There's no question the Rams' offense is built around running back Steven Jackson.
As Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Blache said before last week's game, "They have one of the best backs in the business. The guy at Minnesota (Adrian Peterson) is off the chart. I put Jackson just right underneath him. He is big, strong and fast and he can go the distance every time he touches the football. If the hole is not there inside, he will bounce it outside. He can catch passes out of the backfield. I think this guy is a home-run hitting type of back."
The Rams need Jackson to start hitting more home runs, starting with Sunday's home opener against Green Bay.
In two games so far, Jackson has 171 yards on 33 carries, a 5.2-yard average per attempt. His total rushing yards projects to 1,368 yards for the season. Those are excellent numbers.
However, they are also somewhat misleading. Jackson had a long run of 22 yards in Week 1 and 58 in Week 2. Those are the home runs the team wants him to hit. The problem is that too many of his other carries weren't productive.
Jackson's 31 other attempts totaled just 91 yards for a 2.9-yard average. Against Seattle, 11 of Jackson's 16 carries were for three yards or less and 10 gained two yards or less. Against Washington, eight attempts were for three yards or less and six of those were either zero (five) or minus-1 (1).
When those plays occur on first down, it often results in long-yardage situations on second and third down.
Against Seattle, he had 19 yards on eight first-down attempts. Against Washington it was 10 carries for 25 yards on first down with four no-yardage attempts and one for minus-1. However, he did have runs of 6, 6 and 5 on his final three first-down runs, so not giving up on trying also has to be avoided.
Because the Rams' passing game is suspect, defenses will routinely play eight men in the box.
After the Seattle game, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said, "There were eight down there quite a bit. With a running back like we have, I think that's something we're going to see."
Jackson understands it, too. "That's just going to be my mindset for all 16 games that we have. I anticipate for the rest of the year that defenses are going to put eight men in the box because we're just so young at the wide receiver position."
Said tight end Randy McMichael, "I mean, right now he's our best football player on offense. A lot of teams know that, and they want to take him away. We've got to find a way as receivers and tight ends to make plays.
"And even if they do have eight-man fronts, we need to get seven guys (blocked), and let Steven make the one guy miss. It's all about just staying on your man a little bit longer and helping 'Jack' find somewhere to run."
SERIES HISTORY: 89th meeting. Rams lead, 45-41-2. The teams have alternated victories in the last four games, with Green Bay winning the most recent, 33-14 in St. Louis in 2007.
It isn't often that NFL executives strongly react publicly to things said in the media, whether it be local or national.
Thursday, Rams' general manager Billy Devaney did just that in response to comments made on ESPN Radio by analyst Mark Schlereth.
Talking about the Rams, Schlereth opined that the Rams were the worst team in the NFL and were poor on both offense and defense. Schlereth then said of the Rams "they're not competing," and claimed the organization was in "shambles."
Devaney, who was named general manager late in the 2008 season, and has been part of a massive overhaul of the team's football operations, held back nothing when he appeared on WXOS radio, the station that airs ESPN radio and that is also the team's radio rights holder.
Said Devaney, "I'll be honest, I've got to take a deep breath, because that really pisses me off. When he says something like we're not competing, how the hell does he know? I guarantee you he hasn't watched one of our games. You can say we had a stinker in Seattle and we made a ton of mistakes. And that's fine. But to say we're not competing is totally asinine."
Devaney added, "It frosts me. It just ticks me off a little bit. We're fighting our guts out there. If you want to say we're no good right now, I don't have a problem with that. But don't question our heart. Don't question our competitiveness. I've been in places where after your team loses a game, and the players get on the plane to fly home, you can't tell if they won or lost."
Noting how disappointed the players were after last week's 9-7 loss to Washington, Devaney said it was apparent how much they hated losing.
"It was staggering," he said. "Don't say we're in shambles. We've gone to great lengths to improve the attitude and bring in the right kind of players in here. To our players' credit, they do have heart."
"We're 0-2. We've got to eat everything right now ... all we can do is win some games and change people's minds about us."
—Newly arrived WR Danny Amendola not only worked as a kick returner in his first practice with the Rams, but he also participated as a receiver with the first unit.
Amendola spent the 2008 season on the Cowboys' practice squad, but was then signed to Philadelphia's practice squad on Jan. 7. He worked with the scout team for the Eagles' final two playoff games, where Pat Shurmur was the quarterbacks coach. Shurmur is now the Rams' offensive coordinator.
The day after the Eagles lost to the Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game, Amendola signed a 20009 contract with Philadelphia.
The Rams' offense is exactly the same as Philadelphia, with the same language.
"I'm hoping I can help the Rams get better," he said. "I'm thrilled. I've been wanting this my whole life. I know I'm not the biggest, strongest or fastest player, but I know I can make plays."
The plan is for Amendola to return both kickoffs and punts Sunday against Green Bay.
—In 2007, when Steve Spagnuolo took over as the Giants' defensive coordinator, the team started the season 0-2, and the defense allowed 80 total points in those games.
Spagnuolo preached staying the course, and a win followed the next week. By the end of the season, the Giants were Super Bowl champs.
Rams safety James Butler was part of that Giants' team, and recalls the third-game victory that got the ball rolling.
"It definitely was something where you look back and say that was a good momentum (builder) for our defense," Butler said. "But we were building from Day One. And just because we didn't do it that first game, or even halfway through the second game, it finally started clicking."
—The first two weeks of the season have obviously shown that no one is safe on the team's roster. The latest move was the release of wide receiver Derek Stanley and the addition of wide receiver Danny Amendola off Philadelphia's practice squad. The plan is for Amendola to return kickoffs and punts Sunday against Green Bay.
Linebacker Paris Lenon, who was signed last Wednesday (Sept. 16), was active for Sunday's game against Washington. Defensive tackle LaJuan Ramsey, claimed off waivers from Tennessee at the cutdown to 53 players, was on the field for eight plays against the Redskins and had two tackles. Look for him to play more and more each week.
Defensive end Victor Adeyanju has not been active for each of the first two games.
Here are the remaining players from the team's drafts starting in 2003:
2004: RB Steven Jackson
2005: OT Alex Barron, CB Ron Bartell, S Oshiomogho Atogwe, OG Richie Incognito
2006: DE Victor Adeyanju, C/G Mark Setterstrom
2007: DT Adam Carriker (injured reserve), CB Jonathan Wade, NT Clifton Ryan
2008: DE Chris Long, WR Donnie Avery, OG John Greco, CB Justin King, WR Keenan Burton, LB Chris Chamberlain, LB David Vobora.
Of the 73 players on the active roster, injured reserve or practice squad at the end of the 2008 season, only 32 players are currently on the 53-man roster. Two - defensive tackle Adam Carriker and safety Eric Bassey - are on injured reserve.
BY THE NUMBERS: 2 — Number of home games the Rams have won over the last two seasons. The victories were over Dallas (NFC East) and Atlanta (NFC South). Sunday's opponent (Green Bay) is from the NFC North.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I can tell you this right now: I am not playing right now for the next year or the year after. I will answer that one that way. I think it goes hand-in-hand. I mean, we are always going to try to win football games; that is not going to change and we are going to do whatever we can. People are going to be in there that ... the 11 people we think are our best chance to help us win and along the way, we will be evaluating guys." — Coach Steve Spagnuolo, asked if this season is more about learning about his players than winning.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
—C Jason Brown (knee), who was officially listed as a limited participant in practice Wednesday although taking virtually all of the snaps, fully participated Thursday and is expected to start Sunday against Green Bay.
—RT Jason Smith (knee) did not practice for the second straight day Thursday and will likely be listed as out on Friday. Adam Goldberg is his replacement.
—S Craig Dahl (hamstring) participated fully in practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday. Dahl missed the first two games of the season.
—S David Roach (groin) was limited in practice Wednesday, but had full participation Thursday.
—CB Bradley Fletcher, the team's third-round draft pick, has been playing as the nickel back and looks to have moved ahead of Justin King on the depth chart.
—OL Adam Goldberg, named the team's offensive captain for the week, worked with the first unit at right tackle Wednesday and is expected to start there Sunday against Green Bay.
—DT LaJuan Ramsey is getting more and more reps in practice, and will likely have his plays increase from the eight he participated in last week.
GAME PLAN: Not much changes in the Rams' plan each week. They have run only 107 plays the first two weeks and have just 27 first downs. The plan is for RB Steven Jackson to have more success on early downs, and for the passing game to get more production from WR Donnie Avery and TE Randy McMichael.
Defensively, where the Rams have just one sack after two games, they need to stop the run and create situations where the rush can be effective.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Rams DREs Chris Long and James Hall vs. Packers LT Daryn Colledge. Bengals DE Antwan Odom had five sacks last week, and Colledge struggled moving from left guard to tackle after Chad Clifton was injured. Clifton did not practice Wednesday, and the Rams must take advantage of a potentially shuffled Packers line.
Rams WRs Donnie Avery, Laurent Robinson and Keenan Burton vs. Packers safeties. Atari Bigby is out for Green Bay and Nick Collins is trying to recover from a chest injury suffered Sunday. The Packers cut Aaron Rouse Wednesday, leaving only Derrick Martin and new arrival Matt Giordano in the back end. Whether it's in the passing game or with Steven Jackson running, the Rams have to exploit Green Bay's potential weakness.
INJURY IMPACT: The Rams could benefit from Adam Goldberg's experience, as he will likely play right tackle instead of rookie Jason Smith, who has a knee injury. Going against Green Bay's 3-4 defense, Goldberg's steady hand could come in handy.