ST. LOUIS — Rams coach Jeff Fisher does not want the team’s running backs to be judged solely on the preseason stats.
However, it doesn’t mean he’s not concerned about their production.
“That’s an area where we need to improve on, but we haven’t had opportunities in the games to really just line up,” Fisher said after Monday’s practice.
The Rams finish the preseason on Thursday against Baltimore.
The Rams are making a transition to a life without perennial 1,000-yard rusher Steven Jackson, who left via free agency to Atlanta.
They are averaging a little more than 3 yards a carry from their top four running backs, a year after the team ranked 19th in the league in yards per game with a 107.1 average.
Daryl Richardson, tabbed as the team’s starter earlier this month, has 34 yards on nine carries in the first three games of the preseason.
“I feel pretty good about the running game,” he said. “We’ve just got to execute and get better every day, all just be on the same page and eliminate penalties.”
Richardson is coming off a rookie season in which he gained 475 yards on 98 carries in a backup role to Jackson.
Isaiah Pead’s role might be more questionable. The second-year player out of Cincinnati carried the ball just 10 times in 2012 and is suspended for the 2013 season opener for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
He’s had the most carries this preseason with 19, gaining 59 yards. He also has the only lost fumble by a running back.
“I’ve been trying to prove myself since I came here. Really, the only difference is that Steven’s gone,” Pead said. “I still come in, ready to work, trying to find a spot on the team whether it be special team or offense.”
The Rams game at Denver last Saturday was another missed chance for the running backs to get work.
St. Louis planned to work on its running attack, only to change as the game unfolded.
Lineman Rodger Saffold, returning from a shoulder injury that limited his work leading up to the game, lasted the entire first half after it was anticipated he might only play a handful of snaps.
The Rams have also wanted to focus on their passing game and this year’s top draft choice Tavon Austin and third-rounder Stedman Bailey at receiver. Fisher wants to enhance the downfield options for quarterback Sam Bradford.
He said if that part of the game develops, it can only serve to help his young running backs, that includes two second-year players and two rookies in the top four on the depth chart.
That has limited the chances for rookies Zac Stacy, a fifth-round choice from Vanderbilt, and Benny Cunningham, from Middle Tennessee State who signed as an undrafted free agent. But both should play a role in the upcoming season.
How much might be determined Thursday.
“I think you’ll probably see some more,” Fisher said. “”We’ll get a chance to look at them this week. With Isaiah not being available to us in Week 1, we’ll have to look at all the backs.” NOTES: TE Cory Harkey could miss up to a month with a fracture in his leg suffered Saturday at Denver. The second-year player got significant time during the preseason as top TE Lance Kendricks recovers from offseason knee surgery. …The Rams announced 11 cuts as they close in on Tuesday’s deadline to reduce the roster to the NFL-mandated 75 players. St. Louis released K/P Brett Baer, WR Demetrius Fields, WR Andrew Helmick, LS Jorgen Hus, QB Tim Jenkins, DT Al Lapuaho, LB Joseph Lebeau, TE Colby Prince, WR Raymond Radway and CB Robert Steeples.