St. Louis Rams 09-17-2010
St. Louis Rams St. Louis Rams
Posted 12h 36m ago
For some high-profile young offensive players, Sunday's game in Oakland will present some challenges.
The Rams' "triangle" that includes quarterback Sam Bradford and tackles Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith will have to contend with the noise that occurs for road games as well as the unique atmosphere that exists at Raiders games.
Said Bradford, "I actually talked to (running back) Steven (Jackson) a little bit about it. He said he played there once earlier in his career and he said it was a very hostile environment. The fans are loud, they yell some improper things, I guess, at times. But at the same time, he said it was a fun environment to play in - that's part of the game. Any time you have the opportunity to play on the road in front of a crowd like Oakland's you have to embrace the opportunity and look forward to it, which is what I'm doing."
Saffold joked that his father told him "to keep your helmet on."
The rookie left tackle got solid reviews for his first start last Sunday against Arizona.
Said coach Steve Spagnuolo, "He had a couple issues where he misfired, but for a rookie going in there and playing left tackle, I thought he did a pretty good job."
Saffold said, "I thought I did pretty well. I definitely think there are some things I need to work on. There are a lot of shifts, a lot of movements that came that I needed to attend to the next day in the corrections meeting and now I just feel better about playing next week. I think I got a good view of how to play throughout a game not just the first half or first series."
In addition, Saffold had to make adjustments, which was a significant learning experience.
"(There were) a lot of people in different positions," he said. "So I was going against everybody and making sure that I understand the full, big picture. That's the only way to be effective because sometimes you have got to be able to grab things on the run, especially safety blitzes and things like that."
Asked what made the biggest impression on him, Saffold said, "How physical it. I got up Monday morning and felt like I got hit by a truck."
Despite Oakland's 38-13 loss to Tennessee, the Rams know they will be in a for a fight in the Raiders' home opener.
"As a team, and especially on defense, they're really fast," Spagnuolo said. "Across the secondary, really up front and at linebacker. This will be a challenging defense for us just like last week was."
Said Bradford, "You know, they're going to challenge us. They're going to get in our face, they're going to play a lot of man coverage. Obviously, Nnamdi (Asomugha) is one of the best corners in the league so we have to be very careful in the way we plan to attack them. But if they do come up and play man, we have to be able to beat their coverage."
—The Rams entered their season opener against Arizona with only one player on the injury report: safety James Butler. It was as healthy as the Rams had been since early in the offseason.
It didn't last long. Before the first half had ended, linebacker Chris Chamberlain left with a toe injury and rookie tight end Michael Hoomanawanui injured his ankle.
Later, cornerbacks Kevin Dockery and Justin King departed with hamstring injuries. Butler was active for the game only for an emergency because the Rams had just three other safeties on the roster.
As it turned out, Butler was forced onto the field because of the cornerback injuries with rookie Jerome Murphy inactive.
Said Butler, "We started falling like flies."
The shortage also affected coverage when the Cardinals took advantage by going to four wide receivers.
"That put us in a bind in the game — there's no question," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "They put four wideouts out there and we had to have linebackers and safeties covering them. It took us out of a lot of things that we couldn't run. All the man (coverage) stuff that we had, we couldn't run it."
Now, with the Rams preparing to play Oakland, and with the likelihood that Dockery and King won't play, Murphy will be active, but it doesn't appear that another cornerback will be added like Quincy Butler, who was released in the cutdown to 53 players.
Needing another blocking tight end, Darcy Johnson was re-signed with Hoomanawanui out. The Rams also have only five healthy linebackers, so a decision will have to be made on the nickel linebacker. That could end up being safety Craig Dahl, making it more important that James Butler stays healthy and plays. The Rams might be regretting the decision to release linebacker Bobby Carpenter, who was signed by Miami.
Wednesday, they claimed linebacker Bryan Kehl off waivers from the Giants, so at least he has knowledge of the system the Rams play for the time when coach Steve Spagnuolo was the Giants' defensive coordinator. Rookie linebacker Josh Hull was placed on injured reserve after suffering a torn ACL in Wednesday's practice.
Still, with only three healthy cornerbacks, the Raiders could also try to flood the secondary with receivers.
SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular-season meeting. Raiders lead series, 7-4. The Rams have won the last two games in the series, including a 20-0 victory in Oakland in 2006.
—CB Jerome Murphy is looking forward to the challenge of playing this week against Oakland. Being on the sideline Sunday was something he wasn't accustomed to.
"It was tough," Murphy said. "I was pacing back and forth on the sideline, because as a competitor you want to be in there and play. I felt like running into the locker room and suiting up. Your pads are inside, but you can't suit up. ... "I'm ready to get out there. I'm going to do a little extra studying on the tape (this week)."
Said starting cornerback Ron Bartell, "Murphy's young and talented. We've got to catch him up to speed on some stuff. But he has a week to prepare, and he has the right mindset, which is the most important thing."
—The accolades continue for rookie QB Sam Bradford. Following the Rams' opening-day loss to Arizona, DT Clifton Ryan said, "Sam is not afraid to lead. He's not afraid of anything. The sky is the limit for this kid. That is our new leader, him and Steven (Jackson) and O.J. (Atogwe).
"I view him as a leader even though he is a rookie because of the confidence that he prepares with, the confidence he came in with, the confidence that he played with today. As he progresses, you're going to see him lead us to victory in games like this."
Said Jackson, "He commanded the offense in the huddle when he needed to and even corrected some calls."
Concluded DE Chris Long, "Instead of punt alert, we are thinking first-down alert. We have faith in 8 (Bradford) and faith in this offense."
Even Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald got in the act, saying, "Sam Bradford is going to be a special player."
—The Rams were close against Arizona, but still came up short. Last season, in eight of their 15 losses, the Rams were within one score in the fourth quarter.
Said LB James Laurinaitis, "We went into the game expecting to win, and there were plenty of opportunities for us to take it ... and we just didn't do it. That's frustrating."
Added S Oshiomogho Atogwe, "You can look at it from two perspectives. But I think the biggest thing that you take out of this is that you are capable of winning if you just play to the level of your potential. Whether we made the plays or didn't, we still were in that game. We had an opportunity to win."
BY THE NUMBERS: 62.6 — Number of offensive plays per game the Rams averaged over the last three seasons. Of the 48 games, they had 18 with fewer than 60 plays. Sunday, against Arizona, the Rams had 81 plays, the highest total since the start of the 2007 season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I wish another team had drafted him." — Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt on QB Sam Bradford, who Arizona will have to face twice each season.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
With Sunday's game on the dirt infield in Oakland, the team's kickers worked at a local complex of baseball fields to practice kicking off the dirt.
Said P Donnie Jones, "There shouldn't be any problem. It's all mental."
—DT Clifton Ryan spent Wednesday night in the hospital and did not practice Thursday. Ryan woke up with headaches and didn't feel so right, so he went to the hospital where he was undergoing a battery of tests.
—DT Darell Scott injured his knee during practice Thursday, and had an ice pack on his leg as he watched the remainder of practice. He walked off the field afterward without the ice. Further tests will determine if the injury is serious.
—RB Steven Jackson, who missed practice Wednesday because of a slight knee problem, practiced Thursday and did not have his reps reduced.
—WR Laurent Robinson, who missed practice Wednesday because of an ankle injury, practiced Thursday.
—CB Justin King (hamstring) did some work in individual drills Thursday and has a chance of being able to play Sunday against Oakland.
—CB Jerome Murphy is working as the nickel back in practice with Kevin Dockery and Justin King not participating in team segments.
—CB Kevin Dockery missed his second day of practice because of a hamstring injury and is doubtful for Sunday's game in Oakland.
—LB Bryan Kehl, claimed on waivers from the Giants Wednesday, practiced Thursday and said he expects to play at least on special teams Sunday against the Raiders. Kehl was waived Tuesday despite having three special teams tackles in the Giants' game against Carolina. However, he did miss a block on what turned out to be a blocked punt.
—TE Michael Hoomanawanui won't need surgery to repair his high ankle sprain, but he is in a boot and the recovery time has been set at six-to-eight weeks.
—LB Josh Hull is lost for the season after suffering a torn ACL in practice Wednesday. A seventh-round pick this year, Hull had two special teams tackles in Sunday's loss to Arizona. He was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.
GAME PLAN: On the road in what can be a noisy venue, the Rams offensively will likely try to establish RB Steven Jackson early and often. Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha is one of the best in the NFL, and the noise could also affect the pass protection with a rookie quarterback and rookie left tackle. Right tackle Jason Smith had three starts on the road in 2009, his rookie season.
Defensively, the Rams will be challenged because of a shortage of cornerbacks, and will have to find a way to keep QB Jason Campbell in check.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Rams DTs vs. Raiders C Jared Veldheer — Veldheer is a battler, but is a rookie, played at Division II Hillsdale and hadn't played center since high school. RB Darren McFadden rushed for 95 yards against Tennessee, so the Rams' rotation inside of Fred Robbins, Clifton Ryan, Darell Scott and Clifton Ryan have to set the tone on first down.
Rams RB Steven Jackson vs. Raiders DTs Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour and MLB Rolando McClain — Last week, the Titans got 175 yards rushing from their running backs (142 by Chris Johnson), so it would seem the Rams have to win this battle to get their first victory of the season.
INJURY IMPACT: TE Michael Hoomanawanui could miss as many as eight weeks because of the high ankle sprain he suffered against Arizona ... LB Chris Chamberlain is in a boot because of a fractured toe that will sideline him for as long as two months. That means he might not return until mid-November. So far, the Rams have decided not to place him on injured reserve.