ST. LOUIS (AP) Rams coach Jeff Fisher knows the importance of the ground game and aims to get St. Louis’ rushing attack in gear.
Playing Jacksonville on Sunday presents the perfect opportunity.
While St. Louis (1-3) has rushed for just 189 yards this season, averaging a league-worst 47.3 yards per game, the Jaguars (0-4) have the worst run defense in the NFL, giving up 165 yards per game, nearly 23 yards more than the next-worst team, the Washington Redskins.
“We need to improve if we’re going to have a chance to win it,” Fisher said after practice Thursday at Rams Park.
Fisher has not said who will start, saying most of the backs who are active will “probably” play. Playing time may depend on what package the Rams are in on the field.
Daryl Richardson, who backed up Steven Jackson last season, leads the team with 114 rushing yards. The starter this year, he’s averaging just 2.7 yards per carry.
Earlier this week, Richardson indicated on his Twitter account that he will not be in the starting lineup Sunday.
Richardson’s tweet caught Fisher off guard.
“I was surprised about that,” Fisher said. “I don’t think he meant it. He’s coming off some injuries and he just needs to be more thoughtful about his responses.”
Second-year pro Isaiah Pead has 21 yards on seven carries. Pead was inactive last weekend.
Rookie Benny Cunningham has gained 22 yards on 10 carries. Fellow rookie Zac Stacy has one carry for 4 yards.
Stacy remains in the dark about who will start Sunday, but he would like the chance.
“It would mean a lot. Obviously, it’s a reflection on what the coaches think,” Stacy said. “Regardless of what happens, I will be prepared and be ready to take advantage of the opportunity.”
In the last two losses, to Dallas and San Francisco, the Rams gained 53 yards on 31 carries. That’s an average of 1.7 yards a carry.
In those two games, St. Louis converted only 13 percent of its third downs, going four of 30. The Rams were outscored 66-18.
Quarterback Sam Bradford said the right prescription for the Rams is to keep rushing the ball. He believes with more rushing attempts, the linemen and the backs will be more comfortable running the ball.
But the backs have to be productive. St. Louis ran 19 times for 18 yards against the 49ers.
“We’ve got to avoid negative runs because when we rush the ball for negative yards and put ourselves in second-and-long, it’s really hard to keep coming back to those runs,” Bradford said. “So, I think the biggest thing is starting fast, starting with positive runs and just keep pounding it.”
Left tackle Jake Long, a four-time Pro Bowl player, is glad to see the running game will be emphasized. Linemen, he said, like run blocking because they can be aggressive.
“As an offense, you take pride in the running game,” Long said. “It makes life a lot easier. We definitely need to get that going. We’ve been working hard to get back to fundamentals and knocking guys off the ball and open up holes. We’ll get it going.
“I enjoy run blocking. Any time you get a chance to impose your will on someone and knock a guy off the ball and open up a hole and our guy gets a big run, it’s great.”