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Alexander Looking For Encore
Alexander Looking for Encore
By Nick Wagoner/Senior Writer
Playing in his first football game since the Houston Bowl last December, Danario Alexander had plenty of butterflies last week against San Diego.
After catching a quick, 5-yard slant for his first NFL grab and taking his first NFL hit from Chargers safety Eric Weddle, those butterflies went away and Alexander was back in the groove.
But though he was happy when he woke up Monday morning, he also had plenty of soreness in his four-time surgically repaired knee.
“I was kind of sore,” Alexander said. “I hadn’t been tackled since my last bowl game last December so the soreness is going to come but I felt pretty good in practice out there.”
After a scintillating debut in which he hauled in four catches for 72 yards with a diving 38-yard touchdown grab as the top highlight, Alexander was greeted by what he estimates at more than 70 congratulatory text messages and calls.
While Alexander acknowledged that all of those messages were meaningful and appreciated, he also said the ones from Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and other members of his staff excited him most.
“I got a lot of text messages from my coaches back at Mizzou and I was pretty excited about that,” Alexander said. “It has been a pretty tough road. I spent a lot of time with those trainers down at Mizzou and guys up here have helped me to get to where I am at right now.”
The question now is how Alexander builds on his impressive debut. The humble and reserved Alexander was reminded quickly by coach Steve Spagnuolo that there’s a long way to go to become the type of player who can make plays on a consistent basis.
“Well what I’m going to hit him with is, ‘Don’t get a big head.’ That’s what I’m going to hit him with,” Spagnuolo said. “‘I mean, Danario, it’s one game. You made a couple of big catches, big deal.’ I probably will say that to him. But I mean he’s got to keep it all in perspective. We’ve got a long way to go. In this league we’ve seen guys have great games one week, and then etcetera, etcetera. So I will remind him that we have a long way to go. I’m very proud of him. I’m proud of the fact that he fought through an injury way back and I know what he went through. It’s been a hard road for him to get to this point. I’m proud of him, happy for him.”
The challenge this week is for Alexander to build on his big debut and find a way to keep it rolling.
Last week, Alexander was moved up from the practice squad to the active roster and had just three days of practice to get up to speed. The Rams limited his reps in the game because of his short preparation time and uncertainty about how much of a workload he could handle between the plays they had in the game plan for him in addition to his special teams work.
“We are going to try to use him in a way that fits his skill and ability,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “He obviously showed up very well last Sunday and we are expecting that he can make some plays again this week.”
Quarterback Sam Bradford clearly would like to have Alexander at his disposal more often.
“I think his role will continue to expand,” Bradford said. “I think we have a great group of receivers, especially when you throw him in the mix. I think you add some size and some speed for us. But I think it’s all up to him. I think as long as he continues to improve and continues to grasp what we’re doing on offense, then I don’t see any reasons why the coaches wouldn’t start throwing more at him.”
If nothing else, Alexander’s performance last week earned him more trust from the coaches and that will likely translate to more action for him this week.
“Of course,” Alexander said. “You go out and make plays and the coaches will be more confident in you and if you know your material. I did a pretty good job last week and I am ready to move on to this week.”
As for the knee soreness that bothered him early this week, Alexander says that’s probably a fact of life that he’s just going to have to deal with every week.
“I probably expect that,” Alexander said. “Just to get back into the groove of it, of the league. It’s a pretty tough and physical game and I have got to get used to it.”
IN A SNAP: Rams center Jason Brown has been one of the team’s most consistent performers since coming to St. Louis last season. So it came as a surprise when he misfired on a pair of shotgun snaps against the Chargers last week.
Brown said Wednesday that the missed snaps were simply a matter of miscommunication and recognition.
“When a center thinks that the quarterback is under center and the quarterback is not, that’s when you see the ball go at a projectile,” Brown said. “It’s going to shoot out like an egg. I’m sure you have seen that before. A lot of times I will look between my legs just to double check and make sure because it gets loud out there sometimes. It’s just a mistake that can be corrected and shouldn’t happen. We’re working to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Brown said Bradford has “soft hands” which sometimes makes it hard for him to recognize if Bradford is under center. And when the play clock is running down as it was in the two instances Sunday, it can be hard to find time to go through pre-snap checks and take the time to look back to see if the quarterback is in the shotgun.
“There was a game earlier this year where I happened with another team and the commentators, I don’t think they knew what happened,” Brown said. “But me being a center, I knew exactly what that is and I’m sure you’ll see it again in some other games where the center thinks that the quarterback is under center and he’s not and that’s why the ball goes more so at a 45 degree angle and up more so than straight to the quarterback who is 5 yards deep.”
Regardless, Brown says he will do everything possible to ensure there are no more instances of it from his end this year.
“The last time I did that, I think was a couple years ago,” Brown said. “Having two in one game, that shouldn’t happen.”
GIBSON MAKES STRIDES: Receiver Brandon Gibson waited patiently for his opportunity to contribute after sitting the first two games as a healthy scratch.
After some injuries to other wideouts, Gibson got his chance and though he had a shaky start with a few drops, he’s come on strong in the past couple of weeks.
In his four starts, Gibson has 11 catches for 150 yards with a touchdown and has showed a knack for getting yards after the catch.
Spagnuolo says he’s proud of Gibson for how he responded to missing the first couple of games.
“He’s done a lot of things,” Gibson said. “He battled through that. Of course he was disappointed. We put some pressure on him to make sure that he would be a factor on special teams, because all the guys that are up on 45, we need everybody. And I think he did that. He stepped it up. He had an opportunity somewhere in that third game, took advantage of it, and now he’s playing.”
Perhaps as much as anything, Gibson has impressed with his efforts as a down field blocker, where he has sealed off edges and helped create running room for teammates on multiple occasions, including a big block to spring Steven Jackson’s long touchdown run against Washington.
“(He’s) much better,” Spagnuolo said. “He’s really taking it to another level.”
INJURY REPORT: There were no significant changes to the Rams injury report Thursday as the same quartet of players who didn’t practice Wednesday also sat out Thursday.
Cornerbacks Ron Bartell (thigh) and Justin King (hamstring), safety Darian Stewart (hamstring) and defensive tackle Clifton Ryan (migraines) did not participate in the workout.
While it appears King and Stewart will not play this weekend and Ryan’s status is uncertain, Bartell was emphatic in saying he’d be ready to go and that this thigh injury is not the same as the one he suffered last year.
“It’s nothing like last year,” Bartell said. “I will be back on the field tomorrow.”
There were no other changes to the injury report as linebacker Na’il Diggs (knee), receiver Mardy Gilyard (hamstring), cornerback Jerome Murphy (hamstring), linebacker David Vobora (hamstring) and linebacker Chris Chamberlain (toe) were still listed as limited participation.
Cornerback Kevin Dockery (hamstring) and defensive tackle Darell Scott (ankle) were again full participants.
For Tampa Bay, linebacker Barrett Ruud and tight end Kellen Winslow returned to practice. Defensive tackle Brian Price (pelvis) did not practice again and isn’t likely to play Sunday.
Re: Alexander Looking For Encore
When Brandon Gibson debuted for us he had what? 7 Receptions and 100 yards? I only hope its not beginners luck. Please prove me wrong Alexander!
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