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    Linehan likes what he sees in Jackson

    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    08/30/2006



    You want a running game? Here's a running game, coach Scott Linehan seemed to be saying three weeks ago. It all looked so easy in the preseason opener against Indianapolis. The Rams piled up 202 yards against the Colts and averaged 5.1 yards a carry. It didn't seem to matter who had the football.

    But things ground to a halt the past two games, with the Rams combining for only 126 yards on 52 carries -- an average of just 2.4 yards per attempt. Fifteen of those carries against Houston and Kansas City went for no gain or negative yards.

    Against Kansas City, six of Steven Jackson's 10 carries went for zero or negative yardage, but Linehan didn't really fault Jackson.

    "Some of it is we're not blocking anybody in front of him," Linehan said. "Last week was a classic example of (Kansas City) knowing we didn't have 80 and 81 on the field." Advertisement

    That, of course, would be Isaac Bruce, who missed the game with a tight hamstring, and Torry Holt, who was held out with a bruised sternum. As a result, Kansas City did a lot of run blitzing and showed stacked fronts almost daring the Rams to run.

    And one other thing.

    "We missed a couple of opportunities to block people," Linehan said.

    Fullback Paul Smith, in particular, had a rough evening against the Chiefs on lead blocks. So despite Jackson's modest preseason totals of 19 carries for 73 yards (3.8 yards a carry), Linehan says he likes what he sees from his feature back.

    "He's been running good," Linehan said. "He's been (secure) with the ball. Running hard. We can all get better. You can break tackles and make special runs and all that, but that's not going to happen until we get into the full flow of a full game."

    Jackson has worked through a mild heel injury, and with only Thursday's contest in Miami remaining in exhibition play, he feels he has gotten enough work this preseason to get his feet under him.

    "I felt like I was in great condition," Jackson said after the Kansas City game. "I felt like I was running behind my shoulder pads."

    In other words, north and south.

    "My legs were there for me," Jackson continued. "As the season progresses, hopefully, the running game will come. But right now, I think Coach is still trying to figure out personnel. He's trying to find what we do and what we don't do well."

    And who, besides Jackson, can do it. For example, is Tony Fisher or Moe Williams his No. 2 back?

    "I'd like to see both take their games to another level this (Miami) game," Linehan said. "Whether they're No. 2s or not, we'll decide that when we decide who our 53 are going to be, and how we get to that 53."

    Fisher seems to have an edge based on his ability to catch passes out of the backfield as a third-down back. Although Williams has been effective as a short-yardage runner, his lost fumble against Houston deep in St. Louis territory didn't help his cause.

    "That turnover to start the second half was certainly a big one," Linehan said after that game.

    And against Kansas City, Williams got beat by Chiefs defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson for a sack that took the Rams out of field goal range in the third quarter.

    Williams certainly is making no grand assumptions about his roster status as Saturday's final roster cuts approach.

    "You know what, I never take anything for granted in this league," Williams said. "I know it is a business, and it is a numbers game."

    Williams has 12 carries for 30 yards in the preseason, an average of just 2.5 yards per attempt. He scored a TD against Indy. Fisher has more carries than any Ram this preseason (21), good for 71 yards and a 3.4 average. He also scored against the Colts.

    Despite those efforts, it's long-shot free agent Fred Russell who leads the team in rushing, with 76 yards. Russell has more speed and more big-play ability than Fisher and Williams. Those assets, combined with his diminutive stature (5-7, 195 pounds), have earned Russell the nickname "Little Action Figure" from Jackson.

    But Russell probably has to do something dramatic against Miami to earn a roster spot. The Rams probably will keep a maximum of five running backs, and two of them might be fullbacks.

    Keep this in mind, too: With hundreds of players about to be released between now and Saturday, the No. 2 running back might not be on the Rams roster yet. In addition, the Rams still have a one-year offer on the table to free-agent Stephen Davis, who visited Rams Park early last week.

    "Stephen's certainly a guy that's proven in the league," Linehan said after Davis' workout. "He probably has a couple good years left in him."

    Running back

    Running backs in camp: 7

    Likely to make final roster: 5

    Safe and sound: Tony Fisher, Steven Jackson.

    On the bubble: Madison Hedgecock, Fred Russell, Paul Smith, Moe Williams.

    Probably not: John David Washington.

    Rosters must be trimmed to 53 players by Sept. 2.


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    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Linehan likes what he sees in Jackson

    And who, besides Jackson, can do it. For example, is Tony Fisher or Moe Williams his No. 2 back?

    "I'd like to see both take their games to another level this (Miami) game," Linehan said. "Whether they're No. 2s or not, we'll decide that when we decide who our 53 are going to be, and how we get to that 53."
    Sounds to me like the Rams are still going to be looking through the free agent pool for candidates at the running back position. Watch those cuts!

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