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Thread: Rams report
When rookie quarterback Sam Bradford had his coming-out party in the third preseason game against New England, he hit big plays to wide receivers Donnie Avery and Brandon Gibson and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui. Bradford seemed to be developing a strong rapport with Hoomanawanui.
As the Rams prepare for this week's game against Washington after an 0-2 start, two of those players are on the shelf with injuries and the other — Gibson — has yet to be active for a game.
Avery was lost for the season after suffering a knee injury later in that game against the Patriots. Hoomanawanui suffered a high ankle sprain on his fourth play in the season opener against Arizona.
After practice Wednesday, Gibson, along with rookie tight end Fendi Onobun and rookie wide receivers Mardy Gilyard and Dominique Curry were getting some extra reps with Bradford. Rookie running back Keith Toston was also part of that group.
With tight ends Billy Bajema and Daniel Fells potentially out this week, Onobun might make his NFL debut. Gilyard is the most likely to see additional time. Curry played last week on special teams. Gibson could be active depending on the status of Laurent Robinson, who is battling a foot injury.
Coach Steve Spagnuolo acknowledged on Gilyard that, "We probably should have got him in there a little bit more on Sunday. Things kind of just dictated differently, but he'll get his reps this week."
Onobun, who played just one season of college football, said, "I've progressed immensely, but I still have a long way to go. I am preparing as if I'll be active this week. I believe it will happen."
Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said Thursday that Onobun, Gilyard and Gibson have been good in practice this week.
On Onobun, Shurmur said, "I feel he has the ability to get in there and execute well."
Bradford said of the tight ends, "We are banged up at tight end a little bit right now, so the tight ends that do play this game, we're going to have to make the most of every rep in practice, we're probably going to have to stay after and get a couple routes, but both guys who are going to go this week, they were here all training camp. We've had plenty of work with them, I've had plenty of work with them, so I feel good about whoever we have at tight end."
Bradford is confident the offense will be able to move the ball on the Redskins.
"They're a blitz team, they like to pressure," Bradford said. "We have to be ready for pressure to come from all different positions at any time. But I think if we are prepared for that and we're able to get ourselves protected I think there are some things we can take advantage of just in the way they play coverage down the field.
"The Houston Texans were able to throw the ball very successfully against them. But we've got to be careful. Washington does some things that we haven't seen yet. They're able to do some interesting things on defense so we have to make sure that we're very prepared for anything that they could throw us, but I think watching the Texans tape, we have some good ideas about how to attack their defense now."
—The headline screamed out from the front page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports section Wednesday: "Same Old Rams?" The accompanying photo showed coach Steve Spagnuolo with head bowed near the end of the game after defensive tackle Fred Robbins was whistled for a crucial personal foul.
Through his first 18 games as a head coach, Spagnuolo has remained defiantly upbeat and positive, despite having only one win to show for his and the team's efforts.
Asked about being frustrated after Sunday's two-point loss to Oakland, Spagnuolo said, "There's no frustration on my part. The game's over. You get a little frustrated during the game because you know there's plays out there that we can make or ways to turn that loss into a win. It's all about encouragement now, in my opinion. We're in there knocking out the mistakes, and I talked with the team about that (Monday) morning. We're going to address some of the things that happened there that shouldn't have happened, but after that it's move on to the next game in my opinion."
Spagnuolo insisted, "There's confidence here. Nobody's discouraged. We're all disappointed. I hope still upset. There has to be a little bit of anger in there. There's anger in me. The only way in this league you get that out is to go play the next opponent. This league is all about the reward and the reward is winning, so we want the reward."
Losing by a total of six points in two games gives the appearance of improvement. Yet, the "same old" problems surface that have resulted in one win in the last 28 games for the franchise.
Guard Jacob Bell, who left a winning program to come to the Rams as a free agent in 2008, told the Post-Dispatch, "We're a different team (this year). I think we're a lot better than we've been the past couple years. We've just got to keep trying to prove that. Keep working. We keep getting in these close games, it comes down to one guy making a play in the game. You might have the worst game in your life ... you might give up three sacks in a game.
"But that last drive, if you don't give up a sack and it's a touchdown (and you win the game), you're happy. So you can't get down. You've got to keep pushing. It's just the second game. I'm still optimistic."
The Rams are 3-31 since Bell's arrival.
He admitted, "It's a persistent uphill battle. It's one of those things where you see looks in guys' eyes, and you tell 'em, 'Hey, snap out of it.' You see a guy putting his head down, 'Pick your head up.'
"It's just little things. Because when the little things start compiling, it turns into a problem, then you've got guys talking negative and acting negative. And you don't want to panic. I mean, you've got a lot of football left. It doesn't get any easier."
It's been noted on numerous occasions how the Rams went from being the third-oldest team in the NFL at the end of 2008 to the third-youngest last year. They are still very green.
Said Spagnuolo, "We've got a lot of young guys, I looked at it, we had nine or 10 rookies (Sunday) on the 45 (it was 10). That's a young football team out there, and a lot of those guys contributed, some started. There's going to be jumps every week. The coaching cliche is from Week 1 to Week 2 and what kind of jumps you make. I think we made some jumps in certain areas, but in other areas we didn't and we certainly hurt ourselves with some things that shouldn't happen. We're looking for guys to step up.
"We're always evaluating that. As we learn our football team every year, you decide where your playmakers are and you try to feature them a little bit more each week."
Spagnuolo concluded, "You trust the guys we have. I talk to them a lot about that. We think we have some character leaders and some guys that have enough inner drive that they're still hungry for a win.
"We also realize that this is way early in the season. Nobody wants to start out 0-2. But all it takes is one game to start the recovery. So we focus on the next one and hope that's the one that gets it rolling."
SERIES HISTORY: 31st meeting. Redskins lead regular-season series, 21-8-1 and Washington is 6-4 since 1995 when the Rams moved to St. Louis.
—Rookie WR Mardy Gilyard got off to slow start when he was forced to miss a major portion of the OTAs, and then was on the sideline during training camp because of wrist and forearm injuries.
But he is getting closer to getting more of a contributory role on offense. Gilyard is returning kickoffs, and also plays on other special teams.
Asked what he has to do to get more playing time on offense, coach Steve Spagnuolo said, "He'll get involved. He's done a nice job on special teams. I don't know if you've noticed that, but he really has. He's been one of those gunners. Him and (wide receiver) Dominique Curry really have added, helped us out there as a gunner. But he's going to get more playing time."
—Two rookies played roles in the game against Oakland. Cornerback Jerome Murphy was the nickel back and had an interception. Safety Darian Stewart got additional playing time after Craig Dahl left the game because of a concussion.
Of Murphy, coach Steve Spagnuolo said, "In his first game I thought he did pretty good. I was just talking to him not five minutes ago, (and) there's some mistakes. There's some things he needs to detail and get a little bit better at, but that'll come. I thought he played aggressive."
As for Stewart, Spagnuolo said, "We had him in during the week playing some of that WILL linebacker in nickel and also asked him to be a safety. We put a lot on his plate during the week and I thought he responded pretty good. He made a nice tackle in there."
—Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (high ankle sprain) and linebacker Chris Chamberlain (fractured toe) are both out of their casts, but still not expected to be back until Late October or November.
Hoomanawanui's injury in the first game occurred when he was tackled after making the first catch of his career.
"It was just a freak accident," he said. "He tackled me at the hip, and his lower body just swung right into my ankle. So it could happen to anyone; unfortunately it was me. It was tough. I played four plays my first NFL game and that happened. So definitely, a bummer."
Former Bears personnel executive Greg Gabriel is doing some media work and had this to say about Rams left tackle Rodger Saffold after the season opener: "He gets off the ball quickly. He shows very good snap on contact and showed good ability to get movement with his run blocks. I like his aggressive demeanor. He consistently looks for second people to hit and he is a good finisher. In pass protection, he has a strong punch and good mirror skills. He plays with a good base and has excellent balance and knee bend. He has quick hands and gets his hands on his opponent quickly. Learning to use his hands is one of the hardest things a rookie lineman has to do and Saffold does a good job.
"He's strong in the upper body and has good hand placement. He has good lateral agility and because he has top balance and quickness he recovers really well.
—The Rams had a few thousand tickets remaining for Sunday's game against Washington to reach league guidelines and have the game televised locally. The deadline is 3:05 Thursday.
Television ratings have been string the first two weeks with a 26 the first week and 23.4 in Week 2. That was the highest-rated Week 2 game since 2006.
BY THE NUMBERS: 21 — Number of players active for Sunday's game against Oakland with two years or less of NFL experience. That included 10 rookies (two starters), seven second-year players (five starters) and four third-year players (one starter).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You've got to go in there and make adjustments. We do it all the time. And sometimes you don't. Sometimes what you're doing is working and you stick with it. You know, if the light bulb ain't broke ... Now, there's adjustments going on all the time. You don't just wait until the half. Fair statement? Or maybe I should share that with you. They're made all the time, over on the sideline. We put one in on defense (Sunday) in the middle of the third quarter, something we hadn't worked on. That's done all the time." — Coach Steve Spagnuolo, on the importance of halftime adjustments.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
—S Craig Dahl wasn't as good on his concussion exertion test Wednesday as indicated originally by coach Steve Spagnuolo. Spagnuolo said Wednesday that Dahl had been cleared for non-contact work Thursday and would see an independent doctor Friday. Acknowledging that he "mis-spoke," Spagnuolo said Thursday that Dahl still exhibited some symptoms after the first test and would have another exertion test Friday. It seems unlikely he would play Sunday because he won't have practiced. Even if he passes the exertion test, he would still need to the independent doctor as mandated by NFL guidelines.
—DT Clifton Ryan was not at practice Thursday and was consulting with another doctor concerning the migraines he has been experiencing. Coach Steve Spagnuolo did not rule him out of Sunday's game.
—DT Jermelle Cudjo, currently on the practice squad, got some reps with the first unit Thursday because of the absence of Darell Scott and Clifton Ryan from practice. With Scott out Sunday and Ryan seeking a second opinion for his migraines, Gary Gibson and Fred Robbins are the only healthy defensive tackles on the roster.
—RB Steven Jackson was limited in practice Thursday with a knee issue that he said "is nothing to worry about."
—WR Laurent Robinson, who was limited in practice Wednesday because of a foot injury, did not practice Thursday and could miss Sunday's game against Washington.
—CB Kevin Dockery, who has been sidelined since injuring his hamstring in the season opener, returned to the field on a limited basis Thursday.
—TE Daniel Fells, who did not practice Wednesday because of a knee injury suffered Sunday against Oakland, worked in a limited capacity Thursday.
—OT Rodger Saffold fully participated in practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday because of a back problem.
—S Oshiomogho Atogwe (thigh) was limited in practice for the second straight day Thursday.
—WR Brandon Gibson, inactive for the first two games of the season, received significant reps in practice Wednesday and Thursday and could be counted on against Washington on Sunday if Laurent Robinson is unavailable.
GAME PLAN: The plan isn't much different than it is every week for the Rams. On offense, it's important they are productive on first down to avoid long-yardage passing situations for quarterback Sam Bradford and a receiving corps that lacks a downfield threat.
The Rams will rely on their defense to keep them in the game, which means slowing down the Redskins' running game and preventing quarterback Donovan McNabb from hitting big plays.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Rams pass protection vs. Redskins OLB Brian Orakpo — The Rams are young on the edges with OTs Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith, and several of their tight ends are injured. Whoever is responsible for Orakpo will have to be mindful of where he is at all times, to keep him away from QB Sam Bradford as much as possible.
Rams nickel LB, whoever it is, vs. Redskins TE Chris Cooley — S Craig Dahl was the nickel linebacker last week with Chris Chamberlain sidelined by a fractured toe. But Dahl suffered a concussion against Oakland. Newcomer Bryan Kehl has the speed, but not the experience to handle that role.
INJURY IMPACT: Injuries to TE Daniel Fells and WR Laurent Robinson could provide some opportunity for two players that have been inactive the first two games. Rookie TE Fendi Onobun has to improve as a blocker, but his speed could add some play-making ability to the offense. WR Brandon Gibson played well in the final two preseason games, but his lack of special teams production has kept him off the game-day roster. Gibson might be a better option now in the offense than the injured Robinson.
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