NFC West: William Hayes

Tre Mason predicted big day ... sort of

November, 30, 2014
ST. LOUIS -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the St. Louis Rams' 52-0 win against the Oakland Raiders:

Mason's proclamations: Before Sunday's game, Rams running back Tre Mason apparently spent some time offering bold predictions and goals for him and his teammates. He told coach Jeff Fisher and other players that he was going to have a big day and the team would put up 50-plus points.

Mason had 164 yards on 17 touches to go with three touchdowns, and the team scored 52 points on its way to a win. But before you ask Mason for the Powerball numbers ...

"That’s not the first time he’s said it, so," Fisher said, laughing. "He’s very confident. He loves to play."

Playing through pain: Two Rams defensive ends played through some difficult personal situations Sunday against the Raiders. Fisher said ends Eugene Sims and William Hayes both lost loved ones during the week and mustered the energy to play through it. Sims did not practice all week to tend to the matter and Hayes' loss was Saturday night.

"Eugene Sims lost a loved one this week, and Will Hayes lost one last night," Fisher said. "You watch the tape and watch those two play ... really, really impressive. Our hearts go out to their families."

Saffold says he's fine: Left guard Rodger Saffold departed Sunday's game in the second half with an apparent shoulder injury. Mike Person replaced him, and Saffold did not return to the game. Saffold, who plans to have shoulder surgery after the season, said after the game he should be OK and be ready to go next week. He followed a similar pattern when he had a similar injury last month.

James Laurinaitis probable for Sunday

November, 14, 2014
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams wrapped up their preparations for the Denver Broncos on Friday, and all signs point to linebacker James Laurinaitis being ready to go.

Laurinaitis missed practice Wednesday, but was back at full speed Friday and is listed as probable for this weekend. Joining him with that designation are linebacker Will Herring and defensive end William Hayes.

Defensive tackle Alex Carrington is questionable, and the Rams will have some questions on the back end with cornerback Marcus Roberson (ankle) listed as out and cornerback Lamarcus Joyner (groin) as doubtful.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher said defensive end Chris Long (ankle) will not be activated this week. He still has plenty of time left in his 21-day window for that to happen.

Here is the complete rundown of Friday's injury report:

Out: CB Roberson (ankle).

Doubtful: CB Joyner (groin), WR Damian Williams (hamstring), LB Daren Bates (groin).

Questionable: DT Carrington (quad).

Probable: LB Laurinaitis (foot), LB Herring (foot), DE Hayes (fibula).
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- St. Louis Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday after sitting out Wednesday with a foot injury.

Laurinaitis was one of three linebackers to appear on Thursday's injury report, joined by Daren Bates (groin) and Will Herring (foot). Neither Bates nor Herring participated in Thursday's practice, with Herring actually downgraded from limited participation on Wednesday.

Defensive end William Hayes (fibula) also returned to practice, going through the entire workout after sitting out Wednesday.

Here's the full Thursday injury report:

Did not participate: WR Damian Williams (hamstring), CB Lamarcus Joyner (groin), CB Marcus Roberson (ankle), LB Daren Bates (groin), LB Will Herring (foot).

Limited participation: LB James Laurinaitis (foot), DT Alex Carrington (quadriceps).

Full participation: DE William Hayes (fibula).

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Before the 2014 season began, much of the St. Louis Rams' success was said to hinge on the week-to-week performance of new coordinator Gregg Williams' defense.

After seven weeks of floundering in the same vat of mediocrity, Sunday's 13-10 victory over the San Francisco 49ers came on the backs of a defense, especially a front seven, that finally lived up to its billing.

"Coming into this hostile environment, it was going to have to be up front," defensive tackle Michael Brockers said. "This team thinks they can bully people up and down the field. We were saying they weren't going to do that to us."

It was the Rams' defense that did the vast majority of the bullying, with Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick on the receiving end. The oft-laughed-at hashtag #SackCity began to populate right away with six first-half sacks, the most in a first half by a Rams team since sacks became an official statistic. They finished with eight, led by a pair each from ends Robert Quinn and William Hayes, the first time the Rams had that many in a game since 2003.

[+] EnlargeColin Kaepernick
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezThe Rams defense had a huge day against the 49ers, especially in forcing a fumble on a goal-line stand in the closing seconds.
Those eight sacks were the most Kaepernick had suffered in his career, coming on seven drives, all of which ended with no points for the Niners. For a team that had all of six sacks in the first seven games, Sunday's performance represented something much closer to the avalanche that Quinn said would follow the first snowflake (sack) just a few weeks ago.

"To have six sacks throughout the first seven games and to have eight today is a heck of a pass rush, especially against a quarterback like Kaepernick who can get out of the pocket fast," Quinn said.

Beyond the finally-in-rhythm pass rush, the Rams held Niners running back Frank Gore to 49 yards on 14 carries, an average of 3.5 yards per attempt. The Niners finished with 263 yards of offense and St. Louis found a way to get off the field consistently by holding the Niners to 3-of-12 on third down.

More important than all of that, the Rams found a way to get the stop to win the game when they absolutely had to have it. It's something they couldn't do in home games against Dallas and San Francisco. This time, it happened in most unusual fashion.

Given just three weeks between meetings with the 49ers, Williams and the Rams didn't have much time to look for idiosyncrasies in San Francisco's offense. With such a familiar opponent, adding unseen wrinkles can be difficult. But as Williams studied the Niners' goal-line tendencies and compared them to his own, he recognized something in his group that could be exploited if he didn't tweak it.

Williams saw a Niners' offense that liked to attack a gap between the tackles that the Rams usually left open as they often favored a look that overloaded the defensive line to one side. But the Niners often would attack that gap with fullback Bruce Miller, leaving a guard head-to-head against a linebacker.

To combat that look, Williams tweaked things to allow the Rams to attack the A and B gaps, leaving a more balanced defensive line and asking the Niners to attack on the edge.

With San Francisco at the Rams' 1 and only 9 seconds to play, Williams called for the changed look upfront.

"We really have three or four fronts in goal line that we have and go into every week, so it was just a great adjustment by Gregg and great instincts," linebacker James Laurinaitis said.

The call worked to perfection as Kaepernick took the snap with the intent of going up over the top for the game-winning touchdown on a sneak. Sensing the sneak before the snap, Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar crashed over the top of the middle of the line with the idea that Kaepernick would have to go high with the sneak.

Kaepernick mishandled the snap, lost the ball and Laurinaitis smothered it to end the game.

"It feels great for the game to be on our shoulders and for us to win the game," Dunbar said. "We haven’t been able to close those games in those types of situations and we have given up big plays, and we didn’t do that today. It feels good to do that and I think it’s something we can build on."

Upon coming up with the ball, Laurinaitis quickly showed it to an official. In his hands was the Rams' third victory of the season. It was a fitting bit of symbolism for a defense that was supposed to have games in its hands all along.

Wounded Rams take it easy Wednesday

October, 29, 2014
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).

T.J. McDonald returns to Rams practice

October, 23, 2014
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A day after the St. Louis Rams went through a practice missing a handful of key starters, they got many of them back for Thursday night's session.

Heading the list was safety T.J. McDonald, who missed Wednesday with a concussion. McDonald went through the concussion protocol and was cleared to return Thursday. He practiced on a limited basis after he said he felt a little "foggy" on Sunday night.

The Rams also got guard Rodger Saffold (knee), receiver Kenny Britt (ankle) and defensive end William Hayes (illness) back. All three practiced fully.

On the other side, running back Benny Cunningham was added to the report as a limited participant with a knee injury. Cornerback Brandon McGee was downgraded to limited participation after practicing full on Wednesday.

Here's the complete rundown from Thursday's injury report:

Did not practice: CB Janoris Jenkins (knee), C Tim Barnes (shoulder)

Limited practice: S T.J. McDonald (concussion), LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar (toe), CB Trumaine Johnson (knee), CB Brandon McGee (foot), RB Benny Cunningham (knee)

Full practice: WR Kenny Britt (ankle), DE William Hayes (illness), G Rodger Saffold (knee), DE Ethan Westbrooks (hand)

Rams Camp Report: Day 6

July, 31, 2014
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of St. Louis Rams training camp:
  • Thursday night's practice might as well have been the NFL equivalent of homecoming as the Rams had a bunch of familiar faces return to the field, including some coming back from injury who will be key to their success this season. Offensive tackle Jake Long, center Scott Wells and end William Hayes all got at least a few repetitions in team drills after being limited to some individual work to this point in camp. They didn't get a ton of work, but there were at least a few reps in which the Rams had their projected starting offensive line of (from left to right) Long, Greg Robinson, Wells, Rodger Saffold and Joe Barksdale together for the first time in this camp. Long and Wells did not participate in one-on-one pass-rush drills but Hayes did take some reps. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson also got back to work after sitting a few days with a tight hamstring. Offensive lineman Brandon Washington was also back to work. Defensive end Ethan Westbrooks did some work in the pass-rush drills as well after starting camp on the non-football injury list.
  • Linebacker James Laurinaitis limped off the field late in the practice and did not return. Coach Jeff Fisher said Laurinaitis got stepped on during the practice. It didn't appear to be serious. Cornerback Lamarcus Joyner did not practice and had his right leg wrapped as he watched on the sidelines. Others not participating: offensive lineman Barrett Jones, running back Isaiah Pead (hand), safety Christian Bryant, cornerback Jarrid Bryant and defensive end Sammy Brown.
  • On the field, the action picked up where it left off Tuesday with the offense again starting to catch up to the defense now that shoulder pads are on. Quarterback Sam Bradford continued to take some shots down the field and find his connection. Early in team drills, he hit Stedman Bailey in stride about 40 yards downfield for what likely would have been a touchdown. He also continued to connect with Kenny Britt and Brian Quick on some deep balls and hit Tavon Austin on a deep ball while backed up at his 1-yard line. Austin's finest moment actually came on a deep comeback route in which Bradford threw high but Austin elevated and caught the pass out of frame. That's something we haven't seen much of from Austin since his arrival in St. Louis.
  • With shoulder pads on, the one-on-one pass-rush drills got rolling Thursday with some interesting matchups. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald continues to dominate and did what he wanted against center Tim Barnes on a couple of reps. If you felt the Earth shake tonight, don't worry it was just Robinson and tackle Michael Brockers colliding. Robinson did a nice job in a couple of matchups.
  • Also visiting St. Louis this week: an officiating crew which handled Thursday's practice and will spend time on points of emphasis with the team in the next couple of days through Saturday's scrimmage. And Blake Williams, former linebackers coach and son of defensive coordinator Gregg, who stopped in to see his dad and former team at work. He made a similar visit in the spring.
  • The Rams return to the Rams Park practice field Friday at 4:30 p.m. ET, which doubles as the next workout open to the public.

Rams Camp Report: Day 5

July, 29, 2014
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of St. Louis Rams training camp:
  • The Rams put the shoulder pads on for the first time in this training camp Tuesday afternoon and it resulted in a little bit more of an even playing field. After the top defense dominated the first-team offense for much of the opening days of camp, the addition of pads got the offense some traction. Quarterback Sam Bradford had what looked like his best practice of camp as he frequently connected on passes down the field. The primary recipient? Receiver Brian Quick. Quick is off to a good start in this camp and only built on that start with Tuesday's work. Bradford and Quick hooked up a couple of times on deep balls in early team drills and then Quick brought even more cheers when he caught another deep ball from rookie quarterback Garrett Gilbert later on. Bradford also hit receiver Kenny Britt for about a 40-yard touchdown deep down the right sideline as Britt got behind cornerback Brandon McGee. That play elicited the biggest cheers of the day.
  • One thing that needs to be cleaned up early on is pre-snap penalties. So far, both sides of the ball have been guilty of jumping early. In many places, you'd allow for the benefit of the doubt since it's so early in camp, but the Rams have been persistent penalty magnets in the two years under coach Jeff Fisher and many of the infractions can be attributed to veteran players who should be past such mistakes. There isn't necessarily one player in particular jumping early, which might make it more frustrating for Fisher and his staff since it can be harder to rein in a team-wide issue.
  • Progress is coming for defensive end William Hayes, offensive tackle Jake Long and center Scott Wells. All three have been participating in some individual work early in practice and Hayes and Wells, in particular, look to be close to a return. Hayes said after practice he had a couple of offseason procedures, though the nature of his injuries are unknown. Wells' injuries are also unknown at this point but none of that will matter much if they get back on the field soon. For what it's worth, Hayes says this is as good as he's felt since his second year in the league. That was 2009.
  • A few developments of note at running back. Zac Stacy continues to get most of the work with the first team, but Tre Mason got a few reps Tuesday afternoon and Benny Cunningham is finding his way onto the field some as well. Isaiah Pead sat out the practice and was wearing what appeared to be a cast on his right hand.
  • Some special guests were in the house Tuesday, including the bulk of the University of Missouri football coaches. Defensive end Michael Sam, cornerback E.J. Gaines, receiver T.J. Moe and center Tim Barnes spent some time with the staff after practice and Sam said it was good to see the group. Former Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage also took in the workout.

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- In nearly every possible way -- except one -- defensive end Michael Sam's fit in St. Louis should be easy and comfortable.

But the exception is a big one, the one that matters most when it comes to Sam's long-term future in the NFL.

For any defensive end, whether added through free agency or in the 2014 NFL draft, cracking the Rams' two-deep depth chart at defensive end figures to be a difficult task. For Sam, a seventh-round pick who doesn't come with the "find him a place to play" pedigree of say South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney, it's going to be even tougher.

Put aside Sam working to become the first openly gay player to make an NFL roster after the Rams used the 249th overall selection on him Saturday night, he's joining one of the league's most crowded defensive line rooms, particularly when it comes to his position on the edge.

“Well, it’s going to be very competitive for him, as it will be for some of the other guys, the later picks, because of the depth and the talent level at the position," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "He’s going to have to come in, and like the rest of his new teammates, these rookies, they’re not in shape. Not in the condition our veterans are in. He’s going to have to work to get in great shape and we'll blend him in the offseason program and we’ll go.”

Forget for a moment that Sam is a seventh-round pick in an 11-man draft class and there's no guarantee any of the team's four seventh-round selections will make the roster. Looking closer at the quartet sitting in front of him, Sam has his work cut out for him.

Here's what each of the four players in front of Sam brings to the table:
  • Robert Quinn is the reigning Pro Football Writer's NFL defensive player of the year, a first-team All Pro and coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance. Quinn had 19 sacks and seven forced fumbles in 2013.
  • Chris Long is the most tenured veteran on the team, entering his seventh season in the league. Since his arrival in 2008, Long has 50.5 sacks, which is sixth among defensive ends in that period.
  • William Hayes is one of the most productive backup ends in the league and is paid as such, receiving a three-year deal for $10.5 million in the 2013 offseason. Hayes, who has often moved inside on passing downs, has averaged six sacks per season the past two years and is one of the better run defenders among ends in the league.
  • Eugene Sims might be the least acknowledged of the group, but like Hayes, possesses the versatility to play all over the line. He, too, was rewarded with a two-year contract extension last offseason.

But just because Sam is joining a crowded and talented group doesn't mean all hope is lost.

Of the 48 players drafted in the seventh round in 2013, 47 were on an active roster -- though not many seventh-rounders make the game-day active roster. Over the past five years, 240 players have been picked in the seventh round, 60 of them played in Week 1 as rookies.

Although the Rams have a solid quartet in front of Sam, there's also no guarantee they'll only keep four at the position. Fisher's affinity for defensive linemen, especially pass-rushers, has seen the Rams carry more than a simple two-deep.

In 2012, the Rams carried nine defensive linemen into the opening week of the season though they had an extra body at tackle, not end.

Last year, however, the Rams went heavy on defensive ends, carrying nine linemen with a fifth end for 14 games.

Undrafted rookie Gerald Rivers was that fifth end and on the roster for 13 games before injuries at other positions near the end of the season led to his release. Rivers was only active for two of those 13 games but made the roster as a result of his pass-rush abilities.

Sammy Brown, a pass-rushing type who the Rams stashed on the practice squad most of the year, was called up for the final game of the season but was inactive.

In keeping an extra end, the Rams have seemingly preferred noticeable upside as a pass rusher but as with all late-round picks, special teams value might be the golden ticket to the 53-man roster.

Contributions in that regard will be part of the plan for Sam.

"He will," Fisher said. "Everybody that we selected [Saturday], with the exception of the big guys, will make some kind of contribution to our special teams.”

Many have wondered if there will be additional pressure on the Rams or any team drafting Sam to keep him for fear of public backlash. Fisher quickly put that to rest when asked about it Saturday.

“I would say no because we picked him within the process and we’re going to reduce this roster within the process," Fisher said. "So, I don’t see that being an issue.”

Fisher and general manager Les Snead insist Sam was drafted for purely football reasons. Those same reasons will make it difficult for him to stay.
The free-agent market is scheduled to begin March 11 and teams may begin negotiations with those poised to hit the market beginning March 8. We'll countdown to that with a position-by-position look at what the Rams have in place, who is set to hit the market, what they might need and who might fit the bill.

In place: The Rams made two key moves in 2013 to ensure their depth on the edge continued moving forward when they signed talented backups William Hayes and Eugene Sims to contract extensions. Those contracts guaranteed that the Rams have Hays, Sims and starters Chris Long and Robert Quinn under team control through the 2015 season (so long as the Rams do as expected and exercise the option for Quinn's fifth year).

Defensive end is clearly one of the Rams strongest positions, if not the strongest. Quinn is coming off a dominant season and Long remains a talented counterpart opposite him. Hayes and Sims are versatile pieces who can move all over the line.

The Rams did lose promising undrafted rookie Gerald Rivers to waivers late in the year but they do still have Sammy Brown, who has spent most of his first two years on the practice squad. The Rams think enough of Brown to have put two years into his development, though, so they at least see some potential in him.

Pending free agents: None

What’s needed: There's really little reason for the Rams to add to this position, at least through free agency. Clearly, the discussion about the possibility of adding South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney in the NFL draft will persist through May but that's solely a function of Clowney's talent as opposed to the team's need at the position.

Possible fits: Just because it's worth throwing out an option here, former Saints defensive end Will Smith is familiar with new coordinator Gregg Williams from their time together in New Orleans. Smith is a 10-year veteran who probably still has something left in the tank and he knows the defense.

Verdict: Simply put, the Rams are loaded at this position. I don't expect them to add a defensive end in free agency.

Rams defense looks to replicate effort

November, 1, 2013
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- If the St. Louis Rams could take whatever it was that their defense found Monday night against Seattle, bottle it up and keep it for the rest of the season, they would without hesitation.

A thoroughly dominant performance in which the Rams posted their best defensive output in terms of yards allowed since arriving in St. Louis in 1995 wasn’t enough to get the Rams a victory against the Seahawks.

But it was enough to provide them a blueprint for what they’ll need to do to compete every week without quarterback Sam Bradford and how they can at least try to continue that success.

[+] EnlargeRussell Wilson
Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY SportsRobert Quinn and the Rams shut down Seahawks QB Russell Wilson on Monday night.
“We are going to keep it up,” defensive end William Hayes said. “We’ve got to. We kind of found out what we’re good at and we’ll stick with it. We’re going to play more aggressive and we’re going to attack. That’s our bread and butter, we’re going to attack.”

Hayes’ words should serve as music to the ears of Rams fans who have been waiting for that aggressive approach to resurface since the beginning of the season.

Against the Seahawks, the Rams managed to hold them to 135 yards of offense and seven first downs while racking up seven sacks and repeatedly pummeling quarterback Russell Wilson.

On the outside, Rams cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson were more physical, coming up and playing more man coverage, pressing at the line of scrimmage.

Likewise, coordinator Tim Walton didn’t hesitate to dial up the blitz against the Seahawks, either. On Monday night, Wilson dropped back to pass 25 times and the Rams brought an extra pass-rusher or more on 16 of those occasions.

Encouraged by the defense’s performance against Seattle, Walton believes his group can continue to replicate its success.

“I think we can,” Walton said. “Guys will go out and just play with the same energy, play with the same focus. They’re having fun, they’re playing physical, they’re playing together as a group. Starting to understand things better and I think, definitely, we can continue to play well.”

Of course, the outing against Seattle has left many wondering what took so long for the defense to ratchet it up and begin reaching its potential.

Hayes points to the team’s moving parts on the back end and its relative youth at a number of spots on the defense taking some time to coalesce.

“We are playing with a lot of young guys and everybody is starting to come along now,” Hayes said. “Everybody is buying into the system and it’s working good for us.

“It’s fun because everything you’ve been trying to get working is actually starting to work now and starting to come through. Hopefully we can build another week.”

To Hayes’ point, it does seem possible that the Rams would take steps to protect young corners such as Jenkins and Johnson, not to mention inexperienced safeties like Rodney McLeod and rookie T.J. McDonald, who suffered a leg injury in Week 4.

After losing Bradford, the Rams find themselves in a spot where they don’t have much choice but to be aggressive and try to make things happen on defense. The next steps involve eliminating big plays such as the 80-yard score they gave up to Seattle’s Golden Tate and coming up with some takeaways.

Quite frankly, it’s up to the defense to keep the Rams in games to have a chance to win them late.

“I don’t know [if it can continue] but we’re going to try,” cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. “I think with the great deal of respect we have for Coach Fisher, we did that. Can it be duplicated every week? I don’t know but we’re going to try.”

It wasn’t quite enough against Seattle but at this point, the Rams defense doesn’t really have a choice.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Three days after playing well enough to earn a second start, running back Zac Stacy sat out the St. Louis Rams' Wednesday practice because of lingering soreness.

According to the official injury report, Stacy is dealing with a chest injury. He missed the end of the Jacksonville game with what the Rams then called a rib injury. After the game I asked Stacy about the injury, and he said he felt like he'd just had the wind knocked out of him and that he expected to be OK.

Stacy didn't bounce back quick enough to practice Wednesday, but Rams coach Jeff Fisher said he doesn't expect Stacy to have any major issues.

"He took the day off," Fisher said. "He's a little sore after that outing, but he'll be fine."

It's become something of a common practice for the Rams to have a starting running back not practice on Wednesday and then return Thursday. Daryl Richardson has followed a similar pattern a couple times this year with an injured foot.

Stacy carried 14 times for 78 yards against Jacksonville before missing the final minutes because of the rib injury.

Elsewhere, the Rams may be moving closer to getting back a key piece of the defensive line in the form of end William Hayes. He returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday as he works his way back from a knee injury.

Hayes is the team's best run defender on the edge, and with the Houston Texans' scheme and preference to stretch defenses wide in the run game, having Hayes available Sunday to set the edge would be a big addition to the defense.

Here's the complete Rams injury report for Wednesday:

Did not participate: Stacy, CB Cortland Finnegan, OT Rodger Saffold (knee)
Limited participation: Hayes, DT Matt Conrath (concussion)

Rams-Niners study session: Defense

September, 30, 2013
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- After a two-game in five days sprint last week, we fell a bit behind on our study sessions, but we’re back despite some troubles with the All-22 film on the San Francisco game.

Considering we’re dealing with two Rams’ games -- at Dallas and home against San Francisco -- this week’s version of study session will be condensed, with a bit more overarching thoughts buoyed by examples from those games.

On to the defense:
  • The first thing that stands out from the Dallas to the San Francisco game is the increased aggressive approach by the defense against the Niners. The Rams played more man coverage, and early in the game it seemed to be working. Eventually, the Niners were able to hammer away with the run game and it opened some things up for San Francisco.
  • [+] EnlargeJanoris Jenkins
    AP Photo/G. Newman LowranceJanoris Jenkins is off to a strong start in coverage despite some recent penalties.
  • Cornerback Janoris Jenkins is playing better than the penalties that have been going against him might indicate. He’s been victimized by some borderline calls, the type of calls that second-year players don’t normally get against veterans like Anquan Boldin. But Jenkins was sticky in coverage and seems to be timing his attempts at pass breakups better. It was actually a bit surprising the Rams didn’t shadow Boldin with Jenkins given the Niners’ lack of other pass-catching threats.
  • The other player who showed up against San Francisco was middle linebacker James Laurinaitis. He had probably his best game of the season with 12 tackles, and broke up a pair of deep passes down the field.
  • Unfortunately for the Rams, there wasn’t much more to write home about, especially in trying to stop running back Frank Gore.
  • The Rams greatly missed William Hayes (knee injury) in this game. Ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn struggled to set the edge, and tackles Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford didn’t get much push up the middle.
  • On a pair of Gore’s long runs, including his 34-yard touchdown, Brockers and Langford get wiped out and it allows a blocker to get to the second level to remove the linebackers. Niners guard Mike Iupati pulls right on Gore’s touchdown, and is able to bury Alec Ogletree and open the path to the end zone, in no small part because the defensive tackles are taken out of the play.
  • In last season’s two meetings with the Niners, the Rams had great success against Colin Kaepernick by turning up the heat with the blitz. This season, not so much. The Rams blitzed 10 times, less than the 60 percent rate they did in 2012, and Kaepernick had success against it. Although the Rams got home for a sack once, Kaepernick completed seven-of-eight for 71 yards and two touchdowns.
  • The Rams don’t seem to be getting home much on the blitz at all this season, and many of the blitzes seem to be telegraphed. Slow-developing blitzes such as the one that came on Kaepernick’s first touchdown pass to Boldin seem to keep popping up. On that play, the Rams rushed just three down linemen, but then linebackers Ogletree and Laurinaitis circled around to the right side. Neither got anywhere near Kaepernick, who got the ball out quick as Boldin beat the struggling Cortland Finnegan for a touchdown.
  • We’ll add special teams in this space again with a nod to punter Johnny Hekker, who is quietly having a Pro Bowl caliber season.

Double Coverage: 49ers at Rams

September, 26, 2013
Colin Kaepernick and James LaurinaitisGetty ImagesThe 49ers' Colin Kaepernick and the Rams' James Laurinaitis will try to help their respective squads avoid a 1-3 start.
No NFL division rivals were more evenly matched than the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers in 2012. It took almost 10 full quarters to determine a winner after the teams tied in San Francisco and went late into overtime in the meeting in St. Louis.

The Rams and 49ers renew acquaintances in front of a national audience at 8:25 p.m. ET Thursday night at the Edward Jones Dome. ESPN Rams reporter Nick Wagoner and 49ers reporter Bill Williamson kick around some important topics heading into the game in this edition of Double Coverage.

Wagoner: These two teams couldn’t possibly have played a pair of closer games in one season than they did last year. That came as something of a surprise given the way San Francisco was bullying opponents from week to week. Somehow, the Rams seemed to have the 49ers' number last year. How much does that bother 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh & Co. entering this one?

Williamson: I am sure the 49ers are not thrilled to be playing at St. Louis on a short week right now. Times are tough in San Francisco. They are under .500 and have lost two games in a row for the first time under Jim Harbaugh. They are having issues on both sides of the ball, dealing with Aldon Smith going to rehab and experiencing many injuries. To top it all off, the Rams, as you said, had success against the 49ers last year when they were playing at a high level. I think the 49ers are focusing this week on getting themselves fixed and not worrying about their recent past with the Rams. But if the Rams strike first, it could get in the 49ers’ heads.

Wagoner: Well, on the bright side for San Francisco, the Rams are going through some troubles of their own after getting decimated in Dallas last weekend. That the Rams are 1-2 at this point isn’t a huge surprise, but the way the Cowboys manhandled them has caused some to push the panic button already. Playing a division rival at home on short rest should serve as a quick way to snap out of whatever funk it was that plagued them in Dallas. On the flip side of that equation, it also doesn’t provide much time to fix all the problems that have been evident not just against the Cowboys but in the first three weeks as a whole.

You mention the loss of Aldon Smith; how does that affect the Niners on the field and perhaps in the locker room?

Williamson: Moving forward, I think the biggest effect is on the field. The team has had time to allow this to hit them. If anything, it might have been a distraction Sunday against the Colts. Now, they are worried about being without Smith on the field. He has 37 sacks since he came into the league in 2011, the most in the NFL during that span. The 49ers are going to use rookie Corey Lemonier, a third-round pick, and Dan Skuta, mostly a special-teamer, in Smith's absence. The 49ers’ entire defense is going to have to respond well as it begins to play without Smith. Suffice to say, it won’t be easy.

Wagoner: The 49ers playing without Smith bodes well for the Rams given the fact that he’s had so much success against them in previous meetings. Smith had five sacks in four games against the Rams, so his absence is a good thing for an offensive line that gave up six sacks last week in Dallas. Before that game, the Rams had a four-game streak dating to last season of not allowing a sack, but it appeared to be a bit of smoke and mirrors this season given the Rams’ penchant for short passes and not having faced a team with a top pass-rusher. Perhaps more important for the Rams’ offensive line this week will be establishing the line of scrimmage and trying to get the running game going. It’s an area where the Rams have yet to show much life but one they’ll absolutely need against the 49ers.

Speaking of areas that haven’t revved up yet, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick isn't off to the best start. What have you seen from him so far and what type of changes (if any) have the 49ers made schematically since last year?

Williamson: It’s weird, Nick. Kaepernick was brilliant -- basically flawless -- against the Packers in Week 1. But he has really struggled in the past two games as the 49ers have scored a combined 10 points. Frankly, this offense has been incapable of playing winning football the past two weeks. But it’s not all on Kaepernick. The receivers (other than Anquan Boldin) have not gotten open and the offensive line, which has been great in the past, has slid back. Kaepernick seems flustered. He has to rise above it and become the leader. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more of the read-option (it has been used sparingly this season) against the Rams to give the offense a spark.

Wagoner: That’s an interesting thought given the Rams’ relative success against the read-option last year. The Rams seemed to be on to the basic keys to slowing it down and that played a big part in their win against the 49ers in St. Louis. They had it defended well enough to score a game-changing touchdown on a missed pitch late in that one. One thing that could play in San Francisco’s favor is the knee injury to defensive end William Hayes. It’s unlikely Hayes will play this week and he’s the best the Rams have at setting the edge and blowing up run plays. That’s a big loss for the Rams going into this one.

Bad time for Rams to lose DE Hayes

September, 25, 2013
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams officially ruled out defensive end William Hayes for Thursday night's game against San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon.

Hayes suffered a knee injury last week against Dallas and left the locker room on crutches with his knee wrapped. Although Hayes isn't technically a starter, he's one of the Rams' most valuable and versatile defenders.

Not having Hayes available is never a good thing for the Rams but it could be particularly damaging this week.

Hayes is the team's best run defender among the defensive ends and played a pair of strong games against San Francisco last season. His knack for setting the edge against the run as well as breaking through and stuffing it himself will be sorely missed against a team the Rams are expecting to return to its running roots this week.

In the two meetings between the teams last season, Hayes had five tackles 1.5 sacks, a tackle for loss and a quarterback pressure.

Taking Hayes out of the mix puts the onus on Chris Long, Robert Quinn and Eugene Sims to handle the bulk of the work at end. It also probably means rookie end Gerald Rivers will be active for the first time in his young career. Sims has proved a solid run stopper in the past and the Rams will need him to be on top of his game to help replace Hayes' production.

Elsewhere on the injury report, the Rams also ruled out right tackle Rodger Saffold, who has a knee injury of his own. Like Hayes, Saffold also didn't participate in practice this week.

Here's the full rundown on the injury report:

Out: Hayes, Saffold
Probable: WR Chris Givens (knee), LB James Laurinaitis (foot), TE Mike McNeill (chest), LG Chris Williams (foot), S T.J. McDonald (knee), RB Daryl Richardson (foot), LT Jake Long (foot).