Jaguars-Rams Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 02, 2013
After a pair of ugly defeats, Jeff Fisher insists his staff can get the reeling St. Louis Rams back on track. Perhaps a date with a Jacksonville Jaguars team already looking to the future can provide a good start. The Rams hope to avoid their first four-game losing streak in Fisher's tenure Sunday when they attempt to deal the visiting Jaguars a 10th straight defeat. Following a 35-11 loss to San Francisco on Sept. 26, St. Louis (1-3) has dropped consecutive contests by a combined 66-18 margin. They're the worst back-to-back defeats by a Fisher-coached club since 2009 when Tennessee lost to Indianapolis 31-9 and New England 59-0 a week later. "We found out where our team is and what we need to do and where we need improve on,'' Fisher said. "We've got a lot of work to do as a staff." Since completing 63.4 percent of his passes for 651 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions in his first two games, quarterback Sam Bradford has connected on just 53.9 percent of his attempts for 442 yards with two scores and one pick in his last two. The Rams' struggling offensive line has been partly to blame, as they've allowed 11 sacks in the last two games after yielding none in the first two. The offensive front hasn't paved the way in the running game, either. St. Louis ranks last in the NFL with 47.3 rushing yards per game after finishing with 18 yards on 19 carries against the 49ers. Following the departure of Steven Jackson in the offseason, Daryl Richardson has a team-leading 114 yards while averaging only 2.7 yards per carry. Only the Jaguars (0-4) are averaging fewer yards per carry (2.3) than the Rams' 2.6. Richardson indicated on his Twitter account that he will not be in the starting lineup Sunday. Isaiah Pead and Zac Stacy are the top candidates for the spot, though Fisher said he has not made a decision. "The biggest thing is we've got to keep trying to rush the ball,'' Bradford said. "Just getting those guys comfortable running the ball.'' The Rams will try to avoid their first four-game skid under Fisher as they face a Jacksonville team that allows a league-worst 164.3 rushing yards per game and the third-highest scoring average at 32.3. Coming off a 37-3 loss to Indianapolis - their franchise-worst ninth straight defeat and 16th in 17 games - the Jaguars made a made a move toward the future Wednesday by trading starting left tackle Eugene Monroe to Baltimore for undisclosed draft picks. The Jaguars will move second overall pick Luke Joeckel, who started the first four games at right tackle, to the left side. "It came out of nowhere for me," said Monroe, the eighth overall pick in the 2009 draft. "I'm just preparing to make the move. It's a fresh start." Even with Monroe, the Jaguars had a difficult time finding any kind of spark offensively. They've scored a league-low 31 points and rank last in total offense with 224.0 yards per game - 50.8 fewer than 31st-ranked Tampa Bay. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who missed the previous two games because of a hand injury, threw three interceptions against the Colts, though all of them bounced off receivers' hands. Leading receiver Cecil Shorts has three drops in his last two games. Though he has a league-leading 52 targets, Shorts has 26 receptions for 337 yards. Justin Blackmon might be able to provide a lift as he makes his season debut following a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. Blackmon caught a team-high 64 passes for 865 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie. The Jaguars are also only slightly ahead of St. Louis with 49.0 rushing yards per game despite having three-time All-Pro Maurice Jones-Drew in their backfield. Jones-Drew is averaging 2.4 yards per attempt after managing 23 yards on 13 carries Sunday. "It's been pretty tough,'' Jones-Drew said. "It's been the same every year, though. People load the box when they play us. We just have to go back to what we do best and that's all of us getting back on the same page and running the ball with a mindset of let's get it going.'' Jones-Drew might be able to find some holes against the banged-up Rams, who have allowed 412 yards on the ground the past two weeks. St. Louis also has lost safety T.J. McDonald for at least six weeks with a broken right leg, while cornerback Cortland Finnegan and linebacker Will Witherspoon are day-to-day with hamstring injuries. The Rams brought in some help by signing outside linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, who was waived at the beginning of a four-game suspension to start the season. Jones-Drew ran for 133 yards and three touchdowns in Jacksonville's 23-20 overtime win over St. Louis in 2009.
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