Rams have plenty to clean up in Week 4
A short week might be of some benefit to the St. Louis Rams heading into their preseason finale. There's less time to let the problems fester from Week 3.
The offensive line had trouble protecting Sam Bradford, who absorbed two of the Cowboys' four sacks, and the Rams (No. 28 in the AP Pro32) were just 4 for 13 on third down. Coach Jeff Fisher said Monday there were 13 missed tackles on defense, with five players whiffing on two apiece.
Fisher also cited communication problems in the secondary that contributed to a big start for Tony Romo, who passed for 198 yards in the first quarter to build a 17-3 lead in a 20-19 victory Saturday night. Rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins and safeties Craig Dahl and Trumaine Johnson were among the defenders who struggled against the Cowboys minus injured wide receivers Dez Bryant and Miles Austin.
''We can't allow big plays to happen,'' middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said. ''We've just got to get better out there. We've got to correct those big plays.''
The Rams worked out the kinks privately Monday morning. They wrap up the preseason at home Thursday night against the Ravens with some position jobs still up for grabs.
Free agent Barry Richardson appears to have won the right tackle spot after Jason Smith was traded to the Jets on Monday night. Richardson has started throughout the preseason ahead of Smith, the No. 2 pick of the 2009 draft who's been dogged by concussion problems throughout his career.
One guard spot has yet to be decided, and there's competition at free safety.
''There's still several that are close, but if you look at the secondary, we've got some decisions to make,'' Fisher said. ''There's some different scenarios we're looking at.
''I think by Friday things will have cleared up for us and we'll be able to make the right decisions.''
One week after throwing touchdown passes on his first two drives, Bradford was just 6 for 17 for 64 yards. Fisher said Bradford held the ball too long on one of the sacks but noted ''several other instances'' when the line was confused by the Cowboys' schemes.
It couldn't have helped Bradford that Steven Jackson got no touches by design, with the star running back expecting to get some carries on Thursday.
''We didn't move the ball like we would like to,'' Jackson said Saturday. ''All the mistakes that we've made, as far as the offense, the blocking and the protection and the runs, it's all things that are correctable.''
One area that Fisher is not concerned about is special teams. Rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein connected from 55 and 52 yards, rookie punter Johnny Hekker had a 62-yarder and St. Louis' average drive began at the 31 compared to the 17 for the Cowboys.
Earlier Monday, wide receiver Danario Alexander, a star at Missouri who has never been able to stay on the field in the NFL, was waived/injured.
Alexander has had multiple surgeries on his left knee and has been dogged by a hamstring injury all summer, participating in a handful of practices and missing the first three preseason games. Alexander had 26 catches with two touchdowns and a 16.6-yard average last season in 10 games, five of them starts.
''Oh yeah, there's potential there and there's athletic ability,'' Fisher said. ''He elevates and catches out of frame and runs well. It's unfortunate, we're disappointed for him that he didn't get a chance.
''But it was out of our control, we had to move on.''
In a mild surprise, defensive tackle Trevor Laws was placed on injured reserve with a right patellar tendon issue. Like Alexander, Laws didn't practice much and did not appear in the preseason.
Fisher said Laws had a significant injury, and said the Rams felt Laws was healthy when he signed.
The 304-pound Laws, a former second-round pick of the Eagles in 2008, made one start for Philadelphia in both 2011 and 2010.
The Rams waived kicker Garrett Lindholm, fullback Todd Anderson, linebackers Noah Keller and Alex Hoffman-Ellis, defensive tackle John Gill, tight end Brody Eldridge, wide receivers Charles Gilbert and Brandyn Harvey, offensive lineman Kevin Hughes, offensive tackle Ryan McKee, running backs Calvin Middleton and Nick Schweiger, and long snapper Travis Tripucka.
Earlier this summer, Fisher said he would inform each of the players.
''Most of the guys were disappointed they didn't get the opportunity they would have liked, but that's just part of the process when you're putting together a new team with a new staff and new systems,'' he said.
AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins in Dallas contributed to this report.