Starters will see more playing time against Texans

BY STEVE KORTE
News-Democrat

ST. LOUIS - St. Louis Rams coach Scott Linehan wants to see his team take a step forward, not backward during the team's second preseason game.

"I don't want us to get into a (thing) where all of the sudden we think we have it all figured out," said Linehan, whose team plays the Houston Texans (1-0) at 7 p.m. today at the Edward Jones Dome. "Every day that we do this we want to improve in some way. We want to continue to handle the little things well, the details of the game and the game management situations whether you're a coach or a player.

"You want to see how we tackle, how we secure the ball, and you want to evaluate further the players that are trying to make this squad."

The Rams are 1-0 after a 19-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Aug. 10.

Most of the Rams' offensive starters and defensive starters were done for the night by the end of the first quarter against the Colts, but Linehan said the first-string will play a little longer against the Texans.

"I don't know what that number is, but we certainly have that planned," Linehan said.

The Rams also might alter their quarterback rotation, going with Dave Ragone instead of Ryan Fitzpatrick after starter Marc Bulger and backup Gus Frerotte.

"It'll be similar as far as playing time, but we'll try to put them in some different situations," Linehan said.

Rams defensive coordinator Jim Haslett sees the game against the Texans as the first real test of his run defense.

The Texans rushed for 173 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-14 win over the Kansas City Chiefs last Saturday. The Rams limited to the Colts to 38 rushing yards on 16 carries.

"This week will give us a better idea of where we are at because this team will try to come out and run the ball on us," Haslett said. "That's my No. 1 thing. I want to make sure we do a good job of stopping the run."

Haslett said the Rams' defense will develop an identity in the next couple of weeks.

"That's something we talked about during the offseason," Haslett said. "We have to build an identity. What kind of a team are we going to be? Are we going to be an up-the-field run-around team that can only play with the lead or can we stick in there when somebody is trying to grind on you?"

The Texans' 2-14 record was the NFL's worst record last season. They ranked 30th in overall offense and 31st in overall defense. They had the worst run defense in the league, allowing 143.9 rushing yards per game.

Their defensive woes were a factor in the Texans taking North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams instead of Southern Cal running back Reggie Bush with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft.

Williams had one tackle (an assist) against the Chiefs. He'll be going against right tackle Alex Barron, the Rams' first-round pick last season.

Other offseason moves for the Texans included the signings of defensive tackle Anthony Weaver from Baltimore and center Mike Flanagan from Green Bay, and a trade that brought wide receiver Eric Moulds from the Buffalo Bills.

New Texans coach Gary Kubiak spent the previous 11 seasons as the offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos.

Linehan downplayed the notion that playing the Texans could help the Rams prepare for their Sept. 10 season opener against the Denver Broncos, though he did close practice to the public on Thursday and to the media on Friday.

"They're not going to do anything different than what they've always done during the preseason in Denver," Linehan said. "They'll be pretty vanilla on their side. It's not like we'll do multiple things.

"We'll do some things defensively because that is our defense. I don't think they'll be anything in this game that will effect our opener. But, it will be the same system, and it will be good to see how we respond to it."