NFC West: Janoris Jenkins

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ST. LOUIS -- After two weeks of playing in the flyweight division, the St. Louis Rams stepped back up in class Thursday night at the Edward Jones Dome. But they didn't stop at middleweight or welterweight along the way. They jumped directly into a heavyweight slugfest.

And for four quarters, the Rams mostly stood toe to toe with the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals. Ultimately, the Cardinals landed about three more punches on their way to a 12-6 decision that once again proved that when the Rams play good teams, they have next to no margin for error.

[+] EnlargeMichael Floyd
AP Photo/Jeff RobersonArizona's Michael Floyd got the better of Rams CB Janoris Jenkins on several key plays Thursday night.
"Playing this team, you know that they have got a good defense," linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "So typically you go into a football game and you say, 'Hey, we have got to hold a team to under 17 points.' But I have been raised under the thought process of my coaches in college and even here that if we get six, we've got to hold them to three. They made more plays than we did tonight. I think our defense played well, but we didn't play well enough to win this football game."

That statement isn't limited to the defense. Facing an Arizona defense that has been among the best in the league this season, the Rams' offense sputtered throughout most of the game and mounted a charge only in the waning moments. By then, it was too late. But it was too late because of three plays that went Arizona's way and provided the Cardinals with nine gift-wrapped points.

After jumping to an early 3-0 lead, the Rams got a stop and had the ball with a chance to extend their advantage. Instead, running back Tre Mason coughed up a fumble after he failed to secure the ball, giving the Cardinals prime field position at the Rams' 27.

"There's really no excuse for a fumble," Mason said. "I'll never give an excuse for a fumble, no matter how it happened. That's my job as a running back to hold on to the ball."

The defense was up to the task of holding Arizona to Chandler Catanzaro's 23-yard field goal, but those points gave the Cardinals an instant shot of momentum. The kick also ended the Rams' streak of 86 unanswered points dating to the Nov. 23 loss to San Diego -- 144 minutes, 41 seconds of game time.

On a night when the Rams were unable to get a takeaway, it was the game's lone turnover. Every cliché about the importance of turnovers is on the money with this team: The Rams are 4-0 this season when they don't have a giveaway and are winless when they have a negative turnover differential.

"You credit the defense from the standpoint of sudden change going out there and getting the field goal," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "But when you turn the ball over deep in your territory like that, they're going to get points. That was unfortunate for us. And then we just didn't get our hands on balls."

While the Rams' defense was again able to keep an opponent out of the end zone, it also had a couple of costly hiccups, the type of big-play miscues that resulted in six more points for Arizona -- the final margin of victory.

Cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who has been no stranger to being on the wrong end of big plays, allowed a 49-yard completion to receiver Michael Floyd in the second quarter and was later flagged for defensive pass interference that covered 36 yards.

Both plays put Arizona in St. Louis territory. Though the defense again kept the Cardinals out of the end zone each time, Catanzaro had two more field goals following those plays. Those six points plus the three after Mason's fumble directly led to nine points. Considering that the Rams scored six, that was the difference in the game.

"I should have made the play; it's over with," Jenkins said. "It's frustrating, but at the same time, you can't point fingers. You've just got to move on to the next week."

Guided by Shaun Hill, the Rams' offense has proved capable of getting the job done against lesser opponents, but a division foe with a passion for blitzing was too much for offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer & Co. to overcome. The Rams mustered just 280 yards of offense, only 69 on the ground, and were 4-for-15 on third down.

Once the Cardinals increased their lead to 12-3, it seemed the Rams would need points from their defense or special teams to close the gap.

"We kept saying it," Laurinaitis said. "It's our goal every week, regardless of the game, to score on defense. We put those standards on ourselves. We didn't get that play. That's the difference. They got a fumble, and we didn't get one. It's the little things, and it just seemed like they got it today."

It's a refrain that's become all too familiar in St. Louis, where the 6-8 Rams now face the certainty of an 11th straight year without a winning record.

 
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams have yet to have a week in which they have all of their cornerbacks healthy and ready to play.

Jenkins
Gaines
Recently, they've been without rookies Lamarcus Joyner and Marcus Roberson. But they have, however, had the services of their top three options in the form of E.J. Gaines, Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson.

Back before Jenkins and Johnson returned from knee injuries, many wondered how the Rams would deploy their corners if and when they were all healthy. Well, that still hasn't entirely happened but there have been clues along the way.

Before the season, the expectation was that returning third-year corners Johnson and Jenkins would be the starters. Then Johnson suffered a knee injury in the third preseason game and took about half the season to be ready to play. Jenkins suffered a knee injury of his own around the same time Johnson returned, leaving the rookie Gaines to take on a role beyond what anyone could have expected when the Rams drafted him in the sixth round.

Gaines didn't just step into the lineup, either. He's mostly excelled in his role as the starter, to the point where he now seems to be entrenched. Against Oakland last week, it was Gaines who played all 78 defensive snaps. Interestingly, Johnson was next at 57 snaps then Jenkins, who played 40.

But before passing judgment on what that means in the big picture, it's important to note what coach Jeff Fisher said about how the snaps were distributed.

“Our plan was to rest [Jenkins] a little bit because he’s still pretty sore off the MCL," Fisher said. "We alternated him -- Trumaine was feeling better."

It's worth noting that Gaines was not one of the players being alternated. He rewarded the Rams' faith with an interception and a fumble recovery as he continues to work toward becoming one of the draft's biggest steals.

Even when Jenkins returns to health, Fisher essentially confirmed that it's Gaines who has solidified his spot. Jenkins has had his share of struggles allowing big plays but Fisher said he and Gaines are asserting themselves for established roles moving forward.

"If we were going start the game tomorrow, we’d start with E.J and Janoris,” Fisher said.

When Joyner returns from a groin injury, it will be interesting to see where he fits but if nothing else, it seems Gaines has done enough to earn the trust of Fisher and the coaching staff.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Of the many penalties the St. Louis Rams have racked up over the past three years, few have looked as silly as what cornerback Janoris Jenkins did against the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

Jenkins
 Midway through the third quarter, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning had just completed a pass to receiver Demaryius Thomas for a gain of three yards on the right side of the field. With Denver looking to push the pace, the offense lined up quickly in an attempt to keep the drive going and catch the Rams off guard. But Jenkins had other ideas and as he jogged back to the opposite of the field, he reached down and knocked the ball away from Broncos center Will Montgomery.

The officials saw Jenkins' move and promptly threw a flag for a 5-yard delay of game infraction. Apparently, Jenkins needed a breather.

“That’s what I was told," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "I have yet to confirm that, I didn’t talk to him today. We’ll make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

The penalty took a potential third-and-8 and made it third-and-3, but Jenkins was bailed out by Manning overthrowing tight end Jacob Tamme on the next play to lead to a punt. No harm was done, but it was the type of silly penalty that could have kept a drive alive.

“I could understand him being tired," Fisher said. "With that tempo and that pace and everything and him chasing, playing deep balls and defending deep balls…they were trying to get up on the line and we were trying to get a sub done. As it worked out, we would not have had any problems defensively. You can’t do that. I thought it was an excellent call. You don’t see that very often. For [head linesman] George Hayward to see that and call that was good officiating.”

It was just another strange play on yet another adventurous day for Jenkins. He was also responsible for allowing the Broncos' lone touchdown before the end of the half when he didn't stay over the top on a deep ball that went to Denver receiver Emmanuel Sanders for a 42-yard score.
ST. LOUIS -- Not that there's ever a good week to be without your full complement of players at any position, but the St. Louis Rams will be short on cornerbacks Sunday against the Denver Broncos.

That's especially concerning given that the Broncos come to town with Peyton Manning at quarterback and an array of talented pass catchers who are hard to match anywhere in the league. On the team's pregame inactive list, the Rams are without nickel corner Lamarcus Joyner and cornerback Marcus Roberson. Joyner and Roberson missed practice all week with groin and ankle injuries, respectively.

If there's a silver lining to be found, it's that the Rams will have probably their three best corners available for this one, with Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson and E.J. Gaines available. With Joyner out, it's safe to expect Gaines to move inside in the nickel, with Johnson and Jenkins on the outside.

When the Rams have to go to further sub packages, they'll likely turn to their three-safety package with Rodney McLeod, T.J. McDonald and Mark Barron on the field together.

Here's the complete list of inactives for Sunday's game:

Rams: DB Lamarcus Joyner, CB Marcus Roberson, LB Daren Bates, WR Damian Williams, OT Brandon Washington, TE Alex Bayer, DT Alex Carrington.

Broncos: WR Cody Latimer, RB Ronnie Hillman, CB Tony Carter, RB Kapri Bibbs, LB Todd Davis, OT Michael Schofield, TE Virgil Green.

Midseason report: St. Louis Rams

November, 5, 2014
Nov 5
11:00
AM ET
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At the midway point of the 2014 season, the St. Louis Rams bear a striking resemblance to the two teams that preceded them under coach Jeff Fisher.

The 3-5 Rams have had eye-opening wins at San Francisco and at home over the reigning champion Seattle Seahawks. They've also laid eggs like the blowout losses to the Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings. In between, there have been missed chances such as the losses to the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles when the Rams had the ball late with a chance to win.

The Rams had pointed to this year as the breakthrough season as they embarked on their third year under Fisher. But so far, this looks like a team that will again tantalize with quality victories coming too few and far between the disappointments.

Midseason MVP: QB Austin Davis -- The choices are few for this honor, but Davis gets it solely because, as hard as it is to believe, things could be much worse if not for what he's been able to do. He wasn't even supposed to make the roster, but he's done enough to keep the Rams in many games, led a game-winning drive against Tampa Bay and marched the Rams to a score to clinch their win against Seattle. He has his warts, but he's been a pleasant surprise in a season without many.

Biggest disappointment: The defense -- With new coordinator Gregg Williams taking over, this group was supposed to ascend to a top-seven caliber group. Aside from a strong statement against the Niners, that hasn't happened and there have been multiple games where the defense has been the group responsible for letting the team down. After only one sack in the first five weeks, many fingers have been pointed at the defensive line, but that has been corrected somewhat in recent weeks. The real issues lie in the back seven, where there has been little progress from key young players like linebacker Alec Ogletree and cornerback Janoris Jenkins.

Best moment: "The Mountaineer" -- That's the name of the rope-a-dope punt return the Rams executed to perfection in their stunning Week 7 win against the Seahawks. Punt returner Tavon Austin and most of the return team faked out the entire building by pretending a Jon Ryan punt was headed down the right sideline. Meanwhile, Stedman Bailey, who like Austin is a former West Virginia Mountaineer, made a terrific over-the-shoulder catch and returned it 90 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown. It's this team's signature play and one that will grace highlight reels for years to come.

Worst moment: 49ers WR Brandon Lloyd's 80-yard touchdown catch -- Unlike in the MVP category, there's actually plenty to pick from here, but no play better sums up this season to date than this play. The Rams had a 14-3 lead against San Francisco and looked good on national television for "Monday Night Football" as they headed toward halftime. Just before the half, Jenkins was supposed to drop into a basic three-deep zone to prevent any receivers from getting behind him. He played the wrong coverage, got caught staring into the backfield, and Lloyd hauled in an easy touchdown. The Niners went on to score 21 of the next 24 points in a 31-17 Rams loss.

Key to the second half: Finishing games -- By hook or by crook, the Rams have to find a way to win games in the fourth quarter. They did it with a little help from Colin Kaepernick against San Francisco on Sunday, but it doesn't matter how it happens so long as it does. The Rams have been outscored 104-40 in the second half of their five losses this season, including 55-10 in the third quarter. For a team that has scored four touchdowns on its first possession and made a habit of starting fast, the Rams must finish with equal aplomb to make a second-half run.

Wounded Rams take it easy Wednesday

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
5:50
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- With so many injuries and a familiar opponent waiting on Sunday, St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher took it easy on his team Wednesday.

Instead of a normal midweek practice, the Rams went through an hour-long walkthrough before heading inside for a team activity believed to include some yoga.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher said the different approach was taken as a direct result of the team's lengthy injury report.

"I had 13 people on the injury report and I felt like we needed to back down today," Fisher said. "Our focus is having them ready at 1 o'clock on Sunday."

The 13 players on the injury report is in addition to the season-ending losses of left tackle Jake Long and receiver Brian Quick earlier this week.

Fisher said he felt comfortable going with the different Wednesday approach because of the team's familiarity with the 49ers and the short turnaround between games. The Rams and Niners just met on Oct. 13.

"We're familiar with them," Fisher said. "They've had a week off. We've basically had a day off. We're gonna get going tomorrow and go play."

Because the team participated in a walkthrough rather than a practice, it would seem to make filling out an injury report a tricky proposition. Some players can walk but might not have been able to practice.

Fisher explained that league protocol requires the team to estimate how much practice a player would have done had it been a normal practice. The result was a group of eight players listed as not participating and five more listed as limited participation.

"Because you don't practice full speed, you have to estimate had you had a full practice, what would they have done?" Fisher said. "We went ahead and did that and were accurate with that and we'll get some players back tomorrow I'm sure and then more and more players back on Friday."

Here's the team's full Wednesday injury report:

Did not participate: DE William Hayes (foot), G Rodger Saffold (shoulder), CB Janoris Jenkins (knee), DT Aaron Donald (shoulder), S Rodney McLeod (knee), LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar (toe), C Scott Wells (elbow) and S Cody Davis (concussion).

Limited participation: CB Trumaine Johnson (knee), C Tim Barnes (shoulder), WR Kenny Britt (hip), CB Marcus Roberson (ankle), CB Lamarcus Joyner (hip).
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher watched helplessly as five starters departed his team's preseason game against the Cleveland Browns with injuries. He said at the time he'd never been a part of anything like it.

Saffold
Much to his chagrin, Fisher got to see something else he hadn't seen before in Sunday's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, when he watched as six key players -- left tackle Jake Long, receiver Brian Quick, guard Rodger Saffold, center Scott Wells and safeties Rodney McLeod and Cody Davis -- depart with various ailments that did not return. Defensive end Williams Hayes was also spotted leaving the locker room on crutches.

“No, it’s not happened to me before," Fisher said. "It was highly unusual, just losing the number of players that we did in the game.”

Fisher offered updates on the status of Long and Quick, both of whom were lost for the season with knee and shoulder injuries, respectively. But from the sound of things, none of the other issues were serious enough to offer an update.

The Rams spent Monday doing additional tests on the rest of the players, including a deeper inspection of Saffold's shoulder and Wells' elbow. Fisher did acknowledge that Davis would go through the concussion protocol after suffering that injury in Sunday's game.

Otherwise, all Fisher would allow is that the Rams will have some players missing practice this week as they prepare for this weekend's trip to San Francisco.

"We’re going to have a number of players that will not be available for practice in the middle of the week, so we’ll just go kind of day-to-day with them," Fisher said.

The Rams also will make some roster adjustments this week, as they will have to replace Long and Quick on the active roster and might have to tweak the practice squad in order to have enough bodies at certain positions for practice.

On a better injury note, Fisher said cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Janoris Jenkins might be able to return this week.

“There’s a chance, yeah," Fisher said. "(Johnson) made progress last week. Matter of fact, in the pregame, well before pregame he had a really good workout with (secondary) coach (Chuck) Cecil. So, there’s a chance he could come on back. I think Janoris has a chance as well.”
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- St. Louis Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins' latest coverage miscue resulting in another long touchdown pass hasn't changed how he's viewed by coach Jeff Fisher.

Two days after Jenkins was beat for a pair of touchdowns in the Rams' 31-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Fisher offered a vote of confidence for his third-year cornerback.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Lloyd
AP Photo/Scott KaneBrandon Lloyd was able to beat Janoris Jenkins for a long touchdown on Monday.
Asked whether Jenkins' boom or bust tendency -- the bust showing up most recently on Brandon Lloyd's 80-yard touchdown past Jenkins just before Monday night's halftime -- makes him a high risk/high reward option, Fisher made it clear he doesn't see it that way.

"I disagree," Fisher said. "He's playing corner, it's the hardest position to play in this league. The great part about him is that he's got a short memory. He doesn't let those things bother him. He doesn't make mistakes on purpose, understands our defense. Like I said he will take responsibility for the play. I think it was more of something that we should have kept him out of. I have no concern with his production and his play at this point."

More than a quarter of the way through his third season, Jenkins has been a starter for the Rams since his arrival in St. Louis. In 36 games, he's offered his share of game-changing plays (his five defensive touchdowns are the most in the NFL in that time) while also surrendering plenty of big plays. Lloyd's 80-yard touchdown catch was the second consecutive "Monday Night Football" game where Jenkins has allowed a touchdown covering that distance after then Seattle wideout Golden Tate beat him for one last year.

At other times in his career, Jenkins has been victimized by Atlanta's Julio Jones, San Francisco's Anquan Boldin, Dallas' Dez Bryant and others for big plays. Taking his cues from Fisher, Jenkins points to the ups and downs as part of playing one of the league's most difficult positions.

"They make plays and we make plays," Jenkins said. "You've just got to put it behind you because everybody is going to make a play. It's just when the play is going to be made and how it's going to be made."

The play against the Niners came at the worst possible time. Just before the end of the first half, Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams called for a basic three-deep zone in which it was Jenkins' responsibility to show that he was in a Cover 2 zone before the snap but then back off (known as bail technique) at the snap to stay deep keeping the receiver in front of him.

Instead, Jenkins got caught starting into the backfield and Lloyd beat him with a double move. That's been a common issue for Jenkins since he arrived in the league with that tendency leading to big plays for him but even more against him.

"It was all on me," Jenkins said. "I take full responsibility as a man. I just know on that particular play, I was doing the wrong thing, I was doing my own thing and it won't happen again."

While Jenkins and Fisher are right that the cornerback position is going to come with its ups and downs, it's not the big touchdowns so much as how they're happening that should be concerning. Jenkins' mistakes have come as a result of the same thing happening over and over. That's not a function of simply getting beat so much as a stubborn refusal to make the changes to minimize risk consistently.

With fellow cornerback Trumaine Johnson set to return from a knee injury soon, the Rams will have to do some reshuffling at cornerback. Based on Fisher's comments, it seems unlikely Jenkins' role will be a part of any adjustments.

"It makes me feel like I have always been feeling, normal, comfortable, just eliminate what I can eliminate and just continue to play," Jenkins said.
Brandon LloydMichael Thomas/Getty ImagesBrandon Lloyd burned Janoris Jenkins for an 80-yard touchdown right before the end of the first half, the latest in an alarming trend of big plays given up by the Rams' defense.

ST. LOUIS -- As the clock wound down to end the first half Monday night, the St. Louis Rams had plenty to feel good about. All signs pointed to a 14-3 halftime lead, and they appeared to be just 30 minutes away from an upset of the San Francisco 49ers.

But nothing is ever as it seems when it comes to the Rams, at least nothing that looks like it's going to end in a surprisingly positive result. Moments later, San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick hit receiver Brandon Lloyd for an 80-yard touchdown that set the 49ers on a 21-point scoring spree that would lead to a 31-17 San Francisco victory.

It was another backbreaking big play by an opponent in a game in which the Rams started fast and finished painstakingly slow. If it felt like the Week 3 game against Dallas on replay, that's because it pretty much was.

"We have got to play the defenses that are called. I sound like a broken record," linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "We have got to play what we call. We've got to execute the defense. It's definitely not scheme. We have just got to execute. That's all I can really say. The guys know it, but for some reason we are not putting together full games. And until we do it, we are going to get these same results."

With the ball at their 20 and 27 seconds to go in the first half, the 49ers seemed content to go into the locker room trailing by 11 points and start fresh in the third quarter. They hadn't called any timeouts and were in no hurry to stop the clock.

On the Rams' sideline, coach Jeff Fisher pondered calling a timeout in hopes his team could get the ball back and squeeze out more points before the half. A stop on third-and-6 might have given the Rams enough time to steal a field goal.

Fisher opted not to call the timeout, though, and the 49ers opted not to run out the clock. Instead, they called for Lloyd to run a double move down the left sideline in hopes the Rams would yield a big play. The Rams called for a basic zone coverage with the simple idea of keeping the ball in front of the defense.

Well, it was simple in theory but not so much in execution.

"We were just in zone coverage," Laurinaitis said. "I'm not going to throw anybody under the bus, but we had this coverage in specifically for this team, and we have just got to execute it. Know the situation, two-minute [offense]. Heck, they are letting the clock run out. That's the thing that kind of gets under me the most is they were letting the clock run out, not even trying to call timeout or anything. We have just got to execute. Know the situation, back up. If they catch it, make them earn it. We have got to stop with the explosive plays."

Laurinaitis doesn't have to throw anyone under the bus, because anyone watching could tell it was Janoris Jenkins who bit on Lloyd's double move.

Jenkins' propensity for giving up big plays is nothing new. It's not even the first one he's allowed on "Monday Night Football." Seattle's Golden Tate beat him for an 80-yard touchdown pass in 2013 that led to a 14-9 Rams loss.

Now in his third season in the league, one would think Jenkins has matured beyond such mistakes, but the evidence on and off the field would suggest otherwise. Jenkins elected not to speak to the media after the game.

Of course, Jenkins wasn't solely to blame for the play. Seeing as how he has given up his share of big plays, the Rams' coaching staff also should know better than to put him in that situation with no safety help on the back end in the first place.

"It was a double move," Fisher said. "He should stay on top. In retrospect, we should probably not put him in that position. We have to be better than that as coaches and as players."

By this point in the Rams' latest rebuilding process, that's a refrain that has grown all too familiar.

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ST. LOUIS -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the St. Louis Rams' 31-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers:

Jenkins
Jenkins keeps it moving: Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was on the wrong end of an 80-yard touchdown pass to 49ers receiver Brandon Lloyd with 14 seconds left in the first half, a play that changed the outlook of the game. But Jenkins declined to explain what happened on the play, departing the locker room before speaking to the media. A Rams media relations staffer attempted to get Jenkins to speak, but those pleas fell on deaf ears.

Davis blames himself: On the complete opposite side of the accountability spectrum, Rams quarterback Austin Davis spoke to the media at length and pinned the blame on himself for the team's loss. The clearly disappointed Davis finished 21-of-42 for 236 yards with a touchdown and an interception in his toughest test as a starter. He wasn't the only player at fault in a game where there was plenty of blame to cast.

Chatting with Long: Rams coach Jeff Fisher spent a couple of minutes speaking to Hall of Fame defensive lineman Howie Long before entering his news conference. Long, of course, is the father of injured Rams defensive end Chris Long.

Rapid Reaction: St. Louis Rams

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
11:44
PM ET

ST. LOUIS -- A few thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' 31-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers at the Edward Jones Dome.

What it means: The broken record that is Rams football over the past decade remains in heavy rotation. Like the Week 3 loss to Dallas, the Rams once again jumped out quickly -- to a 14-0 lead -- only to see the Niners snatch it away with 24 unanswered points. And, once again, the play that changed the game came on a coverage breakdown resulting in an easy touchdown pass. This time it happened to be receiver Brandon Lloyd grabbing an 80-yard touchdown past cornerback Janoris Jenkins just before halftime. It was an inexcusable play both for Jenkins and the coverage scheme. It really sums up the Rams' season to this point. The Rams are who they are, a team that gives up a lot of big plays and doesn't make nearly enough of its own to nullify those mistakes. St. Louis is 1-4 and just getting started on the toughest part of the schedule.

Stock watch: Down -- Cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins is in his third season. He has been a starter in each of those seasons. He has showed signs of growth along the way. But he still continues the awful habit of getting caught staring into the backfield. He has been on the wrong end of plenty of big plays in his three seasons but none worse than Lloyd's touchdown at the end of the first half. Should he have had safety help over the top? Yes. But he should also be far enough along in his career to know that he can do just about anything except let a receiver behind him.

#LackCity: After drafting rookie defensive tackle Aaron Donald in May, some overzealous types projected the Rams to have the "new Fearsome Foursome" playing on the defensive line and the Rams' marketing team went to work on a Twitter campaign referring to St. Louis as #SackCity. Well, the Rams are now five games into the season and have a grand total of one sack. That's not a typo. One sack in the first five games is the worst start to a season in NFL history.

Game ball: The many members of the Greatest Show on Turf who were honored at halftime. Let's just operate under the assumption that many of the players who won a championship 15 years ago would still have performed better than what the Rams offered after the first quarter and a half.

What's next: The Rams now have the pleasure of staying home for a short week of preparation before hosting the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday afternoon. After Seattle's loss to Dallas on Sunday, that sounds like a barrel of laughs.

Jenkins up and down in Bryant's shadow

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
3:00
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- More often than not in the two-plus years Jeff Fisher has been the head coach of the St. Louis Rams, his defense has been pretty straightforward when it comes to coverage.

Matchups have often been passed over in order to allow the cornerbacks to stay on one side of the field for the majority of the game. Every once in a while, Fisher's defense will shadow an opposing receiver but it hasn't happened much.

Against Dallas on Sunday, though, the Rams asked cornerback Janoris Jenkins to match up exclusively with Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant.

“We’ve done it before," Fisher said. "We did it last year. We don’t do it every week. Dez was a big part of our defensive game plan and Janoris loves those challenges, so we thought it was our best chance to win this week.”

[+] EnlargeSt. Louis' Janoris Jenkins
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesJanoris Jenkins returns an interception 25 yards for a touchdown against the Cowboys.
Jenkins played 55 of a possible 56 defensive snaps against the Cowboys and for almost all of them, he followed Bryant all over the field. He lined up on the left, he lined up on the right, he lined up in the slot. Wherever Bryant went, there was Jenkins. It was a move that made plenty of sense given the inexperience of rookie sixth-round pick E.J. Gaines opposite Jenkins and the team's need to focus on stopping the run with the front seven.

For the first half, Jenkins provided solid coverage, limiting Bryant to four catches and 18 yards on five targets. The other target? Jenkins jumped a stop route to Bryant, picked it off and took it 25 yards for a touchdown.

Bryant would only make two more catches in the second half but the final 30 minutes offered a shift in advantage to Bryant. One of those catches only went for 3 yards but the other was the game's biggest play.

On the first series of the third quarter, Bryant turned Jenkins inside out on a deep route down the left sideline. As Jenkins turned toward the quarterback, he let Bryant go in anticipation of help from safety Rodney McLeod while receiver Terrance Williams entered Jenkins' space on a crossing route. But McLeod had already made a move toward Williams and McLeod didn't communicate that he'd be taking Williams, who had already lost Gaines coming across the field.

That left Bryant as open as any receiver you'll ever see for an easy 68-yard touchdown.

“It was supposed to be passed off, but it was not communicated," Fisher said. “He can tell the corner that he’s going to take the crossing route. He didn’t.”

While the touchdown doesn't fall solely on Jenkins, any way you slice it, leaving Bryant alone goes against the idea of having him shadow Bryant in the first place.

Of course, that wasn't the only second half coverage miscue.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Jenkins was left outside against Bryant on a double move that ended with a pass interference penalty that gave Dallas 33 yards and a first down. Fisher said rookie cornerback Lamarcus Joyner was late and took a poor route to quarterback Tony Romo on his blitz. Had Joyner been quicker and more precise, Fisher said he thought Joyner would have had a sack and the penalty never would have occurred.

All things considered, Fisher was happy with Jenkins' performance.

“I thought he played well," Fisher said. "He has the defensive pass interference call and that’s a huge play. In the play, in the blitz we asked him to cover a double move where the quarterback is to reload the ball. I can’t fault him on that because our young nickel back took a real late, poor course to the quarterback -- would have been unblocked probably would have had a sack. He certainly wouldn’t have had a chance to pull the ball down and throw it down the field."

The Rams could get cornerback Trumaine Johnson back from a knee injury after the bye. It will be interesting to see if they continue to shadow other top wideouts when their projected starters are back on the field together.

Rapid Reaction: St. Louis Rams

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
4:02
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ST. LOUIS -- A few thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' 34-31 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at the Edward Jones Dome:

What it means: It's hard to believe the Rams held a 21-0 lead and looked to be headed toward their second consecutive win. But although the Rams' offense didn't muster many more points, this loss was on the defense. This group was supposed to be capable of taking over games, but through three contests, it's been more liability than bedrock. Dallas put up 20 unanswered points and went on a 34-3 scoring tear after its rough start. At 1-2 with eight tough games coming after the bye, the Rams enter next week in danger of letting this season slip away.

Stock watch: Down -- The Rams' pass rush. Losing Chris Long was a big blow, but the depth of this group was supposed to be enough to help cover for him. End Robert Quinn is getting double- and triple-teamed, and nobody else is taking advantage. Through three games, the Rams have one sack, and they didn't have any against Dallas on Sunday.

Jenkins' day: In the first two years under coach Jeff Fisher, the Rams haven't often shadowed opposing receivers with one cornerback, normally electing to let their corners stay at home on one side of the field. But that philosophy changed Sunday with cornerback Janoris Jenkins following Dallas receiver Dez Bryant everywhere he went. The first-half results of the experiment were mostly positive, as Bryant had four catches for 18 yards and Jenkins came up with an interception return for a touchdown, the fifth of his career (and most in the NFL since 2012). But Bryant got a measure of revenge in the second half with a 68-yard touchdown catch. It appeared Jenkins thought he was supposed to leave Bryant to safety help over the top, but no matter who was at fault, it was a big play that helped turn the game. Later, Bryant drew a 33-yard pass interference flag on Jenkins that set up the touchdown to give Dallas the lead.

Game ball: QB Austin Davis. Fisher can insist the job belongs to Shaun Hill when he returns from a thigh injury, but Davis has done enough in his two starts to give the coach something to think about over the bye. The fourth-quarter pick-six he threw was brutal and his second interception was simply him trying to make a play, but he was excellent otherwise. Davis finished 30-of-42 for 327 yards with three touchdowns for a passer rating of 98.0.

What's next: The Rams head into an early bye week before beginning an eight-game stretch that includes nothing but 2013 playoff opponents and the Arizona Cardinals.

St. Louis Rams practice report

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
7:15
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- With the "official" end of training camp coming and going Wednesday, the Rams practiced without any eyes other than media watching Thursday afternoon. Along with that, the rules change a bit in terms of what can and can't be discussed. But Rams coach Jeff Fisher did offer some updates on some things that were noticeable on the field.
  • First, Fisher said Thursday's practice was used largely to get his team familiar with Cleveland. It's the first time in the preseason the Rams have done anything resembling some game planning. Some of that even included having a couple of players put on the red jersey to emulate different Browns players.
  • Linebacker James Laurinaitis (ankle) did a little more than on Wednesday, including a bit of work in team drills. Fisher said the decision on whether Laurinaitis will play against the Browns has not yet been made but it's clear Laurinaitis could probably play if he had to. Clearly, he doesn't have to but the option is realistic.
  • Fisher did indicate that left tackle Jake Long (knee), defensive tackle Michael Brockers (ankle) and guard Rodger Saffold (stinger) would all be available and are expected to play. That would allow the Rams to have their projected offensive and defensive lines together for the first time in the preseason.
  • Speaking of groups working together in a game for the first time this preseason, Fisher said he's looking forward to seeing the secondary get some work together. That means Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson at cornerback and Rodney McLeod and T.J. McDonald at safety. Fisher even went so far as to acknowledge that rookie Lamarcus Joyner would work with the top offense as the nickelback.
  • As for playing time for the starters, Fisher indicated that group will play the bulk of the first half. He also again mentioned the gradual build he prefers means that group could play even more in Miami in the preseason finale. That's how they've done it in his first two seasons in St. Louis and it doesn't sound like it's going to change.
  • Amongst projected starters, linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar is the only one not to practice at all this week. So even if the Rams get Laurinaitis back, they likely won't be at full strength defensively.
  • The Rams again hosted the Ferguson-area high school teams at their facility Thursday as McCluer, McCluer North and McCluer South-Berkeley held practice on the team's indoor field.
  • Running back Isaiah Pead officially cleared waivers and now reverts to the team's injured reserve list. Pead does not count against the team's 90-man roster.
  • The Rams will wrap up their preparation week with a walk-through Friday before traveling to Cleveland for Saturday night's game against the Browns.

W2W4 Revisited: St. Louis Rams

August, 17, 2014
Aug 17
8:00
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ST. LOUIS -- Looking back at three things to watch from the St. Louis Rams' 21-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Saturday afternoon.

1. Bradford's return

Quarterback Sam Bradford's return to the field for the first time in 300 days was mostly a success. Yes, he missed a throw to an open Kenny Britt down the right sideline, but he mostly stood tall in the pocket and delivered accurate throws for most of the day.

Bradford took only one big hit courtesy of Green Bay linebacker Julius Peppers but got up quickly and went back to work. In fact, the play Peppers hit him was Bradford's only incompletion on the team's lone scoring drive.

For the day, Bradford went 0 of 12 for 101 yards with a touchdown for a rating of 127.4 His touchdown pass to tight end Lance Kendricks was particularly impressive as Bradford threaded the needle into tight coverage.

2. Sorting the secondary

Starting cornerback Trumaine Johnson returned after sitting out the preseason opener, but the Rams were still thin at corner again without the services of starter Janoris Jenkins and key backups Brandon McGee and Darren Woodard. More surprising was the absence of rookie E.J. Gaines after a strong performance in the opener. Gaines left a practice earlier in the week with an apparent injury but returned to that workout and didn't seem to have any problems. He ended up sitting out Saturday apparently as a precaution.

For the second consecutive week, that left plenty of opportunities for young corners such as Marcus Roberson, who actually started opposite Johnson, Lamarcus Joyner and Greg Reid.

Joyner led the team with six tackles and added a pass defended and a forced fumble though he had some rough moments in coverage against Green Bay's top offense. Reid had some good moments with three tackles and a pair of passes defended. Roberson was harder to find, making just a single tackle but had some good moments in coverage.

3. Cleaning up mistakes

At first blush, the Rams appeared to have a better tackling performance this week than last week, though the defense struggled in that regard early on and there really wasn't anywhere to go but up after last week. Safety Cody Davis, in particular, was much better than he was against the Saints.

But coach Jeff Fisher was more concerned with the continued penalty issues. The Rams shaved two off their total of 12 from last week, which still left them at a whopping 10 for 76 yards. That's actually right in line with the league average in this preseason but still an area Fisher would like to see improve.

Rams preseason television broadcaster Andrew Siciliano even mentioned that Fisher dangled an early end to training camp as a reward should his team be penalized seven times or less against the Packers. Alas, the Rams will have another week of camp before breaking.

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