Tony Fisher solidifies spot behind Steven Jackson
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sunday, Aug. 06 2006
First preseason game: 7 p.m. Thursday vs. Colts, KTVI (Ch. 2)
Steven Jackson obviously is the man at running back in St. Louis. But scrimmage
or not, the rest of the backfield picture began to crystallize Saturday at Rams
Tony Fisher, a free-agent pickup from Green Bay, made the day's longest run
from scrimmage: a 46-yard touchdown. Afterward, coach Scott Linehan basically
proclaimed him the No. 2 back behind Jackson.
"Fish has shown that he's really our No. 2 legitimate back right now," Linehan
said. "Moe will be competing with him."
That's Moe, as in Moe Williams. In just his third day on the Rams' roster,
Williams showcased his forte - short-yardage and red-zone running - with two
red-zone touchdown runs Saturday.
"That's the type of running style that you're looking for when you put Moe in,"
Linehan said. "It's nothing fancy; I think he'll be the first one to tell you.
And in the day's only depth-chart surprise, Paul Smith came out as the starting
fullback instead of last year's starter, Madison Hedgecock.
"Paul's the No. 1 fullback," Linehan said. "There's still very good competition
between him and Madison, but he has a little more experience there than
Smith, a six-year NFL veteran, started five games for Detroit last season. He
signed with the Rams on May 6 as an unrestricted free agent.
At quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick clearly emerged with the edge over Dave Ragone
for the No. 3 job. Fitzpatrick completed seven of 11 passes for 137 yards and a
touchdown, with just about every pass on the money.
"I'm extremely confident right now," Fitzpatrick said. "I think I'm throwing
the ball really well."
Ragone, meanwhile, was seven of 15 for 115 yards and a TD. He had a couple
passes batted down at the line and was off target on some other throws. But in
fairness, he was working with the No. 3 offense; Fitzpatrick had the benefit of
working with the second unit.
"That's going to continue to be a real interesting competition," Linehan said.
"In the preseason games, both of them will get a lot of snaps."
With nearly 2,500 spectators watching - easily the largest crowd to see the
team work at its home facility - one of Linehan's objectives was to throw the
ball to his tight ends. Joe Klopfenstein, Jerome Collins and Aaron Walker
combined for five catches for 69 yards, and Walker just missed catching another
for a TD.
No one had a more interesting day than cornerback Tye Hill, the first-round
draft pick from Clemson. Hill struggled early. For example, he got caught
inside on Fisher's long touchdown run.
"On the run, I should have kept contain," Hill said. "I let it get outside on
me because I let the tight end get too close to my body."
Injury was added to insult when Hill aggravated a shoulder problem, an AC joint
sprain that originally occurred at the NFL Scouting Combine last February. Hill
got flattened at the bottom of the pile by Williams, defensive lineman Brian
Howard and others, and came up holding his shoulder.
But in a show of toughness, Hill was back out on the field almost immediately,
missing maybe a couple of plays.
"He got back out there quick," Linehan said. "It wasn't like he was out for 20
minutes. It seemed like he was out for 30 seconds and got back in there."
Even with the injury, Hill's play improved as the day went on.
"He made a couple plays on balls down in the red zone," Linehan said. "We
tested him a couple times. I wanted to run a couple things at him and see how
If that weren't enough action for one day, Hill got into a brief yet intense
shouting match with safety Dwaine Carpenter.
"That's just how it happens on the field," Hill said. "It was nothing. Heat of
Overall, Linehan liked the run blocking by all of the offensive line units. The
second offensive group, headed by Fitzpatrick and Fisher, got the best of the
second defense. But the third defense had a clear edge over the No. 3 offense.
Other than Hill's brief shoulder scare, there were no injuries of note
Saturday. Backup safety Jerome Carter got the wind knocked out of him on one
play, but was OK.
The team got the rest of Saturday off, with no curfew. They don't report back
to Rams Park until meetings Sunday night, with no practice until Monday.
Who has the edge?
A look at where some key competitions stand after Saturday's scrimmage:
No. 2 running back
Tony Fisher over Moe Williams
Fisher makes the day's longest run, a 46-yard TD.
Paul Smith over Madison Hedgecock
Linehan cites Smith's experience.
No. 3 quarterback
Ryan Fitzgerald over Dave Ragone
Fitzpatrick throws for 137 yards and a TD.