WEEK 7: AT ST. LOUIS RAMS
Date: Sunday, Oct. 21. Time: noon. TV: Fox.
2011 record: 2-14 Points scored: 193 (32nd). Points against: 407 (26th).
Noteworthy: Losing defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to a league suspension was a major blow for new coach Jeff Fisher. "I called plays as a defensive coordinator for a number of years," Fisher said. "So, as you turn your defense over from Steve Sidwell to Gregg Williams to Jim Schwartz to Chuck Cecil, you're always going to stay involved in it." The addition of Scott Wells should help Sam Bradford rebound from a sophomore slump. The series: McCarthy led the Packers to wins at St. Louis in 2007 and 2009, both by 19 points.
TRAINING CAMP GOALS
1. Figure out who will be running the defense. Gregg Williams, initially hired by coach Jeff Fisher to be the defensive coordinator, was suspended for his role in the Saints' pay-for-performance program, but it came before the offseason program began. Fisher has insisted that the defense will be a collaborative effort with former coordinators Dave McGinnis (assistant head coach) and Chuck Cecil (secondary) on the staff. In addition, the defense originated with Fisher. However, during OTAs and minicamp, linebackers coach Blake Williams was orchestrating much of the defensive calls, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he led the defense on game days. The son of Gregg Williams, 27-year-old Blake has been on his father's staff during previous stops in Washington, Jacksonville and New Orleans and knows the defense better than anyone.
2. Find out who can be consistent at receiver. There is a lot of competition for spots in the pass-catching corps, but it's difficult to even project the starters. There are high hopes for rookies Brian Quick (second round) and Chris Givens (fourth), plus the addition of veteran Steve Smith, who appears recovered from a knee injury that affected his last two seasons with the Giants. They will be competing against holdovers Danny Amendola, Danario Alexander, Brandon Gibson, Greg Salas and Austin Pettis. Injuries affected this group in 2011, with Amendola (elbow/triceps), Alexander (hamstring) and Salas (broken leg) missing significant time. Pettis was suspended at the end of last season for using a performance enhancing drug and will miss the first two games of the coming season.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Cornerback Janoris Jenkins. The Rams went out on the proverbial limb when they invested a second-round pick this year (39th overall) on the talented Jenkins, whose off-field issues led to his departure from Florida and eventual landing for one season at North Alabama. Jenkins was arrested twice for possession of marijuana and another time for his involvement in a bar fight. As camp approached, there were reports that Jenkins was refusing to use a financial advisor the Rams had suggested to help him sort through the child support he faces after having fathered four children with three women. Jenkins likely would have been a high first-round pick were it not for those non-football problems. During OTAs, he was often with the first unit, so the Rams are counting on him being able to focus solely on football.
ON THE HOT SEAT
Quarterback Sam Bradford. Fisher is probably tired of saying that a key consideration in his decision to come to the Rams was the presence of Bradford, the first overall pick in the draft in 2010. Now, Bradford has to live up to that confidence after a dismal 2011 season where the offense was never comfortable with coordinator Josh McDaniels' system following the lockout, and the second half of the season where a high ankle sprain made him a shell of his 2010 self when he helped the Rams improve to a 7-9 record. With Brian Schottenheimer on board as the new coordinator, Bradford is digesting his third offense in three seasons, but there are similarities to the system he learned during his rookie season, which he believes will result in success.
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