St. Louis Rams: St. Louis Rams

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- When the St. Louis Rams travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles this Sunday, Austin Davis should be the starter at quarterback.

Davis
I wrote as much after Davis' performance against the Dallas Cowboys, and obviously nothing has happened in the time since that has made me change my mind. Many of you feel the same way. And, for what it's worth, I still believe coach Jeff Fisher will give Davis another shot against the Eagles. I know he has repeatedly said a healthy Shaun Hill will take the job back when he returns from an injured calf, but Davis has earned the shot.

Either way, it's important to put what Davis did in starts against Tampa Bay and Dallas in perspective. In Davis' two starts, he is 52-of-71 for 562 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions for a passer rating of 98.4 and a QBR of 77.5. His completion percentage of 72.3 is the best in the NFL, and he is eighth in the league in yards per attempt at 8.02.

Against the Cowboys, Davis was 30-of-42 for 327 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions as the Rams came up short.

Let's take a look at a couple of former or current Rams who got their first opportunity in circumstances similar to Davis and how they fared in their first two starts and what happened after:

Fitzpatrick
Ryan Fitzpatrick: The Rams used a seventh-round pick on Fitzpatrick in 2005. Like Davis, Fitzpatrick began the season as the third-string quarterback behind Marc Bulger and Jamie Martin. On Nov. 27 against the Houston Texans, Fitzpatrick entered the game in place of Martin and went on to energize the team, completing 19-of-30 for 310 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. The effort was similar to Davis' work against the Cowboys in that it came against a fledgling defense and the numbers appeared the same. A week later, Fitzpatrick was 21-of-36 for 136 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Doubts began to creep in about whether he should continue to start, and those doubts came to fruition later when he threw five interceptions in a loss to Minnesota. Fitzpatrick has gone on to a nice career that has seen him bounce from Cincinnati to Buffalo to Houston, where he is currently the starter.

Keenum
Keenum
Case Keenum: Like Davis, Keenum entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Texans. After the Rams destroyed the Texans in Week 6 last season, Houston turned to the hometown favorite to take over for Matt Schaub. Also like Davis, Keenum offered immediate results. In his first two starts, Keenum was 35-of-59 for 621 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 118.0 and a QBR of 74.8. Those numbers even exceeded what Davis has done in his first two starts, but the Texans were unable to win either game. From there, Keenum went on to get six more starts, and though he sprinkled in some strong outings (particularly against New England), the Texans were 0-8 with Keenum starting. Now, Keenum is on the Rams' roster providing depth behind Davis.

Of course, Fitzpatrick and Keenum are just two examples of backup quarterbacks who made a splash when they first got starting opportunities but then came back to Earth a bit after. Some backups have gone on to greater success, some have gone on to worse. Davis does have the advantage of being in his third NFL season as opposed to Fitzpatrick and Keenum, who were rookies when they got their first opportunities.

Really, what happens with Davis from here is simple. If he keeps producing, he should keep starting. If he doesn't, the Rams can go back to Hill. Assuming Davis gets the next start, we will learn a lot more about him as the Rams get into the teeth of their schedule.

In the meantime, there is little reason to make a big announcement to declare Davis the starter for the rest of the season. To borrow the cliché from coaches and players all over the league, Davis' position as starter should be taken one game at a time.

Taking an early look at the Eagles

September, 29, 2014
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams return to the field this week with a trip to Philadelphia. With a little extra time before the Rams return from the bye Tuesday morning, let's take a look at what the Eagles bring to the table heading into the week 5 matchup.

Bouncing back: The Eagles suffered their first loss Sunday at San Francisco as the 49ers shut down Philadelphia's vaunted offense. In fact, the Eagles failed to score an offensive touchdown, and their 213 yards of total offense is their second-lowest output under coach Chip Kelly in his two seasons. Despite posting scores by way of punt return, interception return and a blocked punt, the Eagles fell 26-21, so there are a few lingering issues of concern to keep an eye on this week.

McCoy
Running in place: Much of Kelly's offense is based on establishing the run, something the Eagles did particularly well with running back LeSean McCoy in 2013. But right now, the run game is stuck in the mud. McCoy has 29 carries for 39 yards over the past two weeks. That includes a 10-carry, 17-yard performance against San Francisco, the lowest rushing output of his career as a starter. The lack of production left McCoy calling Philadelphia's run game "embarrassing."

Johnson
Line dancing: If you're looking for reasons for Philadelphia's recent offensive struggles, look no further than a banged up offensive line. The Eagles have been without star guard Evan Mathis and top-notch center Jason Kelce, both of whom have been lost to serious injuries. Neither will be available Sunday against the Rams, but Philadelphia will be getting some help up front this week. Tackle Lane Johnson, who was suspended the first four weeks, is eligible to return this week and should be able to hop back in the mix at right tackle. That will help at two positions, because Todd Herremans can move back inside to right guard with Johnson back. A big part of the Niners' success came from getting after quarterback Nick Foles without much help from the blitz, something the Rams haven't done much of this season but should be a major part of their arsenal.

Second-half surges: Despite some of the issues listed above, the Eagles deserve a lot of credit for winning their first three games. The reason for those victories? An impressive knack for dominating in the second half of games. In wins against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins, Philadelphia overcame double-digit deficits to win. That is a strange trend, but it shouldn't be considered too much of a fluke given how the Eagles are built. Kelly prefers to run a fast-paced offense with an emphasis on conditioning that makes it tough on teams in the second half. That trend stopped in San Francisco as the 49ers were able to keep their offense on the field, but it is something to monitor as the Rams head to Philadelphia this week in search of their second win.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- While No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson continues to wait his turn to contribute to the St. Louis Rams, their other first-round pick has jumped out to a strong start despite limited opportunities.

Defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the No. 13 overall pick in May, isn't technically a starter three games into his rookie season but he's making the most of the chances he's been afforded. And a strong argument could be made that Donald's opportunities should increase based on how he's played.

Although Donald has played an average of just 25.3 snaps per game in the first three games, the unofficial statistics the Rams keep based on coaches' review of the film would indicate he's been their most productive defensive lineman. Those reviews have him down for 16 tackles, a sack and three tackles for loss.

[+] EnlargeAaron Donald
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsRookie Aaron Donald has made the most of the limited opportunities he's been given.
Not that the soft-spoken Donald is satisfied with his early efforts.

"The game is faster," Donald said. "I’m getting adjusted to it and getting a little more comfortable out there but to me, football is football. That’s all we can do is go out there and compete. It’s the same thing I have been doing since I was 5, playing the game of football. Going out there when my number is called and trying to make plays."

For now, it seems unlikely that Donald will have his number called much more than he has throughout the first three weeks. He played 50 percent of the defensive snaps in the opener against Minnesota and has been below that in the games against Tampa Bay and Dallas.

The Rams prefer to rotate their defensive linemen as much as possible which has left Donald relegated to working in behind Kendall Langford on the interior. Most of Donald's snaps have so far come on obvious passing downs as his quickness and pass-rush skills make him a natural fit for that role.

Against Dallas, Donald played 19 of his 27 snaps in pass-rush situations. But Donald has been productive against the run, too. For what it's worth, Pro Football Focus has Donald graded as the Rams' best defender in the first three weeks with a grade of 5.9 against the run. That score is second best against the run among defensive tackles in the league according to PFF.

Given the Rams' woes in defending the run, they rank 29th in the league, it would make sense to sprinkle in a handful more snaps for Donald moving forward.

"On pass-rushing downs is usually when I’m going to be in there," Donald said. "But you just rotate. We try to keep each other fresh. When my name is called I’m going to go in there and give it everything I’ve got. Then I come out and he goes back in. That’s the good thing. They are valuable reps and you don’t want to waste none of them so when you are out there, you better be ready to go."

Morning Ram-blings: Monday game balls

September, 29, 2014
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- It's a Monday morning, which means it's time for our weekly look around the NFL with our NFL Nation reporters handing out game balls for this week's action.

Since the St. Louis Rams had their bye this week, there's obviously no game ball for a Rams game but that also allowed me an opportunity to watch some other games.

Some players who earned game balls Sunday who happened to catch my eye included Baltimore receiver Steve Smith, who can clearly still do his share of damage, and Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who backed up his request for Packers fans to relax with a superlative performance in Chicago.

Meanwhile, the Rams' next two opponents squared off in San Francisco with the Niners coming away with a hard fought win. It was a close game and the Niners obviously have some special-teams woes, but their defense looks to be rounding into form.

Now, the Rams get to face an angry Eagles team on the road this week.

I.C.Y.M.I.

A roundup of the weekend's Rams stories appearing on ESPN.com. ... On Friday, we delved into a variety of topics, including a look at end Eugene Sims' struggles with penalties and how the Rams feel about having an early bye. ... We also examined the Rams' early pass-rush woes. ... Over the weekend, we examined the tough schedule awaiting the Rams in the next eight weeks and how the Rams have fared coming out of recent byes. ... Finally, we offered a statistical look at where the Rams stand in the first three weeks.

Elsewhere:

Not Rams related but because I think it's the best story in sports right now, here's the latest from Bengals reporter Coley Harvey on Devon Still jersey sales.

Some injuries of note for the Niners from their win against Philadelphia, courtesy of 49ers reporter Paul Gutierrez.

At stltoday.com, Jim Thomas wonders where the Rams' pass rush has gone.

Joe Lyons offers an update on rookie running back Tre Mason, who has yet to be active for a regular-season game.

At 101sports.com, Mike Martz reminisced with The Fast Lane.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams have just one sack in the first three weeks, and there's nobody more surprised about that than the Rams themselves.

The Rams had more sacks than any team in the NFL in the past two seasons, and the lack of sacks is a growing point of contention for those expecting that to be one area the Rams had squared away entering the season.

During this bye week, the Rams have been open to any and all ways to get the pass rush going, up to and including a little bit of lady luck. Or ladybug luck, as the case may be.

Allow rookie defensive tackle Aaron Donald to explain.

[+] EnlargeRobert Quinn
Jeff Roberson/AP PhotoRobert Quinn had 19 sacks in 2013 but is still looking for his first in 2014.
"Once you get a couple, they are going to keep coming -- that’s the thing," Donald said. "And we have got the ladybug. The sack curse is gone. The ladybug is supposed to be good luck for a D-line. We don’t have the sack curse no more, so these sacks are supposed to start coming around."

Hanging in Donald's locker is a picture of a ladybug with words about the luck of a ladybug breaking the team's "sack curse." According to Donald, a ladybug landed on defensive end Robert Quinn earlier this week. The next day, another landed on defensive tackle Kendall Langford. Donald picked one up on Wednesday.

While insects aren't going to make much of a difference, it's clear the Rams are unhappy with their production to this point and it's a legitimate concern as they enter the final 13 games.

Entymology aside, the only real way for the Rams to get their pass rush to generate more sacks is to do it themselves. The first and most important step is stopping the run. Through three games, the Rams are 29th in the league in run defense, allowing 155 yards per game on the ground.

The result of that rushing success has been, well, a lot of rushing attempts. The 91 rushing attempts against the Rams is tied for sixth-most in the league, and the average of 5.11 yards per attempt puts the Rams at 29th in that category.

In other words, as long as teams are having success on the ground, they have little reason to throw it. Heading into this week's play, opponents have attempted the fewest number of passes in the league against the Rams (69). Oakland is next on that list with 85.

Combine the rushing success with the knowledge of what the Rams can do rushing the passer, and that's a recipe for pass avoidance.

“Well, it’s a combination of things," coach Jeff Fisher said. "It’s been our, I don’t want to say inability, but at times difficulty that we’ve had stopping the run. We’re creating an opportunity for teams to pick up significant gains on the ground. And if anybody had their preference, they do it that way.”

Teams are also continuing the trend set by Minnesota in the first week of getting rid of the ball as quickly as possible. Minnesota quarterback Matt Cassel averaged 2.24 seconds to throw it in the opener, fourth-fastest in the league that week. In Week 2, Tampa Bay's Josh McCown got rid of the ball in 2.22 seconds, which was eighth-fastest that week.

"It’s very frustrating," end Eugene Sims said. "That’s part of offense, scheming against a defense. Our defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams’ background, everybody knows his mindset of defensive plays. So they try to get the ball out of their hands as quick as they can to slow us down."

The lack of pass rush can't all be pinned on quarterbacks getting the ball out quickly or the struggles against the run, though. The Rams had more opportunities last week against Dallas' Tony Romo and were unable to take advantage when facing one of the league's better offensive lines. Romo took 2.61 seconds before release on his 23 attempts.

Some of the problem was the Cowboys' offensive line doing its job and some of it was a scheme in which the Rams rushed only three down linemen on some third-and-long opportunities. With a big lead, the Rams should have been positioned to rush the passer, but they generated little pressure and no sacks.

"For some reason, it’s just not clicking on game day," Quinn said. "I don’t think it’s anything with guys’ effort or technique, it’s just, for whatever reason, not happening our way. But we have got to keep pushing, but once we finally get that break, I’m sure the sacks will come by the handful."
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- It's highly unlikely that NFL officials have it out for St. Louis Rams defensive end Eugene Sims. But over the past two weeks, it certainly seems that way.

Earlier this week, Rams coach Jeff Fisher made it abundantly clear that he didn't agree with at least four penalties called against the Rams in last week's loss to the Dallas Cowboys. At the center of Fisher's complaint was the defensive holding call on Sims late in the game.

[+] EnlargeEugene Sims
Tom Gannam/Associated PressEugene Sims has been on the losing end of some key penalty calls during the first three games.
On the play, Sims briefly grabbed Dallas receiver Terrance Williams as he came out of the backfield before leaving Williams to drop quarterback Tony Romo for an apparent sack. The flag soon followed and instead of a big loss and impending third and long, the Cowboys had a first down.

It was a call amongst a handful that Fisher was still fuming about when asked how his team could reduce penalties Wednesday.

“Well, we just get them to call penalties, and not throw flags when there’s no infractions," Fisher said. "That’ll significantly reduce it.”

Another way to reduce it would apparently be for Sims to send some nice gifts to officials all over the league. For whatever reason, he seems to have a knack for being on the wrong end of some costly penalties.

Sometimes, those penalties are his fault, such as the two horse-collar tackles he had against Tampa Bay in Week 2 which earned him a pair of 15-yard penalties.

"I’m probably one of the most hated players by the referees," Sims said. "I don’t know what it is. They made two bad calls. I guess from the Tampa game they saw I had two horse collars so I guess they had an eye out for me so every little thing I did they probably wanted to flag it."

Sims' defensive holding wasn't the only call that he, Fisher and the Rams took umbrage with in the Dallas game. Earlier in that meeting, Sims was called for roughing the passer when the official apparently saw him make contact with Romo's helmet with his hand. Sims clearly hit Romo's shoulder on the play and any contact with the helmet was far from "forcible," which is the standard that must be met for that particular penalty to be called.

"I was just trying to make a play and the position I was in, I was in good position to make the play," Sims said. "I guess the position he was in, he saw other way. But it is what it is.

"I won’t let that take me out of the game. I love the game, I respect it and just keep playing."

This isn't the first time Sims has been on the wrong end of some questionable calls. He was fined for unnecessary roughness last season for a hit he made on New Orleans running back Darren Sproles and again for the same infraction in the season finale against the Seattle Seahawks.

To be sure, Sims might be something of a marked man in part because of his propensity for penalties. He had nine penalties in 2013, seven on defense and two more on special teams, good for a total of 74 yards. Those nine infractions tied for fifth-most in the league with a host of other players.

Despite the flags, Sims has been and remains an integral part of the Rams defense. With Chris Long out because of an ankle injury, the onus falls on Sims to provide production all over the line. It's a work in progress but aside from the penalties, he's offered some solid work so far.

"I feel good," Sims said. "I have got a lot to improve. Got a guy down like Chris Long so that’s on me (to fill in). I look at it as now I have to step up and be there for my team and be accountable."

St. Louis Rams OK with early bye

September, 26, 2014
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams are one of six teams first up in the rotation for a bye with no game scheduled this week.

It's only Week 4, and we're still in September, which could make for an especially brutal grind over the final 13 weeks of the season. But the Rams aren't complaining.

"Coaches never complain about the bye weeks when they come, they never do," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "It is a little unusual. This is probably the earliest I’ve ever had one. So you make the most of it. We’ve got an opportunity to get some guys back."

If nothing else, getting some injured players, guys like receiver Tavon Austin (knee), cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson (knee) and Brandon McGee (foot), offensive lineman Barrett Jones (back) and quarterback Shaun Hill (thigh), back after the bye would be a positive result from the week off. It's unlikely that all will return to the field next week but Austin and Hill are close, and the others are "closer" according to Fisher.

As dictated by the collective bargaining agreement, players must have four full days off. After practice Wednesday and Thursday, the Rams are off until next Tuesday.

In the meantime, everybody has a different idea of what they plan to do with the time off. Tight end Lance Kendricks, for example, is planning to get away from it all with a trip to Jamaica.

Oft-injured offensive lineman Rodger Saffold, in a moment of self deprecation, said he plans to do very little.

"Out of everybody in here, you know that I need to be the one to relax," Saffold said. "I’m not trying to jinx myself or hurt myself. Put myself in bubble wrap. I’m not trying to get any colds, sickness, none of that stuff."

Saffold plans to spend his weekend in his home theatre watching football, playing video games and hanging out with his pregnant wife. Defensive end Robert Quinn has similar plans.

"I’ll probably be in St. Louis doing a whole bunch of nothing," Quinn said. "I don’t do much. I’ll kick my feet up with the wife and dog and call it a day."

Of course, the bye week would be a more enjoyable experience for all parties had the Rams not blown a 21-point lead on the way to a 34-31 loss to the Dallas Cowboys last week.

With the extra week off before playing at Philadelphia on Oct. 5, the Rams had more time to stew on the loss. And though they'd much rather get back on the field in a hurry to wipe away the taste of that defeat, they'll take the rest and relaxation as it comes.

"You hate bye weeks after a loss because you are really chomping at the bit to go and play another game and get that sour taste out of your mouth," Saffold said. "But at the same time, I think that’s going to be the fire that continues to help us really work during this bye week."
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- In the wake of the injury to Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III, the on-field struggles of Dallas cornerback Morris Claiborne and Indianapolis running back Trent Richardson and the off-field issue of Jacksonville receiver Justin Blackmon, the once promising 2012 NFL draft class has taken on a decidedly disappointing look.

Over at Grantland, NFL writer Bill Barnwell decided to take a trip back to examine that class with a breakdown of the top 10 picks.

Obviously, the Rams ultimately didn't make a pick in the top 10, even though they held the No. 2 overall pick and the No. 6 overall pick at various points in the process. They traded out and grabbed defensive tackle Michael Brockers at No. 14 overall.

Brockers has proved a better choice than many of the players taken in the top 10, and though the Rams didn't hit on all the picks they received in exchange for that No. 2 pick, the early returns indicate they were wise to move out of the top 10 altogether.

I.C.Y.M.I.

A roundup of Thursday's Rams stories appearing on ESPN.com. ... In the Ram-blings, we took a look back at the Greatest Show on Turf's impact. ... We then re-examined the trade that landed cornerback Claiborne in Dallas and brought Brockers to St. Louis. ... Rams coach Jeff Fisher says the split time between running backs will continue. ... Rookie defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks is getting adjusted to playing an expanded role in Chris Long's absence. ... Finally, the Rams wrapped up their bye week work with Thursday's practice.

Elsewhere:

NFL Insider Mike Sando offers a take on the early struggles in San Francisco.

Louis Riddick gives his evaluations on early returns from offseason additions.

At 101sports.com, ESPN's John Clayton talks to the Fast Lane about the Rams' quarterback situation.

At stltoday.com, Bernie Miklasz asks the Rams to stop whining about penalties.

Joe Lyons takes a look at how the Rams view their early bye week.

Rams wrap up work week

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams officially began their time off Thursday after completing afternoon practice.

It was a mostly uneventful practice but Rams coach Jeff Fisher didn't hesitate to mix things up a bit to start the day. During the individual portion of practice, Fisher mixed and matched position groups with different position coaches.

For example, the wide receivers worked on defensive line drills under the guidance of line coaches Mike Waufle and Clyde Simmons. Linebackers coaches Frank Bush and Joe Bowden worked with the running backs. And so on.

Fisher said that's something he likes to do over the bye just to change things up a bit.

"We do that every bye week the last practice where you just switch positions where the receivers will go down and learn some of the tricks of the trade of the defensive line," Fisher said. "So it's a nice way to start off the last practice of the bye week."

As for the practice itself, the Rams continued to find extra reps for a variety of players as they went through the workout. Once again, cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson (knee) and Brandon McGee (foot) did not practice.

Offensive lineman Barrett Jones (back) also did not practice but again did some extra work on the side with the team's training staff. Receiver Tavon Austin (knee) did some limited work and defensive end William Hayes also sat out though it's not believed to be injury-related.

Elsewhere, defensive end Chris Long did away with the large cast on his left leg as well as the scooter he used to get around. He's now in a walking boot with crutches.

The Rams also made a small roster move, tweaking the practice squad by releasing tight end Brad Smelley and re-signing receiver Justin Veltung.

From here, Rams players are off until Tuesday as mandated by the collective bargaining agreement. They play next on Oct. 5 at Philadelphia.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- As part of the St. Louis Rams' effort to replace injured defensive end Chris Long, they're leaning on three players to step in and fill the void.

Westbrooks
As you'd expect, William Hayes is the starter and Eugene Sims is the primary backup. But there are still snaps to be had and undrafted rookie Ethan Westbrooks has been tasked with picking up the slack.

Westbrooks spent the first week as a pregame inactive, stuck behind the team's eight other defensive linemen who were available against the Minnesota Vikings. But when Long suffered the ankle injury that landed him in surgery and the injured reserve with the designation to return list, the opportunity to get Westbrooks involved arose.

Against Tampa Bay in Week 2, Westbrooks got his first taste of regular-season playing time, handling 17 snaps and posting one tackle according to Rams' coaches review. Last week, Westbrooks played 16 snaps and fared better in the coaches eyes with four tackles and a tackle for loss against Dallas.

Although Westbrooks has the versatility to play all over the line, he's worked exclusively at Long's spot at left defensive end so far.

"He’s averaging 15-20 plays a game which is good," coach Jeff Fisher said. "He’ll help to keep Will fresh. We need that. Will played very well last weekend and part of that is because he’s fresh and that allows him to do that. He’s coming on. He’s got the versatility. We didn’t move him around inside like we did in the preseason but Mike (Waufle)'s done a good job with him."

To this point, Westbrooks said the biggest adjustment to playing in the NFL has been playing in the bigger, more crowded stadiums. He's also made it a point to lean on Long for advice when he needs pointers throughout the week.

"I’m getting more acclimated with the whole defense, the speed of the game," Westbrooks said. "Really starting to put an emphasis on my technique from Coach Wauf and Chris. Even though he’s out, Chris has been helping me a tremendous amount in the room and on the field.”

 
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams' running game had a solid outing last week against the Dallas Cowboys.

The Rams posted 121 yards on 30 carries, an average of 4.03 yards per carry. By no means is that up to the level the Rams want or need moving forward, but it at least represents major progress from what they did in Week 1 and a similar showing to what they did in Week 2.

Stacy
Cunningham
Cunningham
What was more interesting about those rushing yards is how the Rams were divvying up the workload. Though Zac Stacy remained the leader amongst the team's backs in touches, he actually had an even split with Benny Cunningham when it comes to snaps. Stacy and Cunningham each played 34 snaps against the Cowboys, and undrafted rookie Trey Watts made his debut in the offense, appearing on seven plays.

Stacy looked more like his old self against the Cowboys, moving the pile consistently and spinning ahead for extra yards on his way to a 12-carry, 67-yard performance. He also had five catches for 54 yards.

Cunningham was less effective, adding nine carries for 29 yards and a catch for 5 more yards. Watts had five carries for 24 yards, getting a touch on nearly all of his snaps.

Clearly, Stacy is still getting the ball the most of the running backs, but given his success against the Cowboys, it's fair to wonder why he wasn't getting more work.

Asked about the playing time split amongst his backs Wednesday, Rams coach Jeff Fisher indicated it will continue.

"We’ll continue with that," Fisher said. "It’s even, but Zac gets going, gets on a roll he gets five or six straight carries or something like that, then you are going to flip them. We’ve always done that."

One would think that a back who gets on a roll would get a few more opportunities, especially in a game that remains close. That goes back to the idea of riding with the hot hand.

Moving forward, it would be good for the Rams to establish more of a rhythm, and if a back like Stacy or Cunningham or whoever seems to be rolling as Stacy was against the Cowboys, the workload should increase accordingly.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- When news broke that Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne had been demoted from the starting lineup and subsequently departed the team's facility in a huff, it didn't make much of a ripple around the St. Louis Rams.

Brockers
Claiborne
But there's actually a deeper history involving Claiborne and the Rams than many realize. While the Rams' 2012 draft trade with the Washington Redskins centered on the No. 2 overall pick and Robert Griffin III, it's easy to forget about the second first-round trade the Rams made that year.

After moving down to No. 6, the Rams cut another deal as Claiborne, that draft's consensus top corner, fell to their spot. Although the Rams had brought Claiborne to St. Louis for a visit and showed interest in him, they weren't sold enough to make him their pick. Dallas, however, had no such qualms.

The Cowboys traded the No. 14 overall pick along with their second-round pick, No. 45 overall, to the Rams for No. 6. Dallas coveted Claiborne and the Rams decided to gamble that the object of their affection, defensive tackle Michael Brockers, would slip to them.

As it turned out, both teams got what they wanted. The Rams later traded the No. 45 overall pick to the Chicago Bears for the No. 50 pick and a fifth-round choice that they turned into running back Isaiah Pead and guard Rokevious Watkins. Neither of those choices has paid dividends for the Rams but the Bears took receiver Alshon Jeffery with the pick acquired from St. Louis.

Clearly, the move up for Claiborne hasn't been a good decision for the Cowboys, especially considering reports they would have taken Brockers at 14 and linebacker Bobby Wagner with that second-round pick. Wagner has thus far been better than both players in his first two-plus seasons.

Brockers, meanwhile, has been a solid if unspectacular pick so far for the Rams. If nothing else, he's a dependable starter who still boasts some upside, something that might be hard for Claiborne to claim moving forward.

Drawing the tie even closer, it's worth noting that Claiborne's blowup Wednesday came on the heels of a rough outing against the Rams on Sunday. He did make the game-sealing interception in the fourth quarter but that came after the Rams repeatedly targeted him for big plays. He allowed five catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns and was flagged for defensive holding in the Cowboys' victory.

In retrospect, the Rams could have done much better with the second-round pick acquired from Dallas but the Brockers selection alone makes them clear winners in the deal.

Morning Ram-blings: The Greatest Show

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- In the next couple of weeks, we'll spend plenty of time in this space looking back on the "Greatest Show on Turf" era of the St. Louis Rams. More on that later.

For now, though, be sure to head over to sister site FiveThirtyEight.com and check out their piece on how that team changed the way offense is played in the league.

The piece offers an outstanding numerical retrospective on a team that took to the skies like few before it.

While we're on the subject, the Rams are going to honor that team and celebrate its 15th anniversary the night of the Monday night game against San Francisco. They're planning to wear the throwback uniforms and bring back many members of that team.

For those who want to celebrate that team in person, the Rams are also offering a pretty cool and unique opportunity to do so on the Sunday night before that game. Details on that here.

I.C.Y.M.I.

A roundup of Wednesday's Rams stories appearing on ESPN.com. ... In the Ram-blings, we examined the Rams' disappointing defense a little further. ... In this week's buzz video, I discussed what the Rams need to get done on the bye week. ... From there, we looked at the Rams' specific plans for the bye week. ... End Chris Long is cruising around on a scooter as he begins his road back from an ankle injury. ... Finally, we recapped the Rams' practice day, which focused heavily on fundamentals and self scouting.

Elsewhere:

John Clayton rounds up news and notes in his weekly mailbag.

Your favorite team (the Rams, presumably) isn't playing this week but your fantasy team is. Here's Matthew Berry's weekly rankings.

At 101sports.com, Anthony Stalter gives his three plays that changed the game from last week's meeting with Dallas.

The Stats Doctor takes his weekly spin through the numbers.

At stltoday.com, Joe Strauss writes that the Rams' defense has lost its luster in the first three weeks.

Rams working fundamentals on Wednesday

September, 24, 2014
Sep 24
5:15
PM ET
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams were technically back on the practice field on Tuesday for the first time since the disappointing 34-31 loss to the Dallas Cowboys when they went through a corrections period.

On what would normally have been their day off, Rams coach Jeff Fisher offered an amusing description of how the team felt about extending the usual 24-hour cooling off period for a full 48 hours before Wednesday's actual practice.

"(We) came on the field, worked some things out, they were a little fussy yesterday as you can imagine," Fisher said. "But they’re back, they got back today, we had a really good session."

Having apparently moved past the fussy part of the week, the Rams turned their attention to working on things like fundamentals and technique in Wednesday's practice. In what is typically known as self-scouting time, Fisher made it a point to offer a longer description of what he wanted to accomplish Wednesday afternoon during this bye week.

"We are looking at some things we need to do better and we’re also working some of our younger players into practice," Fisher said. "What happens typically is you get going and the backups don’t get the reps so this bye week is a good time to get them some reps. This week basically is about guys that need to rehab get to rehab, guys that need to recover get to recover and then guys that need the reps and technique work get that."

Of course, the Rams have and will continue to begin taking a look at their next opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles, this week. That matchup is scheduled for Oct. 5.

The Rams were without four players for Wednesday's practice, none of whose absence came as a surprise. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson (knee), center Barrett Jones (back) and cornerback Brandon McGee (foot) did not participate. Jones did do some running on the side, however. Receiver Tavon Austin (knee) did some work in the individual drills.

Fisher said the Week 4 bye is the earliest one he can remember in his career but said he never minds getting the chance to get back to basics.

"You make the most of it," Fisher said. "We’ve got an opportunity to get some guys back. Hopefully some of the guys, the Tavons and those guys that we have been without the last week or so will be able to get back on the practice field this week."

Plenty to do for Rams on bye week

September, 24, 2014
Sep 24
12:00
PM ET
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Having a bye week this early in the season might seem unfortunate for a St. Louis Rams team that would probably like to get right back to business after last week's 34-31 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

But the bye is here and it might be a good thing that they have a little longer to let such a disappointing finish linger.

[+] EnlargeDeMarco Murray
Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY SportsThe Rams will use their bye week to shore up a leaky run defense, among other things.
"Personally I hope we let it stew all week," linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "We’re better than this. Why do we keep coming up short with what our potential is? That’s one of the things we’ve got to figure out this week. So I’m going to let it stew all week. We need to get better.

"I’m done with any moral victories, stuff like that. It’s about wins and losses. We’ve got to get wins. A home loss like this, I feel bad for our fans. We are going to go to work this week, I promise you that and I wish I had a special equation I could give you. But it comes down to work ethic and these guys are going to work this week."

There is no shortage of things for the Rams to work on over the bye nor should any changes or tweaks be off limits.

On defense, the Rams must find answers for a run defense that has struggled in the first three weeks and a stagnant pass rush that hasn't been able to bring down quarterbacks more than once.

On offense, the Rams appear to be ahead of schedule, performing better than most expected in the first three games (or at least the past two) but there's also plenty of room for improvement. That could include finding ways to get No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson more involved, re-integrating receiver Stedman Bailey into the mix and coach Jeff Fisher figuring out what he's really going to do at quarterback.

“The staff is addressing in some of the things that we need to work on," Fisher said. "Whether that’s third down or third and long defensively or the red zone stuff, or the two-minute stuff. We’re going to look at all of that. The specifics in the run game. Protections and what we’re doing defensively. And then we carry that over on to the field."

League rules dictate that the Rams can't practice every day during the bye and the players must get at least four days off. So the team will practice Wednesday and Thursday before returning to work next Tuesday.

Beyond the tweaks that will happen on the field, the Rams will also monitor the progress of players returning from injury. Fisher said Monday that receiver Tavon Austin (knee) and quarterback Shaun Hill (thigh) have a good chance to be at full strength after the bye. He also indicated cornerback Trumaine Johnson (knee) and offensive lineman Barrett Jones (back) are getting "closer" to a return though it seems unlikely that both will be back in short order.

It's common practice for teams to spend bye weeks doing self-scouting and correcting. The Rams will do that, but with a different look coming their way in the form of the Eagles' unique offense, the Rams will work some early game planning into the mix also.

"We’ll start taking a look at Philadelphia," Fisher said. "That’s typically what you do. In addition to that we’ll get some younger guys some reps. We’ll get (QB) Case (Keenum) some reps this week in the offense. Some of the younger guys. Got to get (RB) Tre Mason involved, not only more in the offense but also more on special teams, things like that.”

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