Rams hope healthy line boosts running game
ST. LOUIS (AP) A St. Louis Rams running game that needs beefing up this preseason could get a big boost for Saturday night's game at Cleveland.
Coach Jeff Fisher said Sunday that left tackle Jake Long (knee) and right guard Rodger Saffold (neck) could both play this week after sitting out the first two games of the preseason, giving the Rams their full starting offensive line.
St. Louis managed just 78 yards on 27 rushes in a 21-7 loss to Green Bay on Saturday, with starter Zac Stacy getting only 6 yards on six carries. Excluding a 38-yard gain on a fake punt, the Rams are averaging a measly 3.2 yards per rush this preseason.
''Really it's not an excuse, but it looked as if there was an extra guy on the line of the scrimmage most of the time (Saturday),'' Fisher said. ''Our run philosophy is that we really don't care how many guys are on the line of scrimmage. We need to run the football. But we haven't necessarily worked against those type of things that we saw.''
Fisher said the Rams' offense and defense shouldn't be quite so bland this week, and quarterback Sam Bradford will likely get more work than he did while playing the first two series in his preseason debut Saturday.
''We're going to do a little more this week on both sides of the ball. we need to. We need to put the players under a little more stress from a game plan standpoint,'' Fisher said.
''We're going to put a little bit more on the game plan cover sheet that we have had. That doesn't necessarily mean we're going to call it,'' he added. ''Opening day, the National Football League's a lot different than he preseason games from a standpoint of what you do.''
Long tore two ligaments in his right knee in St. Louis' next-to-last game last December and had surgery in January. He has been practicing but was held out of the first two exhibitions.
Saffold, who re-signed with the Rams this offseason after Oakland voided his contract due to a shoulder injury found during a physical, hasn't played this preseason due to a stinger in his neck.
Filling in have been No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson, who is expected to move to left guard when Long returns, and free agent acquisition Davin Joseph, a former Pro Bowl selection during his time with Tampa Bay.
But while the team's starting linemen are getting healthy again, St. Louis expects to be without two reserve centers for at least a few weeks. Fisher said Barrett Jones - the two-time All-America selection from Alabama - will miss at least the rest of the preseason after what he termed ''minor'' back surgery and seventh-round draft pick Demetrius Rhaney is out at least a month with a severe bone bruise in his left knee suffered during a special teams drill in practice last Wednesday.
''We suspected the worst but we got good news,'' Fisher said. ''He has no ligament damage whatsoever.
''I can't tell you whether it's going to be four weeks or six weeks, but I would not expect him back within the four-week time period.''
At times against the Packers, the Rams looked thin along the offensive line with all the injuries and precautionary holdouts. Mike Person essentially played every snap. After starting at guard, he moved to tackle and later played at center with Jones and Rhaney out. In the fourth quarter, St. Louis gave backup right tackle Sean Hooey his first tryout at left tackle, and he gave up three sacks in a four-snap span.
Yet Fisher said the team doesn't see an urgent need to add a lineman, although the Rams always pay attention to the waiver wire with roster cuts upcoming.
''We're good right now,'' he said. ''We've got depth. We've got flexibility.''
Middle linebacker James Laurinitis (ankle) and defensive tackle Michael Brockers (ankle) could also return this week, Fisher said, but the team confirmed return man Isaiah Pead will miss the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee as suspected after Saturday's game.
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