As has been his custom for the better part of his NFL career, Rams running back
Perhaps earlier in his career, it was a chance for Jackson to pull up a seat on the bench, relax and zone out for the rest of the game as his younger teammates handled the rest of the game.
At this stage in his career, Jackson can’t do much of that anymore. Now entering his ninth season, Jackson is the elder statesman and leader for the youngest team in the league and young players at all positions value his opinion most outside of the coaching staff’s.
“I am very honed in on what’s going on with the young guys,” Jackson said. “Believe it or not after every series they ask me what I think so I have to pay attention. But I actually learn from those young guys too. The more I can teach them, the more I can show them what I think and what can help, I can pay attention to detail for myself to make sure I am working on the same thing so I am leading and not just teaching, actually doing these things so when they try to work on it themselves, they see me do it routinely.”
So while Jackson only figures to get maybe a series or two of work against Kansas City on Saturday night at the Edward Jones Dome, he’ll be fully engaged for most of the game as his youthful teammates look to improve upon the 35-point loss the Rams suffered in last week’s preseason opener at Indianapolis.
The Governor’s Cup will be on the line Saturday night, the reward for the winner of the intrastate rivalry game, a reward the Rams currently hold for last year’s 14-10 win in Kansas City.
But it isn’t the trophy that Rams coach Jeff Fisher and his charges are worried about entering this second preseason game. No, the name of the game for the Rams is improvement.
In the loss to the Colts, Fisher was disappointed in a number of areas, namely pass protection and finishing drives with points, among others. That’s why he’s not limiting what he wants to see improved this week to just one or two things.
“Every area,” Fisher said. “We need to get better in all phases and everything that we do. That’s what you like to see as you progress through the preseason.”
The first units on offense and defense figure to get a little more work this week though it’s not likely the difference will be too substantial.
Fisher’s approach to the preseason is to gradually work his starters in more and more, even through the fourth and final preseason game in an effort to be as tuned up as possible for the regular season opener.
Last week, the starters played through the first quarter and a little bit of a cameo into the second before calling it a day. Jackson will likely be more limited than the rest of the top offense as that group looks to build on what was a strong opening drive against the Colts that was derailed by a delay of game penalty.
“I expect to be out there more than we were in game one,” Jackson said. “The initial drive we were moving pretty good until we had a couple penalties. I'm pretty sure coach will keep us out there a little longer to make sure we get into the groove of things and hopefully get in the red zone and be able to work on some red zone packages.”
Of course, Jackson also said his workload could be substantially shorter in a certain situation.
“You can always score on one play so you know,” Jackson said. “Maybe we’ll score on two plays.”
Fisher openly acknowledged last week that the team’s approach to the Colts was as vanilla as possible. In fact, the Rams didn’t do any game planning for Indianapolis at all and even stayed out of most of their most basic packages throughout the game.
This week will be more of the same as the Rams hadn’t even discussed Kansas City all week save for a few minutes at the end of Thursday’s practice.
“We may add a few more things,” Fisher said. “But we’re still going to be somewhat conservative.”
The Colts came with a more expansive game plan and the Chiefs could do the same but Fisher said he doesn’t let what other teams do in terms of preseason scheming affect his approach.
“That’s their prerogative,” Fisher said. “But we have a plan and we’re going to follow the plan.”
On the other side of the ball, the Rams also figure to be basic and avoid showing too much in terms of mixed fronts, coverages and pressures.
One thing they will do is play their young players quite a bit; players like rookie defensive tackle
Brockers said he’s hoping to make a big leap from game one to game two now that he’s been able to get the butterflies that accompanied his first preseason game out of his system.
“I did all right but I am my hardest critic,” Brockers said. “There were a lot of plays I could have finished and we could have had some big plays, some sacks and stuff like that. So I just really got the jitters, got the speed of the game going so I think this game will be a lot better than the first game.”
The nerves that go with the debut game for so many of the players on the Rams young roster should be out of the way this week, allowing them to go out and play more freely.
Still, this will be the first time this group has played a game in front of the home fans at the Edward Jones Dome. And while the scrimmage/Fan Fest gave the home team an opportunity to get to know its fans, that crowd will likely pale in comparison to the one that shows up Saturday night.
To help alleviate some of those jitters, Fisher plans to take his team to the Edward Jones Dome tonight for a walkthrough of how things are done and an introduction to the home locker room – something they missed out on at the scrimmage as the team offered tours to its fans.
Although the venue will change and the Rams will have the support of the St. Louis fans, the approach that Fisher and his team are taking to this preseason slate of games will not.
“We went 4-0 in the preseason before and I think we all know how that worked out,” Jackson said. “So initially we need to work on guys’ technique, making sure we all know the scheme and we’re meshing together.”