Rookie Runners Get Opportunity
Posted 8 hours ago
Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

ARLINGTON, Tex. – After two preseason games in which he made it abundantly clear that he’s ready for his ninth NFL season, Rams running back Steven Jackson’s preseason workload lightened considerably in the team’s third preseason contest Saturday night.

Jackson, who generally cherishes the chance to play a Dallas team that passed on him in the 2004 NFL Draft, played a handful of snaps in the opening quarter but had no carries and was out soon after.

That allowed the Rams to take a look at their pair of rookie running backs working with the first-team offense. The results for Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson were mixed as Richardson gave the Rams a bit of a spark and Pead found running room hard to come by early but had more success as the game wore on.

Richardson, who missed the first week and a half with a hamstring injury that he suffered in summer workouts away from the team, has come back with a vengeance. With fresh legs, Richardson has stood out in practice since his return and has quickly earned his way into the mix for a potential competition for the second running back spot behind Jackson.

“I think both guys are very talented,” Jackson said. “I think their running styles are very effective each into what they do best. I think overall it’s going to be a tough decision. I think both guys are very talented.”

With a strong performance, not only in his time with the first team but in his work in the second half Saturday night against the Cowboys, Richardson did nothing but help his cause.

In his couple series with the first team offense, Richardson rushed six times for 27 yards and had a catch for 9 yards. For the game, he finished with 51 yards on 10 carries in his most extensive action of the preseason.

“It feels really good, it feels amazing to be out there with the starters and see what I can do,” Richardson said. “I feel like I am starting to hit my stride but I am just trying to get better every day and progress every day. You never want to get comfortable. You have always got to work harder and try to get better every day.”

Pead, meanwhile, was unable to generate much room running the ball as he had just three carries for 5 yards and no catches in his time with the first team offense. He finished with 22 yards on nine carries for the game.

On a brighter note for the second-round pick, Pead had a solid night returning kicks; bringing three back with an average of 31 yards per attempt, including a long of 47 yards to help setup the Rams’ first field goal.

Still, Pead is working to get his feet under him in the preseason games and begin running more decisively. The competition isn’t fully formed yet, according to Fisher.

“We’ll see what happens,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “The special teams progress will have a lot to do with this and how we sort out what we do when we get to the 45.”

WELLS RETURNS: The long anticipated return of center Scott Wells finally came to fruition on Saturday night as he completed a week of practice without setback and took his rightful place in the middle of the offensive line against the Cowboys.

The Rams signed Wells to a lucrative contract in March after he had put together a strong career in Green Bay, including a Pro Bowl season in 2011. Wells underwent an arthroscopic knee surgery in the spring and was unable to get rehabilitation done to open camp with the team.

Wells slowly worked his way back into the mix during camp before getting his first repetitions in team drills last week. That work was enough to get Wells on the field with the starting offensive line Saturday night.

““It felt good physically getting back out there tonight,” Wells said. “Getting back into some live action felt good, but we need to be more productive, that was the thing. We need to find a way to get these third downs, convert them, get the ball in the end zone and get off to a faster start. But, physically, it felt good to be back out there.”

Wells played the first three series with the offense before turning the duties over to Robert Turner.

SITTING IT OUT: For the most part, the Rams had no surprises in terms of participation against the Cowboys. For the most part.

One big surprise was the absence of starting right guard Harvey Dahl from the starting lineup and, subsequently, the game. He has an unknown infection and may not play in the preseason finale against Baltimore on Thursday, either.

Dahl has been the one constant for the Rams offensive line during training camp and the preseason, as he hasn’t even missed a repetition the past month or so. But he did not play against Dallas.

“He came down with a virus so we just held him out,” Fisher said.

Bryan Mattison started in his place at right guard.

Aside from Dahl’s absence, the rest of the Rams not participating provided no shocks. Receiver Danario Alexander, ends Eugene Sims and Jamaar Jarrett, safety Darian Stewart and defensive tackles Trevor Laws and Darell Scott did not play.

All have been dealing with injuries of various nature. From that group, only Stewart seemed to be a possibility but after returning earlier in the week on a limited basis, his hamstring tightened up again and he did not play.

With Stewart out, the Rams were again thin at safety, going with combinations that included starters Quintin Mikell and Craig Dahl and undrafted rookies Matt Daniels and Rodney McLeod.

McLeod took reps with the first team during the week.

GHOLSTON PLAYS: The Rams signed defensive end Vernon Gholston on Wednesday evening after a workout with the team and the former No. 6 overall pick was back on the practice field on Thursday afternoon.

Wearing No. 70, Gholston was immediately thrown into the mix Saturday night, in no small part because of the absence of Sims and Jarrett. Behind starters Chris Long and Robert Quinn, that left the Rams with only undrafted rookie Scott Smith and veteran William Hayes healthy on the edge in addition to Gholston.

Gholston got his first work midway through the fourth quarter and finished the game with the third team defense.

INJURY REPORT: The Rams again made it through the game with no lingering injury issues despite a couple of second-half scares.

Receiver Brian Quick and quarterback Kellen Clemens took hard shots but both came out of it OK, according to Fisher.

Quick, in particular, seemed to be shaken up after taking a hard hit on a pass to the sideline.

“We had to check him because he took a shot to the lower abdomen,” Fisher said. “He did have the wind knocked out of him. So we got things settled down and there was no head trauma or concussion symptoms. Injury wise we ended up OK, that was really the only one.”