St. Louis Rams

August 27, 2014

Rams must balance need for cohesion with risk of injury

While many NFL teams rest most of their starters in the final preseason game rather than risk injury, St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher has a major quandary in the aftermath of quarterback Sam Bradford's season-ending knee injury.

Does he get backup quarterback Shaun Hill much-needed snaps with the starting offense in the Rams' preseason finale against the Miami Dolphins on Thursday?

Or, does he sit out most his offensive starters rather than gamble on having anymore devastating injuries?

"We're working through it," Fisher said. "We feel like we just finished up the Cleveland game. We're going to be selective and some may play more than others. Really, that's all I can say now."

The Rams (1-2) are preparing for life without their franchise quarterback for the second straight season after Bradford tore the ACL in his left knee for the second time in less than a year during the first offensive series of the Rams' 33-14 win over the Cleveland Browns last Saturday.

"I'll use this analogy: You lose a tough regular season game, you put it in perspective," Fisher said the approach to the loss of Bradford. "You almost have a 24-hour rule, you come back and get ready for next week. That's how players are, and that's what their mindset is today. They are ready to go, they are ready to do everything they possibly can to help Shaun be successful."

Austin Davis, who would be the Rams' backup quarterback if the season started today, should see a lot of action against the Dolphins.

Fisher said he liked Davis' mobility.

"First off, he's smart, he understands what we're doing," Fisher said. "He can extend plays if he needs to. He's gotten much better at keeping his eyes downfield, and that's a hard thing to learn. It's almost a trait. But, when you can feel around the pocket with your eyes down the field you've got a chance to make plays."

The game will be the final chance for many of the Rams' young players to stake a claim to a roster spot.

The Rams must trim their roster from 75 players to 53 players by Saturday afternoon.

One of the best battles for a roster spot has been waged by rookie defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks and Michael Sam.

Westbrooks has eight tackles and a sack in the preseason, while Sam, the first openly gay player in the NFL, has five tackles and three sacks in the preseason.

Fisher refused to say whether Westbrooks or Sam was winning that battle, and even hinted that the Rams might keep both of them.

"It's possible we can keep 12 (defensive linemen)," Fisher said.

The Dolphins (2-1) went 8-8 last season despite being rocked by the Richie Incongnito-Jonathan Martin bullying scandal.

The Dolphins brought in former Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor to be their offensive coordinator.

The Dolphins are hoping Lazor can help quarterback Ryan Tannehill take a major step forward in his third season as the starter.

Tannehill's development was hindered by the 58 sacks last season.

Among the Dolphins' additions during the offseason were running back Knowshon Moreno from the Denver Broncos and cornerback Cortland Finnegan from the Rams.

Wide receiver Mike Wallace had 73 catches for 830 yards last season after signing as a free-agent from Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Dolphins have one of the better pass rushes in the NFL with defensive ends Olivier Vernon, who had 11.5 sacks last season, and Cameron Wake, who had 8.5 sacks last season after having 15 sacks two years ago, leading the way.

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