Extra Rest Helps Jackson

Posted Oct 11, 2012

As one of a handful of Rams dealing with nagging injuries, running back Steven Jackson wasn’t exactly looking forward to the five-day turnaround between games last week.

Jackson was, however, looking forward to the extra down time that he’d get from playing a Thursday night game and the additional opportunities for his ailing groin to get closer to full health for the first time since the beginning of the season.

Taking advantage of having Saturday, Sunday and Monday off, Jackson was pleased to get the extra rest and come back refreshed.

“Yes, after a short week,” Jackson said. “It’s really hard to get prepared for a Thursday night game, but we were fortunate enough to go get the win and with the extra days off, for some of us guys that were banged up, to heal up.”

Included in that group is Jackson himself, who first suffered the groin injury against Washington in week 2, and had slowly been working his way closer to full strength. He won’t reveal how close he is to reaching that plateau but indicated Thursday that he’s made progress.

“I don’t do percentages, but I feel good,” Jackson said.

Getting Jackson back up to full speed couldn’t come at a better time than this week as the Rams travel to Miami to take on the Dolphins’ top-ranked run defense.

Miami enters the game giving up just 61.4 yards per game on the ground and opponents are picking up less than 3 yards per carry. Anchored by stout defensive tackle Paul Soliai and Randy Starks and complemented by linebacker Karlos Dansby, among others, the Dolphins have been a veritable brick wall against the run.

“It’s their front,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “It starts with Randy Starks. They’re big up front. Karlos in the middle and their safeties fill the run. They’re real stout and they’re disciplined and they understand run schemes. They adjust from week to week based on your run concepts and they do a good job taking it away.”

The Rams run game has flashed signs of awakening and being the grind it out group the Rams want to be offensively. They sit 22nd in the league in rushing with 94.6 yards per game but were able to get it revved up in the third quarter against the Cardinals.

After starting the game with an aerial-focused attack, the Rams turned to Jackson and rookie Daryl Richardson to swing time of possession in their favor and chew up the clock.

The result was a running game that churned out 11 yards on 32 carries with Jackson averaging 4.2 yards on his 18 attempts.

“‘Jack’ was running hard,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “Whether he was ticked off at me for maybe not running him earlier in the game or whatever it was, he was running hard. Obviously, Daryl is a great change of pace. We’re going to try to keep people off balance. I thought the good thing for us was we ran it, we ran it well. There are certainly things we need to clean up, but when you get in a groove and he’s running like that, and the line is blocking like that, that’s a good feeling. But, again, quite a test this week against this group.”

Jackson did find some second half success and hopes to continue the momentum from that late game performance against Miami’s stout group.
“It felt good,” Jackson said. “The offensive line did a great job of winning the line of scrimmage and it just allowed for us to do our thing once we got the ball. But we’ve got to continue to do so. We’re facing a very tough Miami Dolphins defense, so that will be the challenge this week.”

HAPPY RETURNS?: While rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins will almost certainly take over the punt return duties in the absence of normal returner Danny Amendola, the Rams still would like to find a way to get the kick return game up and running.

Through no fault of their own, the Rams have had almost no chances to return kicks at all this season. In fact, they’ve had only five kicks that have been returnable, one in each game as the others have gone for touchbacks.

When the opportunities have been there, Isaiah Pead has brought out three with an average of 20.3 yards, Amendola had one for 12 yards and Chris Givens fared the best with a 34-yard return.

Without getting more chances, it may be more difficult for the Rams to find some continuity and opportunity in the kick return game.

“A few more returns kind of help us practice getting better at kickoff return,” special teams coach John Fassel said. “Every week is little bit different game plan, so we just need some opportunities. Obviously, that can also be bad because if you’re bad at it, then that’s not good. But I think more opportunities to get live kickoff returns will help our blockers out to understand the speed and the angles and the attack concepts that we employ on our kickoff return.”

HANDLING THE HEAT: As a reporter began a question about dealing with the expected warmer temperatures awaiting the Rams in Miami this weekend, Fisher quickly cut him off and recited the expected temperature and the chance for rain.

It was a humorous moment but also a glimpse into the level of detail and preparation Fisher puts into getting ready for a game.

Well aware that temperatures are expected to be in the 80s with humidity, Fisher has ensured that his team is prepared for added heat on Sunday.

The team did some extra conditioning on Tuesday and the training staff has emphasized hydration this week as well.

“It’s going to be a challenge for us,” Fisher said. “It’s going to be a little warmer, but we’ve had a nice warm summer in camp and we’re able to go back to a couple of those days. We’ll be fine.”

INJURY REPORT: The Rams continue to get more players healthy, particularly some of their young depth as they head to Miami.

Receiver Danny Amendola (shoulder), linebacker Mario Haggan (thigh), tackle Rodger Saffold (knee) and end William Hayes (back) did not participate Thursday. Hayes tweaked his back in Wednesday’s practice.

Safety Matt Daniels (thigh), defensive tackle Matt Conrath (knee), end Eugene Sims (head) and fullback Brit Miller (ankle) were listed as full participants.

Miller did not practice Wednesday but returned Thursday. Conrath and Sims were also upgraded from limited to full participation.

Of note for Miami, running back Reggie Bush (knee) was limited. The move is expected to be precautionary and he’s likely to play this week.