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Saturday, August 17, 2013
Rams-Packers: What to watch revisited

By Nick Wagoner

ST. LOUIS -- Looking back on five things discussed here before the Rams’ second exhibition game of the 2013 preseason, a 19-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers at the Edward Jones Dome.

1.Right tackle redux. As expected Joe Barksdale got the start in place of the injured Rodger Saffold at right tackle. Barksdale really didn’t do anything notable but that’s a good thing given his position. He was solid in pass protection as quarterback Sam Bradford was not sacked or hit.

The Rams would probably like to get more out of Barksdale and the entire offensive line in the run game, though. When the starting line was on the field, the Rams generated 15 yards on 11 carries and running back Isaiah Pead gained 11 of those yards on his first attempt.

Behind Barksdale, the Rams went with Brandon Washington with the second unit. Washington had played guard almost exclusively in his time with the Rams before getting reps at right tackle this week in practice.

Chris Williams got some work at right tackle to open the third quarter and allowed a sack.

Tavon Austin
Tavon Austin saw more action in his second preseason game, catching four of seven targets.
2. Spread it around. Despite plenty of excitement about the debuts of pass-catching weapons Tavon Austin and Jared Cook, that duo barely got any opportunities in the opener last week against Cleveland. Bradford targeted Austin once against the Browns and Cook did not factor at all.

That changed a bit Saturday night, as the Rams looked in Austin’s direction a lot. He finished with four catches for 28 yards on seven targets. Cook got his first target in a game as a Ram and cashed it in for a 37-yard catch and run.

Austin, Cook and Chris Givens were the only receivers targeted by Bradford, who also threw to running backs Pead and Daryl Richardson.

3. Going deeper. Rams coach Jeff Fisher wanted to give some of his younger players down on the depth chart an opportunity to play with the first-team offense and followed through on that on both sides of the ball.

Pead was the primary example of that as he started in place of Richardson and got the bulk of the work with the starters. He carried nine times for 14 yards and added a catch for 10 yards in his time with the first group.

There wasn’t much room to run for Pead or any of the backs but he did solid work in pass protection.

Elsewhere, Shelley Smith started at left guard as he and Williams continue to rotate in competition for that job. Rodney McLeod got work with the first-team defense at safety and, with backup end Eugene Sims a pregame scratch, undrafted rookie Gerald Rivers got some chances as well.

4. Looking at linebackers. As expected, veteran Will Witherspoon got the start at outside linebacker instead of Jo-Lonn Dunbar. Although Dunbar is eligible to play and came in with the second unit, getting the first group in sync before the regular season takes priority.

Rookie starter Alec Ogletree fared better than he did in Week 1, posting four tackles in unofficial statistics. He played longer than the rest of the starters, playing the entire first half.

Undrafted rookie Ray-Ray Armstrong got to work with the second unit in the continued absence of Jabara Williams, who was a pregame scratch. Fellow rookie Jonathan Stewart came up with a live ball recovery after a punt return miscue.

5. Corner three. Although it may not be a full-blown competition for the nickel cornerback job between Trumaine Johnson and rookie Brandon McGee, Johnson didn’t distance himself from McGee with his performance Saturday night.

Johnson came in as the third corner, a position he’d held almost exclusively until recently in practice. McGee got some reps with the first-team defense as the third corner in a couple of practices this week and could get more after Johnson whiffed on a couple of tackles in the open field.

Johnson did finish with four tackles but it probably wasn’t the type of performance he hoped to have to ensure that he stays in his role.

McGee was relatively nondescript in his limited work with the second defense.