Practice Report: Gameplanning Matthews; Givens Coming On
Some notes from the first two practices of the week for the St. Louis Rams, who are preparing to host the Green Bay Packers Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome:
-The Rams are preparing for a dangerous but banged-up Packers defense, and they’re making extra sure they know where Packers LB Clay Matthews is at all times. Practice squad LB Sammy Brown was the Matthews stand-in at Wednesday’s practice, complete with a blond wig to mimic Matthews’ flowing locks. Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said it’s tough to really emulate Matthews in practice but they at least wanted to raise QB Sam Bradford’s awareness of where Matthew is on the field.
“He’s really good,” Bradford said of Matthews. “Obviously he’s a game changer. He’s someone that you have to be very aware of where he lines up. When he gets going, he’s tough to block. We can’t let him take over the game. We’ve got to make sure that he’s accounted for at all times.”
-The Rams haven’t had a true burner at wideout maybe since the days of Az-Zahir Hakim, but rookie WR Chris Givens is becoming Bradford’s go-to deep threat. Givens isn’t a high-volume receiver with just seven catches on the year, but he’s come on in recent weeks.
After not registering a catch in the first two games of the season and making just two for nine yards in week three at Chicago, Givens has a catch of at least 51 yards in each of the last three games. Givens had his best day as a pro Sunday in Miami, catching three passes for 85 yards including a 65-yard bomb in the first quarter.
“He’s got tremendous speed,” Bradford said. “He’s a great route runner. He’s just got a feel for finding holes, getting behind people. I think the more we’ve worked together, the more comfortable I’ve become with him out there and I think that’s been pretty apparent the past couple of weeks in the big plays that he’s been able to make.”
Besides his natural ability, Givens’ work ethic has gotten high marks from his teammates and coaches.
“He works really hard at it,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “He gets a lot of the deep routes. He gets put in some positions, but I think it’s developed through time on task. It’s developed out here on the grass, in the meeting rooms. Obviously, he’s an explosive player and a guy we’re thrilled to watch develop.”
-On the injury front, WR Danny Amendola (shoulder), LB Mario Haggan (thigh), T Wayne Hunter (back) and T Rodger Saffold (knee) were all held out of practice Wednesday and Thursday. CB Janoris Jenkins (back) did not practice Wednesday but was a full participant Thursday. Wednesday was likely just an extra day of rest for the young corner.
The only notable name on the report is Hunter. He’s been on and off the injury report all season, but generally he’s been able to practice, even if limited. With Saffold out, Hunter has been handling the left tackle position admirably. If he can’t go Sunday, there’s serious question as to who will be protecting Bradford’s blind side.
-For the Packers, they’ll be without LB D.J. Smith, who was put on the injured reserve list this week. WR Greg Jennings, LB Nick Perry and CB Sam Shields have all missed practice this week as well. It seems the Packers will have the service of DT B.J. Raji, TE Jermichael Finley and RB Alex Green, who all practiced in a limited capacity Thursday.