Culver City Observer -

Rams Trim Roster, Prepare For Opening Game

 

September 1, 2016

"It's not easy and I think that the most important thing here is, the guys that we released here over the last couple of days, in addition to those that aren't going to make the final roster," said Los Angeles Ram Head Coach Jeff Fisher on Tuesday, August 30.

"... those are guys that have done nothing but one, compete for an opportunity at a roster spot, but two, also helped us to get better, they helped us to improve. So, you have to show appreciation for that."

The Rams had just announced the 14 players cut from the 2016 squad in order to reach the NFL-mandated 75-man roster limit. Just three days earlier the team had lost their first preseason game of the year to the Denver Broncos, 17-9 at Mile High Stadium.

On Thursday, September 1, they'll face the Minnesota Vikings, who are now without the services of starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater who suffered a dislocated knee and torn ACL at the team's practice on Tuesday. As a precautionary measure the Rams have already rested running back Todd Gurley for two of their three exhibition games this summer.

Two days later on September 3 includes one more roster cut by 4 p.m. EST to reduce the roster to 53 players heading into the regular season. L.A. is preparing for the Viking game with its season opener in mind, a Monday Night game against the San Francisco 49er's at Levi Stadium, Monday, September 12.

"I think you're going to see everybody play just a little bit more, there may be a couple guys that don't play... We're going to go out and try to win this football game, and evaluate some players. There are still a few players that have an opportunity to show us some things as far as an opportunity to either make the 53 or the practice squad roster," said Fisher.

L.A. took the initial lead over Denver on the place kicking of Greg Zuerlein. The Broncos responded with rookie quarterback Trevor Siemian tossing a one-yarder to tight end Virgil Green. Zuerlein's third field goal made it 9-7, Los Angeles. Denver's Brandon McManus converted a 50-yard field goal just before the half ended to retake the lead.

Zuerlein's field goal conversions were the first field goal attempts of the year for Los Angeles. And for the first time in preseason the Ram defense prevented the opponent from scoring on their first drive and also the first quarter of the game. They gave up 299 total offensive yards and held the Bronco offense to a 26% third down efficiency ratio.

Fisher on the defense: "Defensively, better, better effort early in the game. Getting Rob (Quinn) back was good. I thought Tree (Alec Ogletree) looked a little more comfortable in the run-front. We're still giving up too many yards. We gave up some big runs with guys that are going to be on our roster in the second quarter. And we've got to get those things fixed before Week One or else we'll have some problems in the regular season."

"And then special teams, some younger guys really took a step. We tried to get both our rookie tight ends involved in special teams. It was their first exposure, and they look like they can be productive at it. So, they got another week to get fine-tuned before we start the regular season.

Starting L.A. quarterback Case Keenum directed drives to set up the first two field goals. He completed 8/12 passes for 77 yards.

Jared Goff replaced Keenum in the 2nd quarter and finished 4/12 for 45 yards. Sean Mannion replaced Goff late in the third quarter and was 6/12 for 43 yards.

"I thought the quarterbacks took a step forward. I thought Jared, even though the number weren't great, I thought he did a really good job on the line of scrimmage. His poise, his confidence, took a big hit, came back, I thought he's progressed since week one and week two. So, that's a good thing to see.

"I thought Case, you know, Case is Case," Fisher obviously referencing approval of Keenum's play.

The game against the 3-0 preseason Vikings will be played at the newly opened U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Offensively, the L.A. running game has been steady and was effective against Denver. The Rams rushed for 150 yards, a solid 5.8 yards per rush average. Keenum has completed 75% of his passes, one touchdown and no interceptions for a 111.1 QBR through three preseason games.

The unfortunate injury to Minnesota quarterback Bridgewater is a prime example of why Fisher has been very reserved in Gurley's playing time while limiting the amount of physical impact during practice. Fisher hadn't decided yet if Gurley was going to see action against the Vikings.

"Last year, he had close to eight or nine months before he saw game speed, so three weeks is nothing. If you take into consideration that he's on the practice field every day practicing and going full speed, so I'm concerned about it," said Fisher.

"He's not the only really good and talented player in the league that's not going to play much in the preseason, that's just kind of where our league's going right now.

"I think health-wise, we're good. Conditioning-wise, we're in good shape. I think mentally and emotionally we're ready to compete and we are. Everybody improves from day one through the end of camp and I think we've done that," said Fisher two days before the Viking game.

"The guys, they understand the preseason games and they understand that there's a lot of things that go on out here from a football-scheme standpoint that we don't do in preseason games. They have that realistic picture about them. Obviously it was great, regardless of what happens tomorrow night, it was great to get the two wins here at home to start off."

 

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