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  • Darby remains Rams' No. 2 running back

    Darby remains Rams' No. 2 running back
    BY BILL COATS • Posted: Saturday, September 11, 2010 12:15 am

    The offseason buzz made its way to Kenneth Darby: The Rams must bring in a No. 2 running back. Either draft one or pick up a free agent. But get somebody.

    Darby, who filled that role behind Steven Jackson last year, was unperturbed by the pleas.

    "Naw, naw," he said, laughing. "If anything, it just gave me more of that hunger to work harder and prove people wrong, show people what I can do."

    The Rams made a push to sign free agent Brian Westbrook, but he wound up in San Francisco. Then they gave Chris Ogbonnaya, a seventh-round draft pick last year, the first opportunity to earn the job. After teams trimmed their rosters last weekend, the Rams scoured the waiver wire. They signed Allen Patrick but assigned him to the practice squad.

    So as the Rams head into Sunday's regular-season opener against Arizona, Darby is back in his familiar slot, where he gained 140 yards on 32 carries last season. Keith Toston, an undrafted rookie from Oklahoma State, is the other running back on the 53-man roster. Ogbonnaya was released after an unproductive preseason showing.

    A healthy Jackson will get a heavy workload. He had 375 touches — 324 carries and 51 receptions — last year in 15 games. But Jackson is coming off back surgery in April, and the Rams have to prepare for all possibilities.

    "We're fine there," coach Steve Spagnuolo. "You're not going to have at all 22 positions a 1 and a 1A; there's just not enough spots for that. But we've got two solid running backs there that we think can get it done should something happen to Steven."

    The 5-foot-10, 219-pound Darby, a fourth-year pro out of Alabama, had a sluggish start to the preseason, averaging just 3.1 yards a carry in the first two games. But in the last two, he picked up 74 yards on 19 attempts, a 3.9 average.

    Darby said that when he changed his thinking, he changed his production.

    "My mind-set coming into this preseason was getting the No. 2 spot. And I guess I was just thinking about that too much instead of playing my game," he said. "I just said, 'Forget it, just relax, Darby, play your game and let the game come to you.' And that's exactly what I did. I relaxed and started playing my game."

    Toston, 5-11 and 214, was the team's leading rusher in the preseason, with 127 yards on 39 carries, a 3.3 average.

    "Toston has really come on — showed he had a little burst," Spagnuolo said. "I like that he's a north-and-south runner."

    Beating the odds and making the team "is a dream," Toston said. Now he's eager to get into a regular-season game.

    "Any time you're in this business, you want to play," Toston said. "My job is, if Steven needs a breather and Coach calls my name, just to get in and make sure the team doesn't drop off any."

    READY TO ROLL

    It started in March with the offseason conditioning program, continued with organized team activities, two minicamps, training camp and the preseason.

    Finally, with a 90-minute practice Friday, the Rams wrapped up on-field preparation for the regular season.

    "We feel like we've done everything we can; now it's kind of mental," Spagnuolo said. "I told the guys they've done everything they can physically; now it's just a mind-set of going out and trying to win a football game."

    Spagnuolo said he advised his players to "get your rest, eat well, and get ready to play on Sunday. They've done it all. The guys have responded well."

    RAM-BLINGS

    Arizona running back Beanie Wells (knee) hasn't practiced all week. He was listed as questionable on Friday's injury report. Tim Hightower is expected to start. … Safety James Butler (knee) was the only Rams player listed. He was probable.

  • #2
    Re: Darby remains Rams' No. 2 running back

    Probably Darby's last chance to backup Jackson unless he shows improvement this year.

    Comment

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    • MauiRam
      Holdovers feel they can fill role of Jackson's backup ..
      by MauiRam
      BY BILL COATS
      05/24/2010

      From future Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk to second-round draftee Brian Leonard to journeymen such as Arlen Harris, Tony Fisher and Antonio Pittman, the Rams for half a decade have strived to find a solid backup for Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson.

      In general, it's been a futile search. Leonard produced 303 rushing yards in 2007, the highest total among the No. 2 backs. Pittman had 296 in '08 and Faulk 292 in '05. None of the others cracked the 200-yard mark.

      Meanwhile, Jackson has rolled up a total of 6,034 yards (on 1,414 carries) in his five seasons as the team's marquee back, topping 1,000 yards in each of those seasons. During that period, Jackson has averaged 282.8 carries a year, one of the NFL's heaviest workloads.

      His carries and yards represent 75.6 percent and 77.2 percent, respectively, of the Rams' ground production by running backs in that span.


      Now, Jackson is coming off surgery April 15 to repair a herniated disk in his lower back. So, it would seem logical that the Rams would prefer to lessen Jackson's task a bit.

      The Rams have flirted with former Philadelphia standout Brian Westbrook, a free agent brought in for a physical exam last month. The Rams remain interested, but Westbrook, 30, has a troublesome left knee and also suffered two concussions last season.

      Two rookie free-agent running backs — Keith Toston of Oklahoma State and DeMaundray Woolridge of Idaho — are among the 96 players participating in organized team activities at Rams Park.

      But with training camp about two months off, the only other backs on the roster with NFL experience are holdovers from last season, Kenneth Darby and Chris Ogbonnaya.

      They've heard the pleas for a new face to back up Jackson, and it's possible the Rams will find one when rosters are whittled down in the summer.

      Still, Darby and Ogbonnaya would like to say: Hey, what about us?

      "They should all think that way," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "Any back that comes in here should be competing for that" job.

      "People are going to talk, and I really can't control what people say," said Darby, 5 feet 10 and 219 pounds. "But I can control what I do on the field. When people say that, I don't really pay it any mind. But I do remember it, so when I get my opportunity to go out there, I show people what I'm made of and introduce them to Mr. Kenneth Darby."

      Last year, Mr. Darby picked up 152 yards on 27 carries and added 96 yards on 18 catches. Ogbonnaya, 6-0 and 225, spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad. But he suited up late in the year and had 50 yards on 11 attempts, plus one reception for 19 yards.

      That action, scant as it was, "helps a lot," Ogbonnaya said. "When you're just out there...
      -05-24-2010, 08:40 AM
    • MauiRam
      Battle for backup running back just beginning ..
      by MauiRam
      By Nick Wagoner
      Senior Writer

      Through much of the speculation about what the Rams’ new offensive scheme will look like, there’s been one steady, constant key to the way new coach Steve Spagnuolo’s team will play offense: it will place a heavy emphasis on running the football.

      That emphasis is music to the ears of many, an offensive line that loves to run block, a quarterback who prefers to not take so many hits and a star running back in Steven Jackson who is rarely satisfied with his opportunities.

      It also means that somewhere on the roster, Spagnuolo, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and running backs coach Sylvester Croom are going to have to find some worthy backups capable of sharing what is sure to be an increased workload not only for Jackson but for all of the running backs on the roster.

      In a battle that is sure to last well into training camp, the Rams have already started taking a long look at some of the potential backups with Kenneth Darby and Antonio Pittman getting the bulk of the immediate work behind Jackson and rookie Chris Ogbonnaya and veteran Samkon Gado waiting in the wings.

      “We want Steven in there, but if Steven isn’t I’m really impressed with the guys that we have,” Shurmur said. “They all are a little bit different, but obviously when a backup player comes in he’s a role player. And so there are things that they’re good at and other things they are developing, so I think that’s the case with all our guys.”

      After Jackson missed four games and part of another with a thigh injury last season, the Rams turned to Pittman and Darby to share the majority of the load in his absence. The duo had its ups and downs but flashed potential as both are still early in their careers.

      Still, the Rams entered the offseason with the idea of adding a back that could carry the load in Jackson’s place. But because of more pressing needs at other positions, the team opted to bring back Gado, who had a short stay with the team last year, and draft Ogbonnaya in the seventh round of April’s NFL Draft.

      With only a handful of organized team activities remaining, the Rams are just beginning the process of sorting out who will fill what role. As it stands, Darby and Pittman would seem to be the top contenders.

      For his part, Spagnuolo says he’s excited to monitor the competition for the No. 2 running back role well into the summer.

      “(There is) a lot of competition,” Spagnuolo said. “I’m not going to pin one against the other. I think both of the guys are picking up the system pretty well. At least that’s the indication from coach Croom. I think both add certain things. Again, I would say I’m real anxious to see the competition when they put the pads on.”

      Darby came to the Rams on Oct. 14 from Tampa Bay’s practice squad after injuries again hit the Rams running backs. He played...
      -06-11-2009, 09:21 AM
    • MauiRam
      Gado's big game boosts stock with Rams ..
      by MauiRam
      Gado's big game boosts stock with Rams

      AUG. 14, 2009 By Jim Thomas
      ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
      08/16/2009

      In a crowded Rams backfield, Samkon Gado took some big steps Friday toward establishing himself as the No. 2 runner behind Steven Jackson. About 77 steps, actually.

      Gado's 77-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter against the New York Jets was surprising on a couple of levels.

      For one, most observers didn't think he was that fast. "That's not the first time I've heard that — I don't know why," Gado said. "Several of my teammates said the same thing. But I've always known I was that fast. I just never really kind of had a chance to show it."

      For another, how about that juke he put on Jets safety James Ihedigbo?

      "I gave him an old move that my high school coach taught me called 'the double,' " Gado said.

      When asked about the move, Gado said: "You can't describe it. You're just going to have to see it, I guess."

      Suffice it to say "the double" was a shake-and-bake move by Gado, who looks bigger and burlier than his listed roster weight of 227 pounds. The move helped Gado record the Rams' longest run from scrimmage in exhibition play since the move to St. Louis in 1995 — a period encompassing 58 games.

      It also helped the Rams gain 193 yards on the ground, their best preseason total since a

      202-yard rushing game against Indianapolis in the 2006 exhibition opener.

      "It was a simple draw play that just kind of opened up," Gado said. "I thought I had a pretty nice run, about 10-15 yards, and I was thinking that's about as good as it was gonna be."

      Until he left the defender seeing "double." All told, Gado finished with 93 yards on six carries Friday, moving the pile for extra yards on several plays.

      When he wasn't teasing Gado about being the postgame center of media attention Friday at Giants Stadium, Jackson praised the fourth-year pro from Nigeria.

      "I knew Sam was that fast," Jackson said.

      Last week in practice, the running backs got into the habit of running all the way to the end zone after taking handoffs during "team" periods. The exercise is designed to stress finishing plays.

      "And Sam shows a burst when he finishes runs in practice," Jackson said. "So it was no surprise to me, but I was impressed."

      Jackson took note of the fact Gado's big run came after spending most of the first half playing fullback in place of Mike Karney, who dressed but didn't play because of an ankle injury.

      Big run notwithstanding, Gado isn't ready to say he's running away from the competition behind Jackson.

      "I don't think it says as much as it may...
      -08-16-2009, 12:23 PM
    • MauiRam
      Toston has eye on backup RB opening with St. Louis Rams ..
      by MauiRam
      by Bill Coats

      05/03/2010

      Since taking Steven Jackson in the first round in 2004, the Rams have drafted just two running backs — Brian Leonard in the second round in 2007 and Chris Ogbonnaya in the seventh and final round last year.

      Leonard was traded to Cincinnati in '09 after two generally uneventful seasons with the Rams. Ogbonnaya spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad.

      It's no surprise, then, that the team has struggled to come up with a suitable backup for Jackson. Kenneth Darby has proved little in two years with the Rams, Samkon Gado was let go after the '09 season, and Ogbonnaya doesn't have a large enough body of work — 11 carries for 50 yards — off which to form a judgment.

      So once again, the No. 2 job behind Jackson is open. Of the 15 rookie free agents working out at rookie minicamp this week, two are running backs: Keith Toston of Oklahoma State and DeMaundray "The Diesel" Wooldridge of Idaho.
      Click here to find out more!


      Toston doesn't have a cool nickname. But he probably has the best chance of landing a spot on the team. "This opportunity is one of my dreams," he said, "so I feel pretty good about getting a chance to live it out."

      The 6-foot, 214-pound Toston (pronounced TOAST-un) didn't become a full-time starter until early in his senior season, after All-Big 12 back Kendall Hunter went down with an ankle injury.

      Toston rushed for 1,218 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Cowboys. He also latched on to 25 passes for 261 yards and a TD. He finished his four seasons at OSU — where Pro Football Hall of Famers Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas once toiled — with 3,234 total yards: 2,727 rushing and 507 receiving.

      Toston, who succeeded Hunter on the all-conference squad, felt that he played himself onto several teams' draft boards. "Through the whole operation, I was talking to teams. But it ended up not happening," he said. "So I had to take what they gave me."

      The culprit, Toston suspects, was his pedestrian 40-yard dash time — 4.66 seconds — at the NFL scouting combine. "That could've scared some teams away," he conceded. "But I'm a football player. And the way I play is best shown when I'm wearing pads."

      The Rams haven't seen him first-hand in pads — they're banned at minicamp. Still, Toston got a good look during the three-day, five-practice event and could be invited back for more.

      "Although I'm a free agent, I feel just like a draft pick," Toston said. "Everybody's equal."

      Toston described his style as "almost the same exactly"as Jackson's. "He's a powerful back and he makes moves when he has to. I'm a power runner and I make moves," Toston said. "But only when I have to."

      His...
      -05-02-2010, 09:17 PM
    • Rambos
      Rams put work into the last cuts
      by Rambos
      09/05/2009

      The lights at Rams Park were on late Friday night as the Rams' coaches, scouts and other personnel staffers labored to come up with a 53-man roster. They have until 3 p.m. today (St. Louis time) to complete the job.

      Several NFL teams announced at least some of their final cuts Friday, but coach Steve Spagnuolo said he didn't expect the Rams to be finished until about noon today. "And don't hold me to that," he cautioned reporters.

      The roster stood at 74 after Thursday night's 17-9 Governor's Cup win over Kansas City. The first-teamers were in for just two series, both on offense and defense, so Spagnuolo and Co. got a lengthy look at those players on the bubble.
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      Some 21 of them must go. "We could use two more preseason games to get it all figured out," Spagnuolo quipped, before adding: "We have what we have, and we have to evaluate based on that."

      GADO'S STATUS UNCLEAR

      Muddying the picture for the Rams' talent judges is the rib injury suffered by Samkon Gado late in the first quarter vs. the Chiefs. X-rays showed no fracture, but Gado has cartilage damage, which can be a significant problem for a running back.

      Spagnuolo said Gado was day-to-day for now, but acknowledged that "we're not really a hundred percent sure where Sam is. You'd probably have to list him as questionable right now for the game (at Seattle on Sept. 13) until we get to (the practices) Monday and Wednesday and find out exactly where he is."

      In the preseason, Gado clearly has outperformed Kenneth Darby and Antonio Pittman, the other primary contenders for the backup job behind Steven Jackson. Gado averaged 5.1 yards on 29 carries in the four games.

      If it looks as if Gado will be sidelined for a substantial period, the Rams almost surely will be scrutinizing the waiver wire for another ballcarrier.

      "You've got to have more than one back," Spagnuolo said. "Steven's a big guy and does a lot for us, but we're going to need to plug guys in there."

      INJURY UPDATE

      The injury to Gado and defensive tackle Adam Carriker, who according to league sources will undergo shoulder surgery, were the most serious Thursday. It was feared that defensive end Eric Moore broke his wrist, but X-rays were negative and it has been diagnosed as a sprain.

      Also, safety Craig Dahl aggravated the hamstring that kept him out earlier, safety David Roach sustained heel and shoulder injuries, and cornerback Justin King had a mild knee sprain.

      BREAK TIME

      Beginning Friday, the players had three consecutive...
      -09-05-2009, 10:00 AM
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