posted on November 29, 2012 01:43
When the Rams opened the season on Sept. 9, line coach Paul Boudreau was confident his group would be able to compete and provide holes for running back Steven Jackson and protection for quarterback Sam Bradford.
Talk about best-laid plans.
In the first half of the opener against Detroit, center Scott Wells suffered a broken bone in his foot, and the shuffling began. In that game, left guard Robert Turner slid to center and rookie Rokevious Watkins came in at left guard.
The Rams also re-signed guard Quinn Ojinnaka, who had been released after the cut to 53 when the Rams acquired Shelley Smith on waivers from Houston. Ojinnaka had been the starter at left guard during the preseason. He then became the starter again with Wells on the sideline and after Watkins was lost for the season because of a high an ankle sprain.
But that didn't end the changes. Left tackle Rodger Saffold injured his knee in Week 2 against Washington. Replacement Wayne Hunter did a solid job, but then he suffered a back injury in the Week 6 game against Miami. That put Joe Barksdale, who had been with the team only a little more than two weeks, on the field as the starting left tackle.
Ojinnaka was eventually released again, and Smith took over as the starter.
That was until last Sunday's game against Arizona when Wells returned from injured reserve and Turner moved back to left guard. Saffold had come back on Nov. 11 against the 49ers.
Finally, the Rams had the line that had started the season.
Regarding the return of Wells, coach Jeff Fisher said, "We should only get better up front now, with him working himself back in."
The Rams were more successful running in the second half against the Cardinals and Jackson said that was because he had to get accustomed to working with Wells, who is fast after the ball is snapped.
Jackson told the Post-Dispatch, "Although we practiced all week together, everyone knows game speed's a lot different. So that first half I just told him be patient with me, I'll get the rhythm of the game, and that's definitely what we did."
Wells, who missed a big chunk of training camp because of offseason knee surgery, did not practice Wednesday because of a knee issue, but it’s not expected to threaten his ability to play Sunday.
Saffold said it's an added benefit for the line is that Wells and Turner are both centers and do a great job of recognizing things.
"The greatest thing about having a couple centers in the game is that they actually talk about things," Saffold told the Post-Dispatch. "And when you've got two centers seeing things from different angles, things get communicated a lot better. Things were happening last-minute and we were able to adjust last-minute and make plays. It's definitely a great feeling."
It’s Kaepernick for 49ers: The Rams will be facing 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who originally replaced Alex Smith against the Rams on Nov. 11.
Speaking to the issue of defending Kaepernick’s running ability, coach Jeff Fisher said, “It’s a challenge. Guys have to be aware. He pulls the ball down and runs for the first touchdown of the game against the Saints and that’s the additional dimension that he adds to that offense.”
As for facing the 49ers twice in three weeks, Fisher said, “Experience kind of suggests that when you play games three weeks or four weeks apart, the second game is usually completely different than the first game. They don’t mirror each other at all. That’s just the way it is. We’ve got to take the same approach -- the same physical approach -- as they will into the game and then just make plays. We had a productive day against them on offense. They’re very, very talented on defense. We expect it to be a little bit harder this time around.”
The Nov. 11 game ended in a tie, so Fisher referred to the start of Sunday’s game as the sixth quarter, as if it was a continuation.
Said quarterback Sam Bradford, “I talked a little bit about it today with coach. It’s kind of just starting the sixth quarter here. Obviously, we’re looking to finish this game with a win, not a tie. But, I think there’s definitely a sense of some unfinished business going into this game.”
Whither Quinn? The Rams give out virtually no information on injuries, and there always seems to be a surprise on the first practice day of the week when a player no one knew was injured suddenly isn’t practicing.
The latest in that category is defensive end Robert Quinn, who did not practice Wednesday and was listed on the injury report with a concussion. It is presumed he suffered the concussion Sunday against Arizona, but it is unknown where he is in the concussion protocol, which every player must go through to be cleared to play.
In addition, center Scott Wells did not practice because of a knee injury. Wells had offseason surgery and missed virtually all of the OTAs and most of training camp. He then broke a bone in his foot in the season opener.
Wells was in the locker room after practice and was ready to speak to the media when that possibility was shut down by the Rams.