Rotating cast keeping quarterback upright

BY foxsports • September 19, 2012

It's only Week 3 and Harvey Dahl is the last man standing on the offensive line the St. Louis Rams envisioned at the start of training camp.

All they can do this week at Chicago is keep patching things together in hopes of keeping Sam Bradford upright. Short-handed or not in last week's 31-28 victory against Washington, it worked just fine.

''I think we kind of talked about this last week and it's the same thing,'' Bradford said Wednesday. ''It's something we had to deal with last year, so it's nothing new.

''Everyone who stepped in last week and had to play did a great job and I know whoever's in there this week, we're going to have a great week of preparation and they'll be ready to play.''

Coach Jeff Fisher said it's a challenge, but he'll have the group ready. One of them, tackle Wayne Hunter, (left ankle) did not practice.

''We did have five out there all practice, so we'll be OK,'' Fisher said. ''Actually, we had enough to practice against the defense.''

Bradford threw a lot of tempo passes that added up to 310 yards and three touchdowns, with Danny Amendola, Daryl Richardson and Steve Smith busting loose after the catch for 20-yards-plus gains. Tight ends and running backs helped contain the pass rush and Bradford was sacked just twice, emerging basically unscathed while going 7 for 12 on third-down conversions.

''They allowed me time to get the ball out of my hands,'' Bradford said. ''I think it's a group effort. On third down they had a lot of 1-on-1s in coverage and we did a great job of winning routes.''

Bradford was sacked 36 times in 10 games last season and hit repeatedly, missing six games with a high left ankle sprain. Despite the rotating cast, he's been sacked five times the first two games this year - not bad behind such a jumbled line.

He doesn't often show his emotions on the field or with media, but teammates can tell he's pleased with everything so far.

''Everybody wants everybody to be screaming at the camera and gyrating and making all types of dramatic movements,'' said defensive end Chris Long, a close friend of Bradford's. ''Sam's a competitive guy, he's a winner and he's a tough guy.

''He showed his teammates he's to be respected, and he can make a lot of plays for us.''

Amendola had a career day, tying an NFL record with 12 first-half receptions and 15 overall, matching the franchise best since the AFL-NFL merger.

''I'm sure at some point he'll probably start to receive a little bit extra attention,'' Bradford said. ''It's something he's been great at, winning one-on-ones.''

Tight end Matthew Mulligan spent most of the day helping in pass protection, but had time to get wide open in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead 1-yard touchdown grab on the first play of the fourth quarter.

''I don't know the percentages, I just do whatever they ask me to do,'' Mulligan said. ''We mix things up. Coach (Brian) Schottenheimer, I do feel like he does trust me in the pass game, but definitely blocking is my forte.''

The starting line in late July was supposed to be tackles Jason Smith and Rodger Saffold, Dahl and either rookie Rokevious Watkins or Quinn Ojinakka at guard, and Scott Wells at center. Wells, Watkins and Saffold are all injured, and Ojinnaka was released Sept. 2.

Ojinnaka is back and is the newest starter. He was released, then re-signed and plugged into the lineup five days later against Washington.

''It was real fun,'' Ojinnaka said. ''The first couple of plays I had to get back into the groove, but as soon as I got my groove it was fun. Like practice.''

Tackle Barry Richardson, a budget free agent pickup who beat out former No. 2 pick Smith, suddenly is a mainstay. Robert Turner, signed as a utilityman on the line, played most of the preseason at center while Wells rehabbed from knee surgery and is now another instant old hand.

Turner was frequently the first blocker downfield last week, aggressively peeling off Redskins that he perceived were trying to pile onto the running back or pass catcher.

Notes: RB Steven Jackson (groin) headed the list of players who did not practice. Jackson speaks with media on Thursday. ... FB Brit Miller, a special teams mainstay, also was held out with a thigh injury.

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Follow R.B. Fallstrom on Twitter at (at)rbfallstrom