Rams notebook: Saffold won’t play Sunday
By Joe Lyons
As expected, right tackle Rodger Saffold has been ruled out of Sunday’s game in Dallas against the Cowboys.
Saffold suffered a knee injury last week in Atlanta and will be replaced by Joe Barksdale.
The rest of the Rams’ walking wounded appear to be making progress. Of the eight players who sat out practice Wednesday, just two, Saffold and reserve tight end Mike McNeill (chest), were unable to practice Friday.
McNeill and safety Darian Stewart (thigh) are questionable for Sunday, with the remaining players on the injury report listed as probable.
That includes defensive ends Chris Long (hip), Eugene Sims (foot) and Williams Hayes (hip), cornerback Cortland Finnegan (nose), running back Daryl Richardson (foot) and guard Chris Williams (foot).
“We got a lot of guys back on the practice field yesterday and today and had two really good days of practice,’’ Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said.
Dallas’ injury report has six players. Linebacker Ernie Sims (groin) is out and defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee) is questionable after not practicing Friday.
Defensive end DeMarcus Ware (neck) was limited Friday and is questionable. The other players, quarterback Tony Romo (ribs), wide receiver Dez Bryant (back) and cornerback Morris Claiborne (shoulder), practiced Friday and are probable.
Through two games, the Rams rank 24th in the NFL in rushing. With 136 yards on 42 carries, they’re averaging just 3.2 yards a carry.
Part of that, of course, is dictated by game situation. The Rams trailed before rallying to beat Arizona to open the season and found themselves in a quick 21-0 hole in the road loss to Falcons. But the running game needs to be more productive.
“We put ourselves in some positions where we haven’t had favorable numbers, whether it was scoreboard or just some heavy boxes to run against,’’ Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “We want to be balanced. Games come down to the fourth quarter and sometimes you’re going to have to throw it like we did last week.... Other times, you’re going to have to run the football and try to put people away.’’
Richardson leads the Rams with 98 yards on 30 carries but also has 10 catches for 78 yards. Others in the mix include Isaiah Pead (one carry, 1 yard; two catches, 18 yards) and rookies Benny Cunningham (two carries, 0 yards) and Zac Stacy (one carry, 4 yards).
The Cowboys are in a similar spot, tied for 26th in the league with 124 yards on 39 carries.
DeMarco Murray, who ran for a franchise-record 253 yards as a rookie when the Cowboys beat the visiting Rams 34-7 in the teams’ last meeting on Oct. 23, 2011, leads the Dallas ground game with 111 yards on 32 carries. He also has 13 catches for 88 yards.
“It’s not easy to run the football in the NFL,’’ Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. “If you look around, a lot of teams are having this same kind of discussion, but we have to find ways to (run it) better (because) becoming a more balanced offense will help our team.’’
STEWART on the mend
For Stewart, just getting back to practice was a positive.
Out since suffering a thigh injury early in the Rams’ preseason game against Green Bay on Aug. 17, Stewart returned to practice Wednesday and was a full participant Thursday and Friday.
He’s listed as questionable —0 50-50 — for Sunday’s game in Dallas.
“It’s been a while, but it feels good to be back out there, working with my teammates,’’ the 25-year-old said. “Now that I’ve got those first practices under my belt, I just want to keep working and progressing. It was frustrating _ nobody likes being injured _ but all you can do is leave it in God’s hands and try to take care of your body as it heals. At the same time, I knew I had to do what I could to stay ready mentally.’’
Stewart joined the Rams as undrafted free agent from South Carolina in 2010.