Fill-ins on returns have difficult night

By JIM THOMAS
Tuesday, September 20, 2011

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. • Replacing the injured Danny Amendola on punt returns proved to be an even tougher task than replacing him at wide receiver Monday night at MetLife Stadium. Amendola, out with a dislocated elbow, tied for ninth in the NFL last season with an 11.3-yard average on punt returns.

His replacement, both as the Rams' slot receiver and as a punt returner, was rookie Greg Salas. But on his first chance to return a punt against the New York Giants, Salas muffed a Steve Weatherford punt with the Rams leading 3-0 midway through the first quarter. The Giants' Dave Tollefson recovered on the St. Louis 38 and six plays later, New York was in the end zone for a 7-3 lead.

Salas fair-caught a subsequent punt, but later had a 29-yard return, zigging and zagging between the Giants' punt coverage team.

Meanwhile, the Rams had a special teams surprise with Quinn Porter, signed off the Cleveland practice squad last week, returning kickoffs. A running back by trade, Porter fumbled a second quarter kickoff from Lawerence Tynes. Although Porter recovered, it backed the Rams up to their 7. Jerious Norwood handled kickoff returns last week against Philadelphia.

Jackson sits

As expected, running back Steven Jackson was among the Rams' seven pregame inactives. Jackson came out about 2 hours, 20 minutes before kickoff to test his thigh injury. Under the watchful eye of head athletic trainer Reggie Scott, strength coach Rock Gullickson and running backs coach Sylvester Croom, Jackson stretched, did some change-of-direction work, and tried running out of a 3-point stance. But Jackson didn't move that well and never really ran full speed.

In Jackson's absence, Cadillac Williams started at running back.

Other Rams inactives were Amendola, DE C.J. Ah You, S Jermale Hines, LB Jabara Williams, TE Stephen Spach and WR Austin Pettis.

Good debuts

As a result of those decisions on inactives, wide receiver Danario Alexander and defensive end Robert Quinn made their 2011 debuts for the Rams. Quinn registered his first NFL sack, and Alexander was all over the place, with a career-long 68-yard reception, plus a 35-yard catch. Alexander had his first 100-yard receiving game as a Ram.

Injury update

The Rams lost starting weakside linebacker Ben Leber with a groin injury in the second half. The Giants, meanwhile, lost two of their top three wide receivers: Mario Manningham with a concussion and Domenik Hixon with a knee injury.

Auburn reunion tour

There was a time when Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown, and Brandon Jacobs all shared the backfield at Auburn. Williams renewed acquaintances in Week 1 with Brown, now a backup for Philadelphia. On Monday, he caught up with Jacobs, who shares time with Ahmad Bradshaw in the Giants' backfield.

"For two years we were there (at Auburn) at the same time, trying to split carries," Williams said. "At the time, I was the No. 1 guy, Ronnie was the No. 2 guy, and ‘Jake' was the No. 3 guy. I know our last year, they were trying to shuffle (Jacobs) to D-end to get him on the field more. He didn't like that. He made a smart move and transferred."

Jacobs finished out his college career at Southern Illinois Carbondale.