp and worked closely with the All-Pro to improve and gain strength. He made several plays Monday.
McVay also continues to openly court free agent receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to re-sign with the Rams.
Last season, Beckham signed with the Rams after the trade deadline and helped them make their Super Bowl run. He suffered a knee injury in the second quarter of the Super Bowl against the Cincinnati Bengals and has been recovering from surgery.
Beckham is not expected to be ready to play until midseason.
But after McVay listed the receivers on the roster who could benefit from increased opportunity, he could not help adding a rejoinder.
“And then we’ll continue to see if we can continue to figure out when Odell will come back at some point as well,” he said.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.