Williams Fills In Well
After years of clamoring for a backup capable of handling the load in the event of an injury to Steven Jackson, the Rams went out and signed Cadillac Williams.
While nobody figured Williams would get his chance to prove that he can still handle that type of workload as soon as the opening quarter of his first regular season game as a Ram, Williams was more than up to the task in Sunday’s loss to Philadelphia.
“During camp, coach just came to me one day and said, ‘Cadillac, stay ready,’” Williams said. “In this game of football, you just never know what could happen. Your snaps will go from 10 to 50. Mentally, (I’m) just staying ready and just trying to do whatever to help this team.”
Williams was clearly mentally and physically ready to take those snaps when Jackson left the game after just two carries early in the first quarter.
In subbing for Jackson, who left with a quadriceps injury suffered on his game-opening 47-yard touchdown run, Williams emerged as a threat in the running game and as a receiver.
By the time the day was done, Williams had rushed 19 times for 91 yards to go with six catches for 49 yards. The rushing output was Williams’ best performance since he last carried the load in the 2009 season finale with 126 yards.
“You’re talking about a guy that goes in with limited reps in the game plan and yet…he was fully in tune and knew exactly what it was he was supposed to do,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “That’s a pro, that’s what you need on a team.”
Williams was originally drafted No. 5 overall by Tampa Bay in the 2005 NFL Draft, Williams was quickly given the role of workhorse back, expected to handle the majority of the rushing chores for the Bucs for the ensuing decade or so.
Based on a rookie year that saw him take home Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, it seemed destined that is precisely what Williams was about to do. A down second year preceded a series of injury-plagued seasons that kept Williams from reaching his potential.
Upon his arrival in St. Louis, Williams embraced his role as Jackson’s primary backup but also was eager to prove he still has plenty of gas left in the tank.
“I feel like I have a lot of football left in me,” Williams said. “I do want to establish myself as a guy who can get the job done, so every time I get my chance I’m out there just doing my best. That’s just me.”
Williams certainly established that against the Eagles and in the process also re-assured the Rams that all is not lost in the running game without Jackson available.
“It's very comforting,” quarterback Sam Bradford said. “Obviously, anytime you lose Jack you know it’s frustrating because he is a great player. His presence on the field changes things in the defense, but we've got two guys behind him that can come in and keep the level of play very high. It's really reassuring as a quarterback to know that.”
LEARNING ON THE FLY: After injuries to Bradford and receiver Danny Amendola knocked them out of the game Sunday, the Rams were suddenly down to just A.J. Feeley at the signal caller spot.
When he was asked after the game what the plan would have been had Feeley also suffered an injury, Spagnuolo wasn’t quite sure which direction the team would have gone.
Spagnuolo said Monday that’s something he won’t allow to happen again.
“It was a learning experience for me on the quarterback situation,” Spagnuolo said. “Then I thought back to last year where we really only carried two quarterbacks for 15 games into the game. So when you do that, you are relying on a positional player to be your third quarterback. Then the positional player is out there playing so if he gets hurt you could end up in the situation we were in.”
GETTING THE DROP: One of the things Spagnuolo was most disappointed in following Sunday’s loss to the Eagles was the half dozen or so drops that plagued the receivers and tight ends.
It seemed nobody was immune to the dropsies but Bradford said he was unfazed by those miscues.
“That’s part of football, that’s part of the game,” Bradford said. “We've been at it for about five to six weeks now, and I’ve seen those guys make plenty of catches. Dropped balls haven't been a problem this year. Hopefully, it might have been first game jitters. If it was that, but hopefully it doesn't happen again but I think those guys did a great job. They still bounced back. They made a lot of plays for us tonight.”
Perhaps none were more maddening than the one from tight end Lance Kendricks in the first half. That was more surprising because Kendricks had proved to be so sure handed during the preseason and has emerged as one of Bradford’s most reliable targets.
It appeared Kendricks had some room to run after the catch and might have even scored a touchdown but he owned his error after the game and said he didn’t let it get in his head.
“I wasn’t worried about it, next play,” Kendricks said. “I kind of saw a corner or safety, and as soon as it touched my hands I kind of looked away instead of looking it in and tried to run with it. That’s something I wish I could do over, but you learn from your mistakes.”
BACK TO WORK: The Rams spent Monday not only going over the injury report but also making the many corrections they had from Sunday’s game.
Each week following a loss, the team has a series of meetings and then retreats to the indoor facility for the correction period where they replay the mistakes they made and do them the way they were originally supposed to be played.
One thing that almost certainly was part of that was losing contain on the backside in defending the run. As middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said following the game, those are the things that trouble you but you can’t let them linger in a long NFL season.
“I would say the runs at the end really, really bother you,” Laurinaitis said. “As a defensive player, you know a team is going to go out there and run the ball, try to kill clock, and then they pop off a big one. That’s stuff that just really, really gets under your skin, but we’ll correct it. In the same token, it’s not time to beat ourselves up too much. We have a lot of guys who know how to go to work and a lot of guys who know how to humbly accept coaching. That’s what we’ll do. We’ll accept it, we’ll look forward, and we’ll work our tails off this week.”