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Sunday, December 18, 2011
Tough to learn from Rams' predicament

By Mike Sando

The St. Louis Rams' injury situation should, in theory, clear the way for the team to evaluate young depth against Cincinnati in Week 15.

That will happen at defensive end, where rookie Robert Quinn is getting the start over injured and inactive veteran James Hall. Quinn has shown flashes of ability as a situational player this season. Taking a longer look at him across additional situations will help.

But in too many other cases, the Rams are playing out the season without learning much about the future. Injuries are one reason. Not having enough young depth is another reason.

Sam Bradford is inactive against the Bengals, but replacement Kellen Clemens is a stopgap, not a developmental player. The team had hoped to keep Thaddeus Lewis on is practice squad coming out camp, but Lewis signed with Cleveland. And without a regular offseason, the team decided to stick with veteran A.J. Feeley as its backup even though Feeley, now injured, did not know the new offense.

Left tackle Rodger Saffold is also out. His replacement Sunday, Adam Goldberg, is 31 years old. The team knows he projects as a backup guard and tackle. He isn't going to develop into more than that.

The team has suffered too many injuries at cornerback to even consider developing young players at that position. With Justin King out Sunday, Rod Hood gets the start. Hood is 30 years old and still coming back from a career-threatening knee injury. He did not play in 2010.

Some of the players St. Louis wanted to develop this season -- tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, receiver Greg Salas and tackle Jason Smith -- are on injured reserve.

As a result, the Rams are largely just playing out the final three games.