Patrick Daugherty

Football Daily Dose

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Saving Sam

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Although their bitterest of rivals may be delighting in it, no one can really be happy about what’s happening to the once proud Indianapolis Colts. No one except for the St. Louis Rams, that is.

If not for the catastrophe taking place 245 miles east of the Edward Jones Dome, we’d be conducting this season’s biggest “what the heck happened?” autopsy on the 2-11 Greatest Joke on Turf, not the 0-13 Fightin’ Peytons.  

Ten years removed from scoring 500 points for the third consecutive season and one year removed from watching the No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 draft take them from 1-15 to 7-9, the Rams have hit an absurd rock bottom.

Through 13 games, they’ve scored 12 offensive touchdowns. As in one followed by two. As in one fewer than Cam Newton has scored rushing.

The Rams’ 153 points are the fewest in the league by 20, and puts them on pace for 188. That’s eight less than the Jimmy Clausen “led” Panthers scored in 2010. On the bright side, it would be 13 more than the 2009 Rams scored.  

The point is, for a team with defending Offensive Rookie of the Year Sam Bradford and supposedly special offensive mind Josh McDaniels calling the plays, the Rams have been unacceptably pathetic on offense. The question is, why?

You could start with an offensive line missing both of its starting tackles (who were playing terribly to begin with) and a receiver corps with only one wideout who’s proven he deserves a full-time job in the NFL, but there’s no telling where you might finish. When a team is on pace to score fewer points than the 2010 Jimmy Clausens, many, many, many things have gone terribly wrong.

Which brings us to the here and now. Whatever ails the 2011 St. Louis Rams won’t be fixed in the season’s final three games. There is one area where they can stop the bleeding, however: Bradford’s health.  

Playing through a high-ankle sprain in Monday’s latest dismal loss, Bradford looked so immobile he called to mind late-era Kerry Collins. You could say that’s less than ideal for a franchise quarterback with a history of shoulder problems playing behind an offensive line featuring someone named Mark LeVoir at left tackle.

On Wednesday, Bradford revealed the injury that’s held him out of three of St. Louis’ past eight games is “going backward.” This brings us to another question: why in the heck is he playing? Although it’s true young players will only develop by playing, they won’t have a future to develop for if they suffer a career-ending injury. If Bradford’s gimpy ankle prevents him from evading a sack against the Bengals this Sunday and he gets his shoulder driven into the turf, what exactly will have been accomplished by letting him play? The Rams luck into a meaningless third win? They put themselves on pace to out-score last year’s Panthers? There isn’t exactly greatness to aspire to.

Of course, there are two people who probably think Bradford has every reason to play, coach Steve Spagnuolo and GM Billy Devaney. Theoretically still fighting for their jobs, it would behoove them not to have to go with Tom Brandstater or Kellen Clemens at quarterback. But if they are realistic, they should know their fate in St. Louis is already sealed. Why risk bringing Bradford down with them?

Here’s hoping they do what they should have done on Monday, and sit down someone who still has to worry about what the future looks like in St. Louis.  

Although he was never expected to play this week, Greg Jennings (knee) was officially ruled out for Week 15 on Wednesday. With the Packers all but assured of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, one might think a late season-injury to their No. 1 receiver has cooled them on the idea of pursuing the third perfect regular season in NFL history.

Not so, according to coach Mike McCarthy. "Our players still want to play,” were his words when asked if the Packers were considering pulling a 2009 Colts and resting their starters instead of chasing perfection.

Plans change quickly in the NFL, but at least for now it sounds like you can count on having Aaron Rodgers and company available for the final two weeks of the fantasy playoffs. “And company” includes James Jones, who should pick up a ton of Jennings’ lost snaps. Even if rookie Randall Cobb ends up taking most of Jennings’ slot routes, Jones should get enough looks to be a sneaky WR3 down the stretch. One of the more dynamic after-the-catch receivers in all of football, all Jones has lacked this season is opportunity.       

Another Wednesday, another day of no-shows at Raiders practice. Although Denarius Moore (ankle) was able to participate in his first Wednesday practice in a month, Jacoby Ford (foot) and Darren McFadden (foot) were both their usual “DNPs.”

The outlook is less bleak for Ford. After turning in a limited practice last Friday, Ford was able to get in some side work yesterday, and is reportedly able to do everything on his injured foot but cut. What that means for his Week 15 status still isn’t clear, but unlike McFadden, the Raiders’ would-be No. 1 receiver is finally making tangible signs of progress.   

Julio Jones (hamstring), Michael Turner (groin) and Harry Douglas (groin) are all listed as probable for tonight’s game. Coming off a three-catch, 104-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Panthers, Jones could be in for a massive night against a Jaguars secondary that’s opted to leave Drew Coleman in the slot and start journeyman Ashton Youboty and undrafted rookie Kevin Rutland at cornerback. … The same cannot be said for Turner. Averaging just 60 yards over his past three starts, he’s taking the ball 3.4 yards per carry since Week 12. Facing a Panthers’ run defense in Week 14 that’s made many plodders look like superstars, Turner could reel off only 76 yards on 21 carries. With Atlanta’s game-plan likely to focus on attacking Jacksonville’s unraveling secondary, Turner could be an afterthought if the Falcons don’t get out to a huge early lead. … Mike Thomas (concussion) and Cecil Shorts (hamstring) have both been ruled out for the Jaguars, leaving Jarett Dillard, Chastin West and Kassim Osgood as Blaine Gabbert’s top-three receivers. Tonight could be the low-point of what has been a disastrous rookie season for the No. 10 overall pick.    

Adrian Peterson (ankle) was officially limited in Vikings practice, but will return from his three-game absence Sunday, barring a setback. … Jimmy Graham (back) practiced in full, and is in no danger of missing Week 15 despite some lingering pain. … Graham’s teammate Mark Ingram (turf toe) remained sidelined, however, casting doubt on his Sunday status, as well as his assertion that he’s dealing with a “minor” case of the most ridiculously named injury in sports. … Matt Moore (concussion, neck) missed Dolphins practice, but is tentatively expected to start Sunday. … Kevin Smith (ankle) was held out of Lions practice, but was able to get in some work on the side, and will be on track to start against Oakland if he can get on the field this afternoon. … James Stark (ankle) missed Packers practice and is “uncertain” for Week 15. Ryan Grant should be in for a heavy workload against the Chiefs. … Kyle Orton (finger) and Kevin Kolb (concussion) were both limited. Orton is a good bet to play this weekend, while Kolb’s status remains up in the air. … Matt Hasselbeck (calf) did not participate in Titans practice, while Jake Locker (ribs) was limited. At the moment, consider it 51-49 Locker starts. … Michael Vick (ribs) sat out of Eagles practice, while Jeremy Maclin (hamstring) was limited. Both are expected to play in Week 15.  

Patrick Daugherty is a football and baseball writer for He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Patrick Daugherty

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