Rams want to get their running game going

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.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org