St. Louis Rams linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong sits on the bench following a 34-6 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
L.G. Patterson
September 12, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) Gregg Williams' long-delayed debut as St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator was a bust, and it only gets harder from here.

For at least a few months, he'll be without standout end Chris Long. The pressure had already been ramped up to keep the score down when Sam Bradford was lost in the preseason, and third-string quarterback Austin Davis could get the start in Week 2 at Tampa Bay with Shaun Hill questionable.

''We're pretty talented at that position,'' Williams said Friday. ''They don't want to see any fall off, they don't want to let him down. We'll rise up.''

William Hayes, who's been a valuable member of the defensive end rotation, gets his first start in three years with the Rams on Sunday. Undrafted rookie Ethan Westbrooks, who beat out Michael Sam for a backup spot on the defensive line, is expected to make his NFL debut.

''Now he's going to have a chance to see in a regular season game, how it speeds up,'' Williams said. ''He's got a lot of talent and he's picked things up very well.''

Two interceptions were costly in the opening 34-6 loss to Minnesota, one leading to a late touchdown in the first half and another returned for a score. So, it wasn't all on the defense.

But a unit aspiring to top 10 status under the relentless prodding from Williams also got burned for a couple of crucial big plays. Numerous players whiffed on wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson's back-breaking 67-yard run of a simple pitchout for a 20-3 lead late in the third quarter.

''We had two significant plays that stood out, and both times 84 (Patterson) had his hands on the ball,'' Williams said. ''Other than that, we tackled pretty well.''

The Rams forced some quick throws and Williams noted ''we got our hands on five balls, not that I'm counting.'' The bottom line was one sack and no turnovers produced in the first game under the coach who was briefly a member of Jeff Fisher's first staff in 2012 before serving a bounty gate suspension.

Williams returned in the offseason, replacing inexperienced Tim Walton. He thought the defense improved throughout the preseason, and added, ''Nowhere have I ever been that there has been a let-off.''

Long, the second overall pick in 2008, will miss the first game of his career and many more after undergoing surgery for an ankle surgery Thursday. He was placed on injured reserve-designated to return and Fisher remains hopeful Long will be back late in the season.

Davis, undrafted out of Southern Mississippi and a deep reserve with St. Louis parts of three seasons, made his NFL debut in the second half of the opener. He's gotten all of the first-team snaps this week, although Fisher said Hill (left quadriceps) could go without any work and will be a game-time decision.

''I feel good with the plays we're running, and now it's just perfecting the timing,'' Davis.

Davis absorbed four of the Vikings' five sacks with no after-effects, adding, ''I'm fresh, good to go. A lot of times it feels good to get hit.''

Greg Robinson, the No. 2 overall pick, subbed at guard late in the game after Rodger Saffold left with a neck injury. He was anointed a starting guard the day of the draft but was used at both guard and tackle in the preseason, perhaps hindering his progress.

Part of the opener, he stood alone far away from the cluster of reserves who gathered behind assistant coaches.

''It was a lot thoughts going through my head,'' Robinson said. ''At the end of the day you've got to be positive.

''It's just something I have to prepare myself for because change could happen at any time.''

Rookie defensive back Lamarcus Joyner also was questionable with a back injury, missing the last two practices after limited work on Wednesday.

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