The most notable name on the final injury reports for the 49ers and Rams is wide receiver Danny Amendola. The Rams receiver has been out since Week 5 with a shoulder injury, but appears set to return after a limited week of practice. All signs seem to point to him playing, and he could provide a big spark for a struggling Rams team.
I spoke with Joe McAtee from Turf Show Times, and we touched on some areas of the offense. I asked him first about the passing offense and what to make of it. His biggest concern focused on space in the middle of the field.
It's still a very unimpressive passing offense, largely because there's no WR or TE who can consistently work the intermediate passing game. Amendola's quickness always makes him a threat underneath on short routes; as defenders overplay those, the Rams can take advantage of that a bit deeper. Rookie Chris Givens has the speed to beat defenses over the top, but Sam's been wise enough more often than not to pick his spots with Givens.
The problem is that even with the defensive response to Givens and Amendola at both ends of the defense, the Rams don't have anyone capable of exploiting the space in the middle. Between Brandon Gibson, Austin Pettis, Steve Smith, rookie Brian Quick and TE Lance Kendricks, nobody has really stepped up to be a reliable target. The hope for Rams fans is that Quick, an underdeveloped athlete out of Appalachian State, will develop into the top wideout option the Rams have been lacking for years. The trajectory's pretty long on his development, though, so Rams fans are trying to remain patient with him in year one.
As the Rams try and sort through their passing attack, a transition is happening on offense. Long-time standout Steven Jackson is still the starting running back, but is starting to run out of gas. The Rams drafted Isaiah Pead in the middle of the second round with hopes of developing him behind Jackson. Little did they know that seventh round pick Daryl Richardson would take the number two role and run with it.
I asked Joe about the Rams rushing attack and what kind of ratio we might expect to see between Jackson and Richardson:
I'm not sure the Rams have a specific balance they're looking to implement week-to-week. Steven Jackson is still atop the depth chart at RB, but it's obvious the Rams feel comfortable giving Richardson carries in key situations not just to give Jackson a rest. So for at least the first half, I expect a 3:2 or 2:1 ratio between Jackson's carries and Richardson's; as for the second half, I think it's a matter of seeing if either can get anything done in the ground game.
As for how they'll attack it, I don't expect any changes. Richardson's strength is working the right side on plays designed for the B/C or C/D gap pair. With Rodger Saffold likely coming back at LT and Scott Wells finally ready to take over starting duties at center, I'm not sure if the Rams immediately run their direction or if they plan to slowly incorporate them into the running game. Those two likely impact Jackson more as he's much more versatile, and elusive, than Richardson.
It will be interesting to see if the Rams stick with the run and try and force the issue, or if they eventually give up on the run as we have seen several teams do this season. If the game is put on Bradford's shoulders in this manner, it could make for a long day for the Rams.