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Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Rams' preseason approach

By Nick Wagoner

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- As far as Rams coach Jeff Fisher is concerned, the preseason is a time to work out the details.

With a focus on all the little things heading into Thursday night’s exhibition opener at Cleveland, Fisher would like to come away with a win but he’ll have his eye on plenty of other things as the game wears on.

In many ways, the first preseason game is the first chance for the Rams to get a self-scout, an opportunity to see what they have and adjust from there.

Jeff Fisher
Among the things Jeff Fisher is preparing his players for Thursday will be how to line up for the national anthem.
“We’re very excited about it because you get to watch guys play,” Fisher said. “They’re all going to have different roles in the game. Starters aren’t going to play as much as some of the guys that are competing for not only backup spots, but roster spots. So, you try to keep in perspective what you ask them to do.”

In 2012, Fisher didn’t ask much of his starters in the preseason opener. The bulk of that group played two series before calling it a night and this year doesn’t figure to be much different.

There could be some tweaks to that approach, though. For instance, the Rams have a veteran offensive line that Fisher has regularly given rest during camp and there could be a number of moving pieces there Thursday evening.

Considering the uncertainty of the depth chart at other positions, such as receiver and running back, there could be a heavy emphasis on building a rotation and giving multiple players a chance to work with the first team.

Along the way, it’s safe to expect the Rams to keep things vanilla in terms of the game plan. Aside from some planning for what Cleveland does in terms of its defensive front, the Rams didn’t spend much time this week preparing for the Browns.

“We’re not going to do too much from an X and O standpoint but be pretty simple,” Fisher said. “We have no idea what to anticipate from our opponent, but we’re going to create a lot of good matchups and see how they fare.”

Like every team in the league, the Rams are looking to build toward the regular-season opener and unconcerned with the results of preseason games. They lost their first preseason game 38-3 to Indianapolis in Andrew Luck's first NFL game action in 2012.

While they don’t do much specific game planning, they do work on concepts and ideas within the scheme that will be staples when the season begins.

“Out of fairness to your players, you want to give your players the things that you’re going to call in the plus territory and on third downs and in the short yardage and things like that so they can prepare,” Fisher said.

None of that means that the Rams don’t have something to gain going into the game. The running back competition will get an injection of perspective as the backs get to run in a full contact situation in an actual game for the first time. Ditto for Chris Williams and Shelley Smith battling for the left guard job.

Before Thursday night’s kickoff, Fisher even plans to have his team practice lining up for the national anthem. So while he still gives the standard coach answer about “trying to win,” he also wants to take advantage of the chance to focus on the smaller details that will allow his team to worry about winning the games that matter.

“Any time you play a game, you’re playing to win,” Fisher said. “That’s what we’re going to Cleveland for and that’s what they’re going to try to do. Then you play your players, you want to see them improve, you want to minimize penalties, minimize mistakes, protect the football. You’d love for your starters to score points and not give up points. I think that ends up being a pretty good preseason game.”