ST. LOUIS — If the St. Louis Rams are ever going to get their running game going as coach Jeff Fisher has vowed, this is the week.
The Rams (1-3) will be facing the worst rushing defense in the NFL when they play the Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4) at noon at the Edward Jones Dome.
The Jaguars have allowed 660 rushing yards for an average of 165 yards per game.
"Our intention, as their intention is, is to run the football," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "You've got to do that to stay in ballgames. When you've attempted 50 passes a game and 14-15 runs a game, it's hard to get in a rhythm. We're hoping to get that behind us."
The Rams may shake things up at running back in effort to improve upon their NFL-worst average of 47.3 rushing yards per game.
Rookie Zac Stacy or Isaiah Pead could get the start at running back against the Jaguars.
"I think Zac's done a really good job since he's been here, just trying to understand the offense, understand the blocking schemes, his protection assignments," Rams quarterback Sam Bradford said. "He's a very talented runner. He's a powerful guy. He's got great vision. He's able to see things. He makes cuts in the hole that are quick and decisive, so I'm excited to see him out there."
The Jaguars also would like to see running back Maurice Jones-Drew bust loose against a Rams defense that yielded 175 yards to Dallas' DeMarco Murray two weeks ago and 153 yards to San Francisco's Frank Gore in its last outing.
Jones-Drew is averaging only 2.4 yards per rush and has no rush longer than 10 yards this season.
"He's a big-time player," Rams defensive coordinator Tim Walton said of Jones-Drew. "He's had a lot of success in this league. We know he can run the ball. He's a downhill power runner, has speed to get on the edge. He's a threat when he gets his hands on the ball.
"We have to do a better job than what we've done the past few games of playing run defense."
It'll be a homecoming for Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who started at Parkway West High School before playing for the University of Missouri.
"One of the things that you really tend to realize after watching him is his escape ability and his mobility," Fisher said. "He's extremely mobile and he can extend plays. He gets out of the pocket, runs for first downs."
Gabbert will benefit from the return of wide receiver Justin Blackmon from a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
Rams quarterback Sam Bradford has completed just 53.9 percent of his pass attempts for 442 yards and two touchdowns over his last two games.
His pass protection could be a factor in his decline in production as he's been sacked 11 times in his last two games after not being sacked at all in the first two games.
"I think he'd be more productive had we been able to keep games close and run the football," Fisher said of Bradford. "But, he's making good decisions. Unfortunately, he's been hit the last two weeks by two pretty good defenses. As a team, we can all help him by creating field position, by getting turnovers and by running the football and stopping the run."
With their season quickly going into the dumps, the Rams desperately need a win
"There's no doubt that I think this is a must-win for both teams," Bradford said. "We know that they're going to come in here and give us their best shot. We're going to be prepared for that. At the same time, it's a must-win for us. We've got to get things back on track. We've got to get rolling and this is the week that starts all of that."
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.