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    Rookies Get First Taste of NFL Game

    Nick Wagoner

    As he’d indicated all week last week, coach Jeff Fisher wasn’t shy about giving his young players playing time early and often against the Colts in yesterday’s preseason opener against the Colts.

    On Monday afternoon, Fisher had a chance to discuss how those youngsters fared with the benefit of having seen the tape from the game. And, as expected, Fisher said he found some positives for his youngsters.

    With that in mind, here’s a look at how three rookies in three different situations fared in their first NFL action.

    DAVIS SETTLES IN: Rams rookie quarterback Austin Davis was understandably nervous heading into his first NFL game yesterday in Indianapolis, even if it was a preseason contest.

    Davis said late last week that he anticipated having some butterflies on game day and they he hoped to shake loose of them right away.

    So when Davis dropped back and fired a strike to rookie wideout Chris Givens for a 13-yard gain, Davis felt relief and settled in for an entire second half worth of repetitions.

    “First one is always the toughest,” Davis said. “It felt good just to get out there and play, a little different feel being a preseason game but the crowd was roaring early and it felt just like a big time game so it was a lot of fun.”

    The undrafted rookie out of Southern Mississippi is clearly getting every opportunity to make the roster or at least push for a spot on the practice squad (should the team keep only two signal callers on the final 53).

    Despite getting limited reps during practices, Davis has been given nearly all of the few opportunities that do pop up behind starter Sam Bradford and backup Kellen Clemens.

    But the very nature of the preseason allows for players who might not get much work in practice to get extended looks during the games. That’s precisely what happened Sunday against the Colts as Davis stepped in to open the third quarter and finished the game from there.

    “It felt good to just get out there and play,” Davis said. “We knew the rookies were going to get a lot of reps at this point in the preseason so they threw a bunch of young guys out there and just let us roll and get some reps. We got more reps in this game than we’ve been getting in practice. So that’s good.”

    With three preseason games to go, Davis figures to continue to get many opportunities before that time is done.

    Fisher has been impressed with how quickly the young quarterback is grasping the offense and isn’t hesitating to give Davis more chances. Fisher took notice of Davis in Sunday’s game even though Davis’ final stat line of 12-of-18 for 84 yards with no touchdowns and an interception didn’t exactly blow anyone away.

    “Austin has got a good feel for the offense,” Fisher said. “He stayed alive, made some plays off schedule and he has a good sense. It’s impressive to see how quickly he has come and grasped this offense.”

    Davis has not been overwhelmed by the amount he’s been asked to learn in his first NFL training camp though by his own admission, he knows he needs to continue to polish up his skills and get a better handle on the details of the offense.

    Overall, though, as NFL debuts go, Davis did what was asked of him against the Colts.

    “I was just trying to have fun,” Davis said. “I was happy with the guys. We made some mistakes but that’s part of it. Get out there, play, make some mistakes and then we’ll go fix them.”

    PEAD’S FIRST GO: While Davis seemed to be handling the nerves that went with his debut performance; the stakes were a bit higher for rookie running back Isaiah Pead.

    Pead relieved starter Steven Jackson after Jackson played one series and got some plays with the first team offense and through the second quarter with the backup group.

    Along the way, Pead rushed 10 times for 33 yards and caught three passes for 9 yards, pedestrian numbers by any standard. Of course, it wasn’t those numbers that showed Pead’s nerves might be at work as he lost a fumble and had a botched exchange with quarterback Sam Bradford.

    “At first glance, he was a little east-west instead of north-south,” Fisher said. “We can get that fixed. And we're disappointed he lost the ball.”

    Pead did have a 30-yard kick return on his only attempt as he got the first look in that role via the opening kickoff. Later in the game, though, he stepped out of the back of the end zone for a touchback on a kick he was going to try to bring out despite being past the 5 to 7-yard limit the Rams have on returns.

    Jackson acknowledged that Pead might have been a bit nervous in his first NFL snaps but isn’t concerned about his young understudy.

    “Pead is going to be fine,” Jackson said. “He’s a very talented young man and this game I am pretty sure he is going to replay this game in his head. But once we get in the running back room, myself and the coaches will coach him up and get him ready.”

    JENKINS’ DEBUT: For rookie CB Janoris Jenkins, the situation was different than Davis and Pead. While Davis worked exclusively with the backups and Pead got a cameo with the starters, the expectations for Jenkins are far greater.

    Jenkins started opposite Cortland Finnegan in the Rams base defense and played the majority of the first half.

    For the most part, Jenkins’ debut went well but he was kicking himself after the game for a missed interception on the sideline that went through his hands and was caught by Colts wideout T.Y. Hilton.
    The completion kept the Colts’ second scoring drive going and the missed pick could have completely altered the game.

    “I felt like I had it,” Jenkins said. “It kind of floated on me but like I said, during the regular season I have got to make those plays. Oh yeah, it would have been a pick 6.”

    Jenkins acquitted himself well overall though the Rams didn’t do much in terms of defensive scheming with coverages on the back end or pressures up front.

    The takeaway from his NFL debut?

    “You have got to take advantage of every play you can make,” Jenkins said. “I would say if you have got a play, you have got to make it because you never know the outcome of that play.”

    INJURY UPDATE: As he first suspected after Sunday’s game, Fisher confirmed Monday afternoon that the Rams did not have any serious injuries in the game against the Colts.

    In fact, Fisher indicated the Rams would likely be getting some players back healthy this week against the Chiefs. Included in that group are safety Darian Stewart, receiver Brandon Gibson and potentially cornerback Bradley Fletcher.

    Fletcher is dealing with a rib injury but should be back soon enough, same for Gibson, who is dealing with a hamstring issue. Receiver Danario Alexander will be monitored day to day.

    Fisher said center Scott Wells and defensive tackle Trevor Laws are still a ways away from returning.

  2. #2
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    Re: Rookies Get First Taste of NFL Game

    I really liked what we saw from Jenkins. Admittedly, the concerns about him are about off the field performance, but it was nice to see that the skill set translates to this level. I really think he will be our shut down corner if he stays out of trouble.

    Fisher said center Scott Wells and defensive tackle Trevor Laws are still a ways away from returning.
    I really, really want Wells to get back ASAP. I think some of the issues with the line yesterday would have been non-issues if he were playing. Seemed a lot of it was missed assignments, and a good center can help keep everyone on the same page.

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