Every coach would like to go into each game with all the bullets in his gun. But that's simply not the case now with the Rams. So, as they get closer to Sunday's game against Dallas, they know the play of rookie running back Brian Leonard will largely determine whether a major upset can be attained.
A second-round pick, Leonard had been working at fullback and tailback after the release of Madison Hedgecock. Now, with Steven Jackson sidelined by a groin injury, Leonard will be the starter.
"I'm definitely excited," Leonard said. "It's just an opportunity. I've dreamed my whole life to play running back in the NFL and I finally get my first start and hopefully I make the best of it."
During the preseason, Leonard played a lot when Jackson was pulled from the game after one play from scrimmage. Coach Scott Linehan wanted him to have the mindset that he had to be ready to play at any time.
Said Linehan, "You saw a lot of Brian in the preseason and a real reason why he got so many reps and started was for this unfortunate situation we're in with Steven being out. We feel based on that that we're going to see exactly what we saw in the preseason: a guy that runs downhill. The game's not too big for him. He fits right in and just has a knack to get yards and is going to be a very good pass protector because of his size and he's a very smart and aware player. He's our starting tailback and we'll be approaching the game that way. We know based on what we were able to see in preseason that he's going to be able to do that."
Asked what workload can be expected, Linehan said, "He's going to get the starter's carries. One thing we're conscience of is making sure that his load is not too much when it comes to the entire game. He probably won't play a whole lot of special teams; that's generally the case with your starting tailback. We have to get him some help on third down when he's been able to come in for us as backup.
"Now he's going to be the starter, so you can give him breaks there. Travis (Minor) will play a number of plays. Travis has started as the second back at Miami before. He's been in this position and he'll get a number of carries as well. Particularly in this game, we'll have both Brian and Travis get a certain amount of plays as our tailback."
But don't expect the game plan to be scaled back because of Leonard's inexperience.
Said quarterback Marc Bulger, "It's tough at this point to scale anything back and dumb the game plan down, but I think (he) will do fine. He's learned enough. Certainly Steven's a special athlete, but Leonard's a good player. We have confidence in him. He did a good job in the preseason for us starting those games. We'd love to have Jack, but we don't."
And Jackson won't be far away from Leonard's side.
"We have a lot of confidence in Brian," Jackson said. "He took a majority of the snaps in the preseason and got a lot of carries, so we know he's comfortable in the running game. He's showed over time, especially in the last two weeks filling in at fullback, that he can block and pick up the blitz. He'll have to be big in that area as well.
"You have to see what their defense is trying to do and their game plan. If he has any questions or any doubts, hopefully I can be an extra pair of eyes."
RAMS NOTES: OG Richie Incognito hopes to be able to play against Dallas Sunday, which would be his first game of the season. Incognito was limited in practice Thursday, but coach Scott Linehan said there's a chance he could play. "I'm not going to count him out," Linehan said. "He's still limited because we're working him gradually into it. I think he looked like he was a lot more comfortable even today compared to yesterday."
--LB Pisa Tinoisamoa had full participation in practice Thursday for the second consecutive day, and is expected to start Sunday against Dallas. Tinoisamoa missed the last two games because of an ankle injury.
--DE James Hall (pectoral), who was limited in practice Wednesday, had full participation in Thursday's practice.
--LB Tim McGarigle (groin), who was limited in practice Wednesday, had full participation in Thursday's practice.
--OT Jeremy Parquet, who was in training camp with the Rams but was released in the final cut, was re-signed to take the roster spot of OG Mark Setterstrom.
--OG Mark Setterstrom was officially placed on injured reserve because of a torn ACL suffered last Sunday against Tampa Bay.
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