Rams' other blockers share blame for sacks

BY foxsports • October 1, 2011

When Sam Bradford's getting knocked down frequently, the St. Louis Rams' well-paid offensive line is a convenient culprit.

Last week in a blowout loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Bradford was sacked five times for a three-game total of 11, and tackle Jason Smith - the second overall pick in the 2009 draft - was benched in the fourth quarter.

Naturally, that's an invitation to scrutiny.

Coaches and players realize it's not that simple. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said the number of pass protection packages the Rams (0-3) have used could be a factor, along with quicker decision-making by Bradford.

''He's got to step up and be in the pocket where they're trying to protect for him,'' McDaniels said. ''The running backs, the tight ends, this is an entire group thing.''

Cadillac Williams, for instance, isn't as effective blocking as Steven Jackson, who's expected to take a heavier workload Sunday against the Washington Redskins (2-1).

Wide receivers have to get open, too.

''A good passing game involves all 11 guys,'' McDaniels said. ''We've worked hard this week at doing some things that we didn't do well last week.''

Bradford is likely to get hit more on some of the longer-developing plays the Rams have used, too.

''We have a good mix of plays that go short and long, so the bottom line is when everybody's on the same page we look pretty good,'' guard Jacob Bell said. ''I think we've got the right guys for the job, and I think once we eliminate some of the small mental things we're going to be a lot better team.''

The issue of line performance can be a touchy subject. If Bradford's getting hit and the Rams have a winning record, center Jason Brown suggested no one would be blaming the line.

''Nobody questions anything as long as you're winning games,'' he said. ''Is Sam going to get hit? Yes. Is every quarterback in the league going to get hit whether you have a great offensive line or a horrible offensive line? Yes.

''If we were 2-1 or 3-0,'' Brown said, ''you'd be asking a whole lot of different questions.''

Bell said this has been the best week of practice for the offense. The NFC West is weak again, and Bell noted there's plenty of time left to right the ship.

''September has been a month to forget, but also a month for us to learn a lot from,'' Bell said. ''A lot of ball left.''

The Rams went indoors midway through practice Friday because of gusting wind that has complicated the passing game the last two days. Coach Steve Spagnuolo thought Thursday's practice was ''sloppy.''

''And since the quarterback always reminds me that we play in a dome, always, constantly, I went over and got his approval to start outside and then come in,'' Spagnuolo said, joking. ''But I thought it worked out pretty good.''

Though the Rams have been outscored 96-36, Spagnuolo believes players have not lost any confidence. The first three games were all against perennial contenders, the Eagles, Giants and Ravens.

''This is a resilient group,'' Spagnuolo said.

Notes: WR Danny Amendola (dislocated left elbow) didn't practice and is unlikely to return until after next week's bye. Rookie Austin Pettis, a third-round pick, is likely to start in the slot the second straight week. ... Jackson was limited but Spagnuolo said it was a normal Friday for the running back. ... Defensive end C.J. Ah You (left wrist) practiced with club-like padding on his arm. Ah You wears No. 99 and Spagnuolo jokingly renamed him ''Club 99'' this week.

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