After dismal start, new coach keeps it positive
Monday, August 13, 2012
ST. LOUIS (AP) — In the St. Louis Rams’ first game under Jeff Fisher, they looked much like the team that’s gone just 15-65 the past five seasons.
Good thing there’s almost a month for their new coach to iron out the rough spots. A day after losing 38-3 at Indianapolis, Fisher said it’s his job to accentuate the positive and joked “I don’t think there were many tears on the airplane coming home.”
Standing at a podium, Fisher raised his left arm high. Then he lowered it below waist-level to illustrate his point that even-keel leadership is what the rebuilding franchise needs.
“If you do this, your team does that, and we want to do this,” Fisher said. “Even in a losing effort we got a little bit better because we got a chance to go out and compete against somebody else. And we did some good things, and that’s the big picture, are you getting better? We did, and we have to continue to do so. OK?”
Fisher praised the overall effort, singling out rookie punter Johnny Hekker for a 52.5-yard average on two efforts including a 67-yarder that was downed at the 1.
“That’s a huge change in field position,” Fisher said. “From that standpoint he probably gets the game ball.”
The offense moved the ball well, too, until Steven Jackson and Sam Bradford called it a day after two series and the Rams trailing by a touchdown. Jackson took handoffs the first three plays and finished with 17 yards on four carries.
“Jack looked like Jack,” Bradford said. “He looked like the great running back that he is.”
But Bradford and backup Kellen Clemens were both whistled for delay of game, reflecting confusion in the play-calling.
“It was just part of the preseason,” Fisher said.
The defense played catch-up all day after allowing a 63-yard touchdown on a dump-off pass by rookie Andrew Luck on the Colts’ first snap and allowed five plays of 20 yards or longer.
The Colts doubled the Rams’ output of 215 yards and were 11-for-15 on third down and were impressed by Luck’s strong debut.
“He’s got all the tools to be a great player in this league,” defensive end Chris Long said. “I don’t know how many quarterbacks throw a touchdown their first pass in the NFL.”
Fisher said he may have handicapped his team by limiting play selection, noting the Colts showed more of their game plan. Fisher promises more options in Week 2 of the preseason at home Saturday night against Kansas City.
“Out of fairness to the players, we might have handcuffed them a little bit because we didn’t have an awful lot of stuff in,” Fisher said. “Now, we build.”
The Rams have a position battle at right tackle. Barry Richardson, a free agent pickup from Kansas City, started the preseason opener ahead of Jason Smith, the No. 2 overall pick in 2009, but with serious concussions in his recent past.
“We’ve opened it to competition,” Fisher said. “We’re going to alternate them back and forth, see how they do.”
They’ve got a lot of players learning on the job, too. Two rookies started, defensive tackle Michael Brockers and cornerback Janoris Jenkins
“It was what I expected,” Jenkins said. “There’s a lot of talent, and a lot of speed.”
A third rookie, running back Isaiah Pead, was drafted in the third round as Jackson’s backup. Pead had a rough debut with a lost fumble.
“I kind of messed up a few times,” Pead said. “It’s a preseason game, and that’s why we have them, to make these mistakes early and get them out of the way and learn from them.”
The Rams have no serious injuries from Week 1, and Fisher anticipates safety Darian Stewart, wide receiver Brandon Gibson and defensive tackle Trevor Laws back from injuries for the annual Governor’s Cup game against the Chiefs. Center Scott Wells remains “a bit away” while recovering from offseason knee surgery.