NFL Nation: Shaun HIll

TAMPA, Fla. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the St. Louis Rams' 19-17 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

" Rams coach Jeff Fisher had plenty of options when handing out the game ball after his team's first victory, but he opted for quarterback Austin Davis, who finished 22-of-29 for 235 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions for a passer rating of 99.1 in his first NFL start. Fisher pointed to Davis' poise as a primary reason for Davis' initial success, a trait apparent as he converted a pair of third downs on the winning drive with clutch throws.

" Davis' performance was enough to have many wondering whether he'd done enough to earn another start regardless of the status of veteran Shaun Hill's injured thigh. Fisher quickly put those thoughts to rest after the game.

"No, when Shaun comes back, he's our starter," Fisher said. "I'm really proud of Austin but Shaun's our starter."

" Receiver Tavon Austin left the game in the second quarter with an apparent knee injury just before a 51-minute lightning delay. When the team returned to begin warming up, Austin gave it a go but ultimately did not return. Fisher said Austin will have further tests on the knee Monday morning.

Rams' quarterback situation unresolved

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams wrapped up their work week Friday afternoon but coach Jeff Fisher isn't ready to make a call on who his starting quarterback will be against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

That's because presumptive starter Shaun Hill did not practice most of the week and was extremely limited in Friday's practice because of a quad/thigh injury. The choice between Hill and Austin Davis might not be made until hours before kickoff.

"(Hill is) probably a game-time decision," Fisher said. "We got Austin some reps and Austin is much better suited to play this game this week because of the starter reps he took this week, so we’ll see what happens."

[+] EnlargeAustin Davis
AP Photo/David RichardThe Ram are confident in QB Austin Davis should starter Shaun Hill be unable to play.
Fisher indicated Friday that Hill had made progress on his injured leg throughout the week, but there wasn't enough to go on to make a decision at this point. Hill was at least in uniform for Friday's practice, but he really didn't participate much as Davis took the bulk of the reps.

Based on the week of practice, one would assume Davis is primed to make his first NFL start, but Fisher and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said Hill is far enough along in the offense that he could start without any meaningful practice reps during the week.

"He’s been dialed in, doing everything," Schottenheimer said. "We actually make him call the plays of the quarterbacks in a lot of the walk-thrus that we do. No, if he’s ready to go, we have no problems that he’d go out there and perform well."

And if Hill is not ready to go, Davis will take his long-awaited turn as the starter. Davis got his first NFL game experience last week against Minnesota, going 16-of-23 for 192 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Those numbers weren't too bad on the surface, but a closer look at the performance revealed plenty of rough patches.

Looking back at his debut, Davis pointed to communication and basic operation as "spotty," pointing out he simply had not had a chance to huddle with the first-team offense before. He also took four sacks, some of which were the product of his inability to get rid of the ball or throw it away. Davis is hopeful that having a week's worth of practice and his three years of knowledge in the offense should allow him to clean up some of those areas.

"There's not a play call that I don't know exactly what the read is and exactly where the ball is supposed to go," Davis said. "It's really just getting game experience. It was great last week to get in and play ball, but I feel very, very comfortable with what we're doing."

The Rams apparently share that sentiment. Schottenheimer said Davis' knowledge of the scheme is such that he wouldn't need to scale the offense back for him.

"He’s really grown, he’s really developed," Schottenheimer said. "Coming from Southern Miss, it’s been a long process, he’s worked really, really hard. Very comfortable calling the game with him. Trust that he’s going to know what to do, do the right things. Again, I think that’s a credit to him."

The other part of the equation is whether to keep two or three quarterbacks active against the Bucs. Third-team signal caller Case Keenum now has a total of six practices with the Rams, but has impressed coaches with his work ethic and desire to get up to speed as fast as possible.

If Keenum is active and does have to play, the Rams will have a much smaller set of plays to work with.

"He beats the coaches in here most days," Schottenheimer said. "He really does. We’re here later than he is, but he’s here early working hard. By the looks of that he’s obviously got ability, and if he has to go for some reason, we’ll keep it simple."

Rams vs. Buccaneers preview

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
It's tough to call the second game of the season a "must-win" situation. But that might not be far off what the St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are facing this week.

Both teams are coming off embarrassing losses that could set the tone for disastrous seasons. But a victory in Week 2 could save a season -- at least for the moment.

ESPN Rams reporter Nick Wagoner and Buccaneers reporter Pat Yasinskas take a look at this matchup:

Yasinskas: Nick, let's cut right to the chase. Are the Rams as bad as they looked against the Vikings in the opener?

Wagoner: I don't think the Rams are as bad as they were in Week 1, but I can understand why some might view it that way. That isn't to say this team just had an off-day and is about to string 15 wins together. The issue in Week 1 boiled down to the Rams failing to do the things they believe they will do well this year. Namely, this is a team built to run the ball to set up play-action on offense and dominate defensively, but they didn't control the line of scrimmage well enough on either side of the ball to do that. On paper, this looked like an offensive line that could be really good if everyone is healthy -- but even healthy, it looked like an aging group unable to block basic four-man rushes.

Still, I expect the Rams to be more competitive this week, so long as they have veteran quarterback Shaun Hill back from a quad injury.

I suppose the best option now is to redirect back at you: The Bucs disappointed in Week 1 against a backup quarterback, and either way, they're going to see another this week against the Rams. Are they as bad as they showed against the Panthers? How do they bounce back?

Yasinskas: The Bucs were horrible offensively for more than three quarters. Their defense, which is supposed to be a strong point, wasn't much better against Carolina backup Derek Anderson. There weren't a lot of good things to come out of the opener, and I'm not trying to make it out to be more than it was. But the Bucs did score 14 points in the fourth quarter, and they made it a game. It took a long time, but their offense finally showed some rhythm in the fourth and they had a chance to win at the end. Maybe this offense isn't that good, or maybe it just took some time to get things going in the right direction.

I know hopes were high with Sam Bradford, and that all changed with his injury. How much of a difference will it make if Hill is able to play?

Wagoner: Let's be honest here: It's not like the Rams are choosing from a quarterback trio of Elway, Marino and Montana. But of the three they have on the roster, it's pretty clear Hill gives them the best chance to win at this point. He's a steady hand and actually got off to a pretty good start against the Vikings last week before a dropped screen pass and a bad throw that resulted in an interception just before the half. For what it's worth, Jeff Fisher said Hill was trying to throw that ball away but couldn't get it out of bounds because of the quad.

Either way, the Rams need Hill under center because the options behind him -- Austin Davis and Case Keenum -- simply aren't going to get the job done. Of course, it won't matter who is under center if the offensive line doesn't perform better than it did the past week. That group has to give Hill time to throw and open some holes in the run game for this offense to have any chance of success against that Tampa defense.

Speaking of that defense, Lovie Smith once coordinated the group in St. Louis, and we all have a pretty good idea of what he likes to do. But now that he's back with the Bucs as the head coach, what are some wrinkles he's bringing to the table, and how good can that group be with guys such as Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David in the system?

Yasinskas: McCoy and David are two excellent cornerstones around which to build the defense. But as we found out against Carolina, the Bucs need more than that. The key to a Smith defense is getting pressure from the front four, and the Bucs didn't do that against the Panthers. They came up with one sack (by McCoy) and got no pressure on the outside. Defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Michael Johnson have talent, but they have to be more productive for Smith's defense to really work. If the defense gets pressure, the turnovers will flow. If it doesn't get pressure, the defense will be nothing more than ordinary. McCoy and David are the stars of the defense, but the Bucs need Clayborn and Johnson to really make things click.

Tampa Bay's offensive line is a huge question, and the Bucs might be without injured guard Logan Mankins. Like any quarterback, Josh McCown is going to struggle if he's pressured. Are the Rams capable of putting a lot of pressure on McCown? If so, that will stall Tampa Bay's offense.

Wagoner: The strength of the Rams' defense is certainly found in the front four and the pass rush in general. Of course, that wasn't all that evident this past week against Minnesota. The Vikings only allowed one sack, and that came because of a botched snap. But Minnesota had a good game plan and made it a point to get the ball out quickly, which negated the Rams' pass rush. In fact, Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel averaged the fewest air yards per attempt of any quarterback in Week 1.

The Bucs know exactly what the Rams' pass rush can do after Robert Quinn gave them all kinds of headaches in the past year's meeting. But the Rams have to be better in coverage on underneath stuff if they want their pass rush to take off as it should.

McCown had some success throwing against the Rams last year when he was with the Bears, and the Bucs have a couple big, physical receivers on the outside. If things are going how the Bucs want, what type of challenges do they present to the Rams' defense?

Yasinskas: Let's assume for a second the offensive line plays a decent game. If that's the case, McCown will have time to throw, and he has some nice targets to work with. Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins are all at least 6-foot-5. That creates all sorts of matchup problems for a secondary. Evans and Seferian-Jenkins are only rookies, but they can be impact players. Jackson is a proven receiver who probably doesn't get the recognition he deserves.

But like I said, the offensive line will be the key. If McCown has time to throw, he can be an efficient quarterback. If he doesn't have time, he'll show why he's been a backup most of his career.


Shaun Hill misses practice again

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- For the second consecutive day, St. Louis Rams quarterback Shaun Hill did not participate in practice.

Hill sat out Thursday's practice with a quad/thigh injury, allowing Austin Davis to take the majority of the repetitions with the first-team offense once again. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer indicated Hill might not have to practice this week in order to be able to play Sunday in Tampa Bay because of his experience and knowledge of the offense.

Defensive end Chris Long is not on Thursday's injury report because he was officially moved to the injured reserve list with the designation to return. In his place, the Rams moved defensive tackle Matt Conrath from the practice squad to the active roster. Defensive end Kourtnei Brown was signed to the practice squad to take Conrath's place. Brown spent training camp with the Rams.

Elsewhere on the report, the only move of note from the Rams' perspective involved cornerback Lamarcus Joyner. Joyner was downgraded from limited participation to did not participate.

Here's the rundown:

Did not practice: CB Trumaine Johnson (knee), OL Barrett Jones (back), DB Lamarcus Joyner (back), QB Shaun Hill (thigh).

Rams unsure of Shaun Hill's status

September, 7, 2014
Sep 7
ST. LOUIS -- Some observations from the St. Louis Rams' locker room after a 34-6 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at the Edward Jones Dome.
  • Hill
    Rams coach Jeff Fisher said quarterback Shaun Hill left the game at halftime because of a quad injury. Hill did not return, and his status moving forward remains up in the air until further examination. "Shaun was uncomfortable the second-to-last drive [of the first half]," Fisher said. "At halftime, we decided it would not be a good idea for him to return. He has a quad strain. I'll know more information on it tomorrow."
  • One point of continued frustration for the Rams: penalties. It's been an issue for the past two years under Fisher. They had 13 infractions for 121 yards against the Vikings. Every year they say that area will improve, and every year we lack evidence that it has. "Penalties were certainly an issue," Fisher said. "They killed drives, back-to-back penalties. ... I can go on and on and on, but that's what happened today."
  • Some of the adjectives thrown around to describe Sunday's performance in a somber Rams locker room included "embarrassing," "disgusting" and many incarnations of "frustrating." And those are just the ones fit to print here. Fisher told his team not to let one game define a season, but as end Chris Long said, the Rams will spend at least one night being angry at themselves.

Rapid Reaction: St. Louis Rams

September, 7, 2014
Sep 7

ST. LOUIS -- A few thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' 34-6 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at the Edward Jones Dome.

What it means: Put simply, it could be a really long season in St. Louis. Without starting quarterback Sam Bradford (out for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee), the offense sputtered to levels commensurate with some of the team's leanest years in St. Louis. The defense was on the field too much and the penalty issues of the past two years remain. Starting the season with a loss at home to what looked to be a beatable opponent doesn't bode well for a team that faces the league's third-toughest schedule (based on last year's results).

Stock watch: Down -- the offense. Nobody expected fireworks from this group, but for a group that was supposed to provide power running and opportunities to get chunks of yards on play-action, this was about as discouraging a performance as you'll find. Shaun Hill left at halftime with a thigh injury and Austin Davis took over, but neither had much success behind an offensive line offering little protection and a run game mostly stuck in the mud. This unit finished with 318 yards, most of which came in garbage time.

Quarterback quandary: Hill got off to a good start with a 23-yard completion on the first offensive play of the game, but it got no better from there. His interception to Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson at the end of the first half was abysmal, and it allowed the Vikings to score the game's first touchdown. That 13-0 halftime hole was far too much to overcome with or without Hill, who was replaced by Davis. Davis got some game experience and managed some completions with the game out of hand but had nothing more than a pair of field goals to show for it.

Game ball: Receiver Brian Quick. Pickings were incredibly slim here, regardless of which side of the ball you look at. But he was the lone bright spot on the offense, carrying his strong preseason into the opening regular-season game and finishing with seven catches for 99 yards. The third-year wideout at least flashed the promise of better things ahead, which is more than can be said for most of the offense.

What's next: Things don't get much easier for the Rams next week as they travel to what should be a hot and humid Tampa, Florida, to take on the Bucs.

W2W4: St. Louis Rams

September, 6, 2014
Sep 6
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams and Minnesota Vikings kick off the regular season Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET on regional Fox coverage.

Here are three things to watch for from the Rams' end:

1. How's Hill?: Rams quarterback Shaun Hill started the preseason opener against New Orleans but hasn't started a regular-season game since 2010, or a season-opener since he was with the San Francisco 49ers in 2009. Despite whatever rustiness he'll have to deal with, Hill will not be set up for failure in this offense. The Rams were always going to be a run-first offense and that won't change with Hill in charge. What Hill will be asked to do is take advantage of the opportunities that the run game might open for the pass, pushing the ball down the field on play-action. While he's not known for his arm strength, Hill does have the ability to get the ball down the field. More importantly, the Rams need Hill to manage the game and take care of the ball. If he can do those two things, the Rams should have enough success running and on defense to be in position to open the season with a victory.

2. On the corner: The Rams have one of the youngest secondaries in the league and it's actually possible the starting group will be even younger than originally projected when kickoff arrives Sunday. That's especially true at cornerback, where third-year player Janoris Jenkins is penciled in at one spot. But the Rams could turn to rookies at the spot opposite Jenkins and in the nickel as Trumaine Johnson sits with a knee injury. Lamarcus Joyner is set as the team's primary nickel corner, the role the team drafted him to play back in May. Sixth-round rookie E.J. Gaines and second-year corner Brandon McGee are the top options for the job, with McGee listed as Johnson's backup on the unofficial depth chart. Gaines showed well in the preseason and McGee battled an ankle injury, which could make Gaines the better and more logical fit. But it's asking a lot of any rookie, especially a sixth-rounder, to deal with the likes of Vikings receivers Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson in his first NFL game.

3. Containing Peterson: This almost goes without saying anytime the Vikings are the opponent, but as running back Adrian Peterson goes, so goes Minnesota. Peterson apparently still harbors some ill feelings toward the Rams from a 2012 meeting between the teams when Peterson didn't like the amount of trash talk the Rams offered early in that game. Peterson went on to rush for 212 yards and a touchdown and went so far as to predict a touchdown run on his first carry in Sunday's game. Whether or not Peterson is able to call his shot remains to be seen, but the Rams have no pretension of believing they can shut down Peterson. Instead, they'll look to slow him down enough to make him earn every yard. If he gets to 100 yards or so, the Rams will be fine with it as long as it comes on 23-plus carries.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- St. Louis Rams quarterback Shaun Hill hasn't entered the regular season as the opening day starter since 2009 when he was with the San Francisco 49ers. He hasn't started a game at all since 2010 with the Detroit Lions, and hasn't thrown a pass in a regular-season game since Week 3 of the 2012 season.

All of those numbers will be erased Sunday when Hill opens the season under center for the Rams against the Minnesota Vikings. In some ways, the start will represent a full circle journey for Hill, who began his career as an undrafted free agent in Minnesota.

[+] EnlargeSean Hill
AP Photo/L.G. PattersonThe Rams won't need to change their approach on offense for backup quarterback Sean Hill.
Sentimentality is the furthest thing from Hill's mind, though, as he sets out to guide the Rams through the season. For a player who has spent most of his 12-year career as a backup, the knowledge that he is the starter entering this season provides a little peace of mind he has previously not been afforded.

"It’s a matter of reps," coach Jeff Fisher said. "He’s taken all the reps since we got back from Cleveland, and so he’s got a good feel. Obviously, we didn’t play him in the final preseason game, but he took a majority of the practice reps. He’s got a good feel for what he’s doing."

While no team ever wants to lose its starting quarterback as the Rams did on Aug. 23 when Sam Bradford suffered a torn ACL for the second time in less than a year, if there is ever a time to do it, it's before the season.

Losing Bradford was a crushing blow, not only for him but the Rams as a whole as they enter this season hoping to take the next step from mediocrity to full-blown success. But they signed Hill as a free agent in the offseason for a reason. They believed he would represent an upgrade over Kellen Clemens, last season's fill-in, and that Hill would offer a better chance for the team to keep winning games should something happen to Bradford again.

Unlike Clemens, who did an admirable job in Bradford's stead, Hill won't have to work with a scaled down offense and will have spent about two weeks with the knowledge that he is the starter rather than entering in an emergency situation.

"This extra time we’ve had in the last week, week and a half has been really good, really beneficial," Hill said.

Of course, Hill has his limitations as a passer, but the Rams insist they don't intend to change what they plan to do with him under center. Even with Bradford, the Rams wanted to be a run-first team that could spin that into successful play-action passes. That hasn't changed with Hill under center.

In short, don't expect Hill to come out throwing the ball all over the field in five-receiver sets.

"There’s still a lot of teams that run the ball, and now option’s coming back in," Hill said. "So everything has its evolution, I guess. I guess the most important thing about being a quarterback in the NFL is being the same guy every day, being consistent and then playing with timing. Being able to anticipate the open holes and trusting your guys and being on the same page with all of them."

Those are the main things the Rams will ask of Hill as he returns to a starting role, even if it's not a starring one.

W2W4: St. Louis Rams

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams and Miami Dolphins meet in Week 4 of the preseason Thursday night at Sun Life Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET. Here are three things to watch for from the Rams' end:

1. Replacing Johnson: Projected starting cornerback Trumaine Johnson was among the five Rams starters suffering injuries in the first half last week against Cleveland, and though it looked brutal when it happened, it wasn't as bad as feared. Johnson has a sprained MCL in his knee and is expected to miss four to six weeks. That's not good news for a young and thin cornerback group but it's better than what was expected when he left on a cart. But now the Rams must not only figure out the remaining depth at the position, a battle that should include Marcus Roberson, Greg Reid and Darren Woodard, but also who will start opposite Johnson. They'd prefer to keep rookie Lamarcus Joyner as the primary nickelback, leaving rookie E.J. Gaines and Brandon McGee to battle for the spot. McGee has been dealing with an ankle injury and didn't practice Tuesday, which could mean Gaines gets the first shot to step in for Johnson. Either way, it's a good opportunity for all of the young corners to make a statement on where they belong in the pecking order.

2. Time for starters: In each of the other three preseason games, coach Jeff Fisher has been pretty open about how much playing time his starters will get in the week leading up to the game. Not this week. Fisher was noncommittal about how much work his starters will get against the Dolphins other than to say some will play more than others. With some players working back into shape off injury or battling injuries of their own, there's a line between those that need the work and those that don't. Expect linebacker James Laurinaitis to get some work after sitting the first three games with an ankle injury. As for quarterback Shaun Hill, Fisher wouldn't tip his hand. But it wouldn't surprise to see the Rams play it safe with him. Hill took plenty of reps with the first offense in the first week of preseason against New Orleans and it's probably not worth the risk to give him more than some token snaps.

3. Sam vs. Westbrooks: It's been one of the best battle of training camp and though there are others (potential fourth tight end, fourth running back, sixth linebacker, etc.), this is the one that has seen both players rise to the occasion again and again in the preseason. Ethan Westbrooks probably has the edge going into the game, impressing with his work in practice and games and his ability to play all over the line. But Michael Sam has been productive in games, even if practice hasn't been as good. There's still the outside chance the Rams could keep both but this is the last chance for both to make a strong closing statement.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Summoning his best Dick Vermeil impression Sunday evening, St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher began the sentence just how Vermeil did about 15 years ago.

"This team is going to rally around Shaun [Hill] and we’re going to go play ..." Fisher trailed off.

The story of the 1999 Rams has become the stuff of legend, and it all started with a torn anterior cruciate ligament to a starting quarterback just like the one that ended Sam Bradford's 2014 season before it began Saturday night in Cleveland.

The storybook tale of Kurt Warner replacing Trent Green and leading the Rams to a win in Super Bowl XXXIV is a cute parallel to what the Rams are going through now with Bradford out and Hill in, but it's also one of the game's legendary aberrations.

The 34-year-old Hill has been a steady backup who has started a handful of games over the course of a 12-year career. In that time, Hill has thrown for 6,381 yards, 41 touchdowns and 23 interceptions for a passer rating of 85.9. He compiled a 13-13 record as a starter and played 11 games with the Detroit Lions in 2010 in relief of Matthew Stafford.

Although he's in his first year with the Rams following four each in Detroit, San Francisco and Minnesota, Hill has plenty of experience playing in a variety of offenses with plenty of different coaches and players.

That's a far cry from Warner's story and that should be instructive in trying to determine what Hill brings to the table as the Rams' starter. Fisher and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer have no intention of asking Hill to air it out, just as they didn't with Bradford.

"Shaun has a great feeling for the offense right now and we’re going to move forward with it," Fisher said. "We’re not going to change anything. He knows the system. Everybody knows we are going to run the football first, and we’re going to do that and we’re going to do that well and we’re going to do that to start the season and then everything else will come off of that."

With Hill under center, the Rams have a steady hand who should be a better option than Kellen Clemens was when he took over for Bradford seven games into the 2013 season. The season shouldn't be lost with Hill in charge, but it's going to make what would have been an uphill climb to a postseason berth an even more daunting task.

Given the dearth of solid quarterbacks in the NFL, the Rams are wise to stick with the steady Hill as the starter rather than mortgage valuable draft picks to acquire someone who wouldn't be a guaranteed upgrade. Anyone who might be considered an upgrade probably would be unavailable, too expensive, or both.

To that end, Fisher shot down rumors about the team's interest in an outside quarterback who could potentially push Hill.

"I’ve heard that there’s speculation we’ve been on the phone," Fisher said. "That’s not true. It doesn’t mean to say we won’t but we haven’t done it to this point. Keep in mind these guys understand our system. Shaun is ready to play."

The bigger issue is what the Rams would do should something happen to Hill. For as experienced as Hill is, the Rams are equally inexperienced behind him. The current backup, Austin Davis, enters his third season with the team having never thrown a regular-season pass. Sixth-round draft choice Garrett Gilbert is a developmental rookie with a lot of improvement to make before he could play.

So even with rumors of the Rams' interest in players such as Mark Sanchez, Ryan Mallett, Kirk Cousins and so many others, they aren't planning to make an impulse purchase just to say they've done something.

"It makes no sense to jump and react right now and try to fill the hole, whatever it costs," Fisher said. "We’re going to take our time and evaluate this. There’s going to be some quarterbacks that are getting released and there may or may not be some quarterbacks that have trade value. We just don’t know. It’s way too soon."

Waiting is fine for now, but the Rams would be wise to find a way before the season starts to add a backup with experience to back up the one who is now starting.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers wanted to stay healthy, and he wanted to lead a touchdown drive.

He did both in his preseason debut Saturday afternoon in St. Louis.

In fact, Rodgers nearly had two touchdown drives, but his second was wiped out by a penalty.

After sitting out the preseason opener at the Tennessee Titans a week earlier, Rodgers completed 11 of 13 passes for 128 yards and one touchdown (a 3-yarder to Randall Cobb on a classic Rodgers play in which he moved out of the pocket to buy more time). On Rodgers' second -- and final -- series, he thought he had a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson on a comeback route, but it was called back because of a penalty on left tackle David Bakhtiari, forcing the Packers to settle for a field goal.

Rodgers led a pair of 12-play drives and when he came out, the Packers had a 10-0 lead and went on to a 21-7 victory over the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome. The Packers evened their preseason record at 1-1 heading into Friday's game against the Oakland Raiders at Lambeau Field.

Here are some other thoughts on the Packers' second preseason game of the season:
  • The game's opening drive was the perfect example of how coach Mike McCarthy wants to play. In the no-huddle offense, McCarthy did not make any substitutions and kept things moving quickly. That meant plenty of touches for running back Eddie Lacy, who had five carries for 25 yards and two catches for 22 yards. He stayed on the field for the only third down on the drive.
  • Outside linebacker Julius Peppers, who admitted he did not get much done in his 10-snap Packers debut against the Titans, had a tackle for loss on Rams running back Zac Stacy for a 2-yard loss and also had a hit on quarterback Sam Bradford in which Peppers beat rookie tackle Greg Robinson, the second overall pick in the draft.
  • After a slow start in large part because of shoddy pass protection by backup tackles Derek Sherrod and Aaron Adams plus a lost fumble by running back DuJuan Harris, backup quarterback Scott Tolzien got into a rhythm and put together a good drive in the third quarter. He hit rookie Davante Adams for a pair of 14-yard completions on a drive that ended after a failed fourth-and-goal play from the 5-yard line. However, Tolzien had a 4-yard touchdown pass to Myles White taken away because of an illegal hands to the face penalty on backup center Corey Linsley. Tolzien, who replaced Rodgers, finished 10-of-15 for 107 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions before giving way to Matt Flynn midway through the third quarter.
  • Sherrod struggled after a solid showing against the Titans. He allowed at least two quarterback hits in the first half and then gave up a sack to Rams rookie Michael Sam in the fourth quarter.
  • In his preseason debut, rookie seventh-round receiver Jeff Janis showed off his 4.42-second 40-yard dash speed. He caught a short crossing route and turned it up the field for a 34-yard touchdown from Flynn in the third quarter.
  • Undrafted rookie defensive tackle Mike Pennel helped his bid for a roster spot. He spun away from a double team in the second quarter and sacked Rams backup quarterback Shaun Hill in the second quarter. Mike Neal slowed down Hill to allow Pennel to make the play.
  • Another undrafted rookie, outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott, made quite the impression with three sacks in a four-play stretch in the fourth quarter. The last one was a strip-sack of quarterback Austin Davis.
  • The only injury announced during the game was to tight end Brandon Bostick (lower leg), who did not return. Bostick finished last season on injured reserve after he broke his foot.

Rams Camp Report: Day 12

August, 11, 2014
Aug 11
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of St. Louis Rams training camp:
  • The Rams got back to work Monday afternoon in what was a mostly uneventful practice. As promised by coach Jeff Fisher, the team did get some players back to practice in some capacity. But key veterans such as linebacker James Laurinaitis (ankle), defensive tackle Michael Brockers (ankle) and guard Rodger Saffold (stinger) did not return to work. Among those getting back in the mix were defensive tackle Kendall Langford and cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Brandon McGee. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins did a little work on the side before practice and individual but not much else. Cornerback Darren Woodard was a new addition to the not practicing list. And tight end Justice Cunningham, who appears to be in a heated contest for a potential fourth tight end spot, limped off and rode to the locker room on the back of a golf cart.
  • Unhappy with his team's 14 penalties against the Saints, Fisher made his team run a sprint for every player who committed a penalty. That essentially meant the whole team had to run, though some more than others.
  • As for the practice, it was one of the team's more sluggish workouts of this camp, which is probably to be expected after a two-day layoff and a preseason game. Backup quarterback Shaun Hill got his share of work and had some good moments, including some nice throws down the seam in early team and 7-on-7s to tight ends Jared Cook and Lance Kendricks. The first offense appeared out of sync a bit as it had multiple near misses on deep connections and an occasional drop.
  • Cornerback Marcus Roberson hasn't had many shining moments in camp but showed some deep cover skills against Chris Givens on a deep ball during team. Roberson hasn't distinguished himself like other corners battling for roster spots and needs to pick it up to insert himself into the race. ... Rookie quarterback Garrett Gilbert had some ups and quite a few downs in his preseason debut against the Saints but had some good throws in Monday's practice. On one, he dropped a perfect pass into the corner of the end zone for a touchdown to receiver Jordan Harris.
  • The Rams don't quite have their projected starting offensive line in place yet with Saffold out but they're getting closer. Offensive tackle Jake Long and center Scott Wells were back with the first team and in far more than just a cameo Monday. Both appear to be trending toward playing preseason games as they come off knee surgery (Long) and illness (Wells). They took the bulk of the work with the first team and appear to be moving well.
  • Quick roster note: the Rams signed tight end Brad Smelley to take the spot vacated by injured tight end Mason Brodine. Brodine suffered a fractured ankle against New Orleans and is out for the season.
  • The Rams are back at it Tuesday with a 5:30 p.m. CT practice. That workout is free and open to the public at Rams Park.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams took their time wading into the free-agent market this year and with most of the shopping seemingly done and focus turning toward the draft, we can take stock of what the team did and didn't get done in free agency.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Rams were tied with Green Bay and New Orleans as the least active teams in free agency. St. Louis signed just three free agents who played on a different team in 2013, adding quarterback Shaun Hill, defensive lineman Alex Carrington and wide receiver Kenny Britt.

All of those moves came well after the initial, most expensive wave of free agency and none of those deals are longer than a single season. The Rams' biggest move was the one they intended to make all along, signing offensive lineman Rodger Saffold to a lucrative five-year contract extension after his deal with Oakland fell apart for a failed physical.

It's been long-held NFL dogma that the best teams build through the NFL draft rather than spending big in free agency and the Rams made it clear early on that they intended to be patient if not silent in free agency. They followed through on that promise but what's most interesting is the company they kept among the other teams that were least active in the market.

Nine teams added just three or four outside free agents in the first month of free agency. Of those nine teams, only the Rams with their three additions and Dallas (four) did not make the playoffs in 2013. Joining Green Bay and New Orleans on the list, Seattle, San Francisco, New England, Kansas City and Indianapolis each signed only a quartet of players.

It stands to reason that teams who are mostly happy with their rosters and have won plenty of games wouldn't be looking to spend big money in free agency. While Dallas and the Rams' presence on that list could also be attributed to limited salary-cap space, in the Rams' case it's also indicative of a front office and coaching staff that believes in the ability of its young talent to ascend in 2014.

Rams general manager Les Snead has indicated multiple times that the thing his young team needs the most is experience and there's apparently a strong belief that the young talent in place can all take the necessary steps forward to help the Rams improve in 2014. Whether that happens remains to be seen but at least in terms of free agency, that faith in the team's young players clearly isn't just lip service.
The St. Louis Rams found their replacement for Kellen Clemens on Wednesday, agreeing to a one-year deal with Shaun Hill to become the team's backup quarterback behind Sam Bradford.

While Hill doesn't have the same knowledge of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's offense that Clemens did, he brings plenty of experience and a solid record of production as a backup.

[+] EnlargeShaun Hill
AP Photo/Scott BoehmQB Shaun Hill has played in 34 NFL games since 2005, throwing for 6,381 yards and 41 touchdowns.
ESPN Rams reporter Nick Wagoner and Detroit Lions reporter Michael Rothstein discuss what Hill brings to the table in St. Louis.

Wagoner: The Rams actually began pursuing Hill in 2012 and were unable to get him signed when he opted to return to the Lions for a more lucrative, two-year deal. Although it might have flown beneath the radar, Hill had some success in Detroit. Did the Lions want him back and how much effort did they put into keeping him?

Rothstein: The Lions definitely had interest in retaining Hill, as the Lions consider him one of the top backups in the NFL. He also has a comfort with starter Matthew Stafford and has won games for the team in the past. But the one thing Detroit could not offer Hill is a chance to be any sort of starter, as the Lions hired head coach Jim Caldwell, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and quarterbacks coach Jim Bob Cooter simply to help develop Stafford into an elite starter. St. Louis is closer to Hill’s offseason home and gives him a chance to potentially start, so that might have been the reason for his move there.

Wagoner: Interesting that you point to the potential to start, though I suppose that could be as simple as waiting and wondering about Bradford's health. Given his track record, it's fair to wonder if health is going to be an issue for Bradford again in 2014 and Hill is a logical choice to play in his place, especially if it happens early in the season. For what it's worth, I believe the Rams still will look to add a quarterback in the draft, probably sometime in the middle rounds. That's been the plan all along and now Hill can help bring whoever that draft pick is along.

As for Hill, what are some of the things he does well and what are some of his weaknesses?

Rothstein: Let’s start with the negatives. Hill doesn’t have the strongest arm and he doesn’t have all that much mobility. But he is a smart quarterback and he won’t lose games for you off the bench, either. He is a good game manager and can make a lot of the short-to-intermediate throws. He hasn’t had to do much of that the past few years thanks to Stafford’s durability, so it would be interesting to see where his skills are now if he were placed in a regular-season game situation. Hill was also a good mentor to Stafford, and he could be the same for Bradford.

Wagoner: I'm glad you touched on that, Michael. A big part of what Hill will do in St. Louis is replace the leadership void left by Clemens. He might not have been a guy you'd want starting games, but Clemens' leadership for a young offense was really valuable. He was instrumental in helping Bradford and he was also really helpful for the team's young receivers and backs.

Although Bradford should be far enough along in his development where he is a leader, what type of locker room presence is Hill and how can he help a potential drafted rookie?

Rothstein: Going back to what I mentioned earlier, he proved a good mentor for Stafford and is extremely easy to get along with. He has a dry sense of humor but understands how to prepare as a starter and how to be a backup quarterback, so he has worked in either role. He can absolutely be a leader if need be and should be able to fill that void. It was a smart signing by the Rams and the Lions definitely would have liked to have him back in Detroit if the money and situation were right. Hill is a consummate pro and should be able to help in the development of any rookie.
The NFL released its performance-based pay list Monday, where every team is to allocate $3.46 million amongst its players for things they have accomplished during the season.

Here is the full pdf.

When it came to Detroit, the Lions gave the most money to rookie right guard Larry Warford, who earned an extra $260,630.09 for his standout first season with the Lions.

His rookie linemate, LaAdrian Waddle, picked up an extra $181,182, behind only Warford, receiver Kris Durham ($220,174.55) and cornerback Rashean Mathis ($188,695). The common thread with all the players is that they were reliable starters for Detroit by the end of the season.

Most players received some sort of payout, and here are the bottom five: Quarterback Shaun Hill ($76.90); tight end Matt Veldman ($309.09); guard Leroy Harris ($400.28); fullback Montell Owens ($641.50); tackle Barry Richardson ($875.40).

Hill shouldn't go spending that money just yet, though. The players will receive this money on April 1, 2016.