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  • Rams Put The Run To Work

    Rams put the run to work
    BY JIM THOMAS
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    08/30/2009

    Preseason or not, trends in exhibition play often spill over into the regular season. And if there's one thing the Rams have been consistent with offensively this August, it's a willingness to run the football and stick with the run throughout a game.

    Beginning with the preseason opener against the New York Jets, the Rams have run the ball 29 times, then 30, then 31 times in their three contests. So far this preseason, the Rams actually have more running plays (90) than forward passes (85). If that trend holds up for one more game, it'll be only the second time the Rams have had more runs than carries in a preseason in 14 years.

    "That's the identity we're trying to create," right guard Richie Incognito said. "Physical up front and get the running game going. So they're dialing it up, and letting us really get behind our pads and get in a rhythm. With the running game, you can't start calling it and then get away from it later in the game. You've got to dial it up early and keep it coming."

    And that's basically what offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, with input from head coach Steve Spagnuolo, has been doing throughout the preseason, albeit with varying success from game to game.

    Samkon Gado's 77-yard touchdown run against the Jets helped spike the rushing total in that game to 193 yards — the second-highest preseason total for the Rams since the move to St. Louis in 1995.

    The going was much tougher the following week against a shifting Atlanta front that employed a lot of run blitzes. The totals that night: just 79 yards total and 2.6 yards per carry.

    "Atlanta does a lot of things ... that we haven't really seen yet, and we really struggled with," Incognito said.

    But Cincinnati played more base defense, in the traditional 4-3 alignment, and the Rams were able to get in more of a rhythm. The results weren't spectacular — 102 yards rushing and a 3.3 average — but it was an improvement from the Falcons game.

    "There were times there when you didn't think we were running the ball real well, and then we'd shoot a couple guys through," Spagnuolo said.

    And that was with a hodge-podge of players on the offensive line when the starters were on the field. The Rams used Alex Barron and Adam Goldberg at left tackle, and Goldberg and Jason Smith at right tackle at various times Thursday in Paul Brown Stadium. With Jacob Bell missing his second game with a concussion, there was a timeshare at left guard as well between Mark Setterstrom and John Greco.

    That shuffling isn't helping the overall production. But Bell returns to practice Sunday, and eventually, the line will settle into the same five starters. (At the moment, Adam Goldberg is still holding off Jason Smith at right tackle.)

    And effective Sept. 13, the regular-season opener in Seattle, Steven Jackson moves into the feature back role in the offense. Through three exhibition games, Jackson has only 11 touches — on 10 carries and a reception.

    That's a far cry from his rookie year of 2004, when he had 74 preseason touches (66 carries, eight catches). But it's a lot more than the past two preseasons, when he was either holding out or put in mothballs by Scott Linehan. Jackson didn't have a preseason carry in '07 or '08, and had only two catches.

    But even before the Cincinnati game, Jackson declared his state of readiness for the regular season.

    "I am ready," Jackson said. "I feel like we've been practicing forever; it goes back to March, you know. Although we haven't been in front of a live audience, we've been going at this for quite a while."

    At the same time, Jackson is aware of the big picture.

    "We've got to make sure that we go through the process," he said. "I've learned that training camp is a necessary evil. It allows for us to build that chemistry as a team, get the identity of the team, what we're going to be for that year. I understand all that. It also allows coaches to evaluate talent. But I do want September to hurry up and get here as well."

    September is almost here, and when the real games start, Jackson should be plenty busy. But first comes the preseason finale Thursday against Kansas City. Most coaches throttle down considerably on playing time for their starters in the fourth preseason game. They don't want to risk injury so close to the regular season, so Jackson might not play at all.

    "He sure looks ready to go," Spagnuolo said. "And he's been a consummate pro. It's not easy for a competitive guy like that to be standing on the sideline when everybody else is playing. But I ask him to just bear with us. There's a plan, you know, there's a reason why we're doing it."

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  • r8rh8rmike
    Rams Ready For Preseason Opener
    by r8rh8rmike
    Rams Ready for Preseason Opener
    Thursday, August 13, 2009


    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    When the Rams step on the field against the Jets on Friday night for the first game time under coach Steve Spagnuolo, the end result won’t be the most important thing.

    After all, it’s the first preseason game and the first opportunity for Spagnuolo to see how his team fares against someone wearing a different jersey. Like any preseason game, the plays for the starters will be limited and the playbook will be rather vanilla.

    What Spagnuolo wants to see, more so than more points on the Rams’ side than the Jets, is how his team competes when the lights come on.

    “In a lot of ways it’s a continuation of training camp in my opinion because you are still working,” Spagnuolo said. “But I will say this, it doesn’t matter whether you are playing pickup basketball in the backyard or playing your brother in cards, it’s competition. Everybody wants to win so we will approach this thing like a competition. We want to compete, compete at the highest level and let it play itself out. It’s great we are going to get some situational work. We have been doing a lot of that in practice. But there’s nothing like playing in the game.”

    To this point, the Rams have gone through an entire offseason under their new direction. That includes organized team activities, minicamps and conditioning programs. In this year’s training camp, this game signals the first true benchmark and the chance for the 80 players on the roster to get a real evaluation from the coaching staff.

    On Thursday, the team moved out of its training camp hotel and though it will still be in camp mode as far as practice upon return from New York, the business of looking toward the regular season isn’t far off.

    The Rams are now 24 practices and one full squad scrimmage into this year’s training camp and the light at the end of the tunnel is growing closer.

    That said there’s plenty left to accomplish between now and the Sept. 13 opener at Seattle.

    “I’m really excited to see what this ’09 team has,” running back Steven Jackson said. “I think over the last several months, from OTAs until now, we’ve really worked on changing the identity of this team. And I think Friday will be a showing of where we’re at so far in this season, this early season.”

    The first preseason game is generally viewed as a way to ease players back into the grind and intensity of a real, live football game. More often than not, teams choose to use their top players for a limited time and wait until the second and third preseason games before they give those groups an extended period of time.

    For the Rams, it will be no different. Spagnuolo said Wednesday he expects to use his starting unit for about the first quarter, give or take a few plays and...
    -08-14-2009, 02:11 PM
  • r8rh8rmike
    RB Steven Jackson Not Getting Much Preseason Work
    by r8rh8rmike
    08.26.2009 10:13 am
    RB Steven Jackson not getting much preseason work
    By Jim Thomas
    St. Louis Post-Dispatch

    St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson hasn’t been worn down in exhibiton play _ he has only five carries in two preseason games. But he is growing weary of questions about his preseason workload.

    “I feel like this question keeps coming up,” Jackson told reporters after Tuesday’s practice. “I will leave that up to Coach (Steve Spagnuolo). Like I said before, I am ready and I will take however many reps they feel I need.”

    Jackson had two carries for 15 yards Aug. 14 against the New York Jets; he had three carries for 10 yards last Friday against Atlanta. He has yet to have a pass thrown his way in preseason play.

    According to Spagnuolo, Jackson can look for more of the same in terms of a workload Thursday night in Cincinnati.

    “Very similar, maybe a little bit more,” Spagnuolo said.

    For his part, Jackson says he’d just as soon hit the fast-foward button _ all the way to the Sept. 13 season opener in Seattle.

    “I am ready,” he said. “It feels like we’ve been practicing forever. It goes back to March.”


    _ The Rams had a walk-through practice Wednesday morning in Earth City and were scheduled to leave for Cincinnati early in the afternoon.

    _ The annual Rams “Rookie Show,” in which draft picks and rookie free agents make fun of coaches, players and just about anything else, took place Tuesday.

    _ WR Brooks Foster, coming off ankle surgery last Friday, won’t accompany the team to Cincinnati.

    _ RB Kenneth Darby, experiencing swelling in his sprained knee, was held out of Tuesday’s practice and looks doubtful for Cincy.

    _ Still not cleared to play after suffering a concussion against the Jets, left guard Jacob Bell took another baseline test Tuesday. Bell must pass the test before he’s cleared to play again.
    -08-26-2009, 04:31 PM
  • MauiRam
    Jackson has an impact in a hurry ..
    by MauiRam
    BY JIM THOMAS Wednesday, August 25, 2010 12:10 am


    As if anyone needed reminding, Steven Jackson makes a big difference in the Rams' backfield.

    "Are you kidding me?" quarterback A.J. Feeley joked when asked about Jackson's impact. "Having that guy in the backfield definitely takes the load off. You can tell those linebackers, they have to honor him on all the play fakes. ... Any time you motion to give him the ball, they're going to respect that. As a quarterback that makes it definitely easier."

    The proof was in the numbers Saturday in Cleveland. Making his preseason debut, Jackson gained 20 yards on four carries, averaging 5 yards per carry. The rest of the Rams running game? AWOL. Including a few quarterback scrambles by Sam Bradford and Keith Null, the rest of the Rams rushed for 37 yards on 29 carries, or 1.3 yards a carry.

    The mere presence of Jackson in the huddle provided a lift for the offense, particularly the offensive line. And when you can mix the run and pass like the Rams did in their opening drive against the Browns, it keeps defenses off balance.

    "Pretty good first drive," left guard Jacob Bell said. "We keep Steven in the game, I think we can keep doing that. He's a heck of a player. It was good to have everybody out there and get the first team out there for the first time."

    Not only did the Cleveland game mark Jackson's first action of the preseason, it was the first time the starting unit on the offensive line was in a game together. The result was a 10-play, 65-yard touchdown drive on a night when the Rams gained only 107 yards the rest of the night — once Jackson and Feeley left the game.

    "That first drive was pretty efficient," Jackson said. "We were able to move the ball on the ground as well as in the air. And it really felt good just to be out there once again."

    The highlight for Jackson was his very first touch, when he gained 11 yards running off left guard, getting some yards after contact along the way.

    "To get the first one (for) 11 yards ... but fall for some extra yards at the end shows that the back strength is there," Jackson said. "We want to continue to grind out the yards like we always have."

    Late in the rehab process following back surgery in April to repair a herniated disc, Jackson said he doubled his normal weight-training regimen.

    "During the month of July, I kind of ratcheted up the weight training portion of it," Jackson said. "I was lifting twice a day, morning and evening. Then I would do my conditioning in between the two weight exercises. Years previous, I would run twice and lift once."

    In part, the idea was to build up the muscle around the back injury, but there was more to Jackson's altered routine than just pumping...
    -08-25-2010, 11:12 AM
  • Nick
    Coats Blog: Time to second-guess preseason approach?
    by Nick
    Time to second-guess preseason approach?
    By Bill Coats
    09/09/2007 6:44 pm

    Does Steven Jackson commit two critical fumbles Sunday if he plays more than a handful of snaps – including no carries – in the preseason? Were the “hits” Jackson took in practice enough to prepare him for regular-season contact?

    Scott Linehan is far from the only coach in the NFL who is determined to protect his marquee back by using him sparingly, if at all, in the exhibition games.

    Still, it’s fair to wonder whether they’re going overboard with this approach. Sure, Jackson came into the regular-season opener fresh and healthy. But he had a subpar day in the 27-13 loss to Carolina: 58 yards on 18 carries (3.2 average) and one catch for 3 yards.

    And then the fumbles . . .

    The first came early in the third quarter with the Rams leading 13-7 and driving for more. The Panthers scored two plays later on a 68-yard strike from QB Jake Delhomme to WR Steve Smith.

    Two plays into the next series, Jackson coughed it up again, this time at the Rams’ 26. The Panthers fumbled away that glittering opportunity, but still, they never trailed again.

    “It was a rough one,” Jackson said. “Tests come, test go. You just have to be able to withstand the storm.”

    Jackson said during the spring that his goal for 2007 was 2,500 total yards from scrimmage. He led the NFL in that category last year, with 2,334.

    “I didn’t intend for my season to start like this,” Jackson said. “But . . . I will not back down.”

    ***

    Quarterback Marc Bulger wasn’t buying into the notion that part of the reason the offense struggled vs. the Panthers was tied to the first team’s relatively brief appearances in the preseason games.

    “We had a chance to win the game, and if a couple of situations don’t happen, we’re sitting here with a different outcome,” he said. “I don’t like to second-guess much about football, because anyone who has played long enough knows that you can play the same exact game and the ball bounces one way or another. . . .

    “The score didn’t indicate it, but for three quarters we were . . . in control of the game. We didn’t finish. They got the momentum and took it from there.”

    ***

    Injury report:

    >>T Orlando Pace came out late in the first half with an injury to his right shoulder. It was termed a sprain; he’ll have an MRI on Monday. Adam Goldberg played reasonably well in relief.

    >>LB Pisa Tinoisamoa went down with a sprained right ankle early in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Chris Draft. Tinoisamoa returned to the game but also will be examined further on Monday.



    What he said:

    >>”In the second half, we just fell apart.” – DE Leonard Little.

    >>”It...
    -09-09-2007, 08:36 PM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Rams Ready For Home Debut
    by r8rh8rmike
    Rams Ready for Home Debut
    Thursday, August 20, 2009


    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo wasn’t fazed by returning to his old stomping grounds at Giants Stadium for last week’s preseason opener against the Jets.

    Spagnuolo likely won’t react much different on Friday night when he and the new look Rams make their debut in front of the home fans at the likewise new look Edward Jones Dome against Atlanta.

    In the days leading up to the opener in New York, Spagnuolo insisted that he wouldn’t let any lingering emotion of his former employer take over. He acknowledged that he would think for a brief moment about his time with the Giants but then it was all Rams.

    This time, though, Spagnuolo fessed up to being at least a little excited to be in front of a friendly crowd for the first time as a head coach.

    “It is because it is St. Louis and I appreciate the fans and every body here,” Spagnuolo said. “I think there are great sports fans here but once the game kicks off – I will always say this to the players – it is really what happens between the white lines. Now it is certainly always nice to have the support but the game is played on the field and I hope the guys will focus on that and hopefully we can do good enough things that there will be a lot of cheering.”

    Should the Rams find a way to repeat what they did last week against the Jets, the blue and gold faithful in attendance should have plenty of opportunities to cheer. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of areas in which Spagnuolo and his staff would like to see improvement this week against the Falcons.

    Spagnuolo said Wednesday that he expects to get the top units about a half of work on each side with some room in there for substitutions. Running back Steven Jackson, for example, isn’t likely to play all of that time though the amount of plays for those units is more important to Spagnuolo than the actual game time played.

    “We’ll say the first and second quarter,” Spagnuolo said. “If the number of reps gets too high maybe that will change but that will be the approach.”

    Of course, the first units will look a little different considering the events of the past week. Fans and coaches will almost certainly get a look at four players who either didn’t play or didn’t appear with the first unit last week.

    Left guard Jacob Bell suffered a concussion in the preseason opener and isn’t likely to play. Quarterback Marc Bulger is out with a broken right pinkie and tackle Alex Barron isn’t likely to play with swelling in his knee.

    That leaves opportunities for John Greco and Mark Setterstrom at guard, rookie Jason Smith at right tackle (with Adam Goldberg moving to the left side) and Kyle Boller stepping in for Bulger at quarterback.

    Fortunately for the Rams, none...
    -08-21-2009, 01:35 PM
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