July 27, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher talks with cornerback Trumaine Johnson (22) during training camp at ContinuityX Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE
Do not adjust your setting. That is a sense of deja vu, no doubt the result of the St. Louis Rams opening their preseason schedule against the Indianapolis Colts for the second straight year in a row. Last year's game against the Colts got off to a rousing start. An interception put the Rams on the Colts' 16-yard line, and Sam Bradford hit Lance Kendricks for a six-yard touchdown three plays later.
From there, the Rams went 4-0 through the preseason, building on the excitement from a near miss the season before. And then the regular season started.
Head coach Jeff Fisher approaches the preseason with something more basic in mind than setting expectations for the year ahead.
"You set out to win the games," Fisher acknowledged. "Obviously every time you compete on the field you want to work towards and achieve a victory. As far as the first preseason game, we're looking forward to watching them play. You stay somewhat basic. You don't try to out-scheme somebody and spend all this time, you want to see them block and tackle, you want to see them execute the fundamentals against a good opponent."
Blocking and tackling. It sounds so simple, yet those fundamentals eluded the Rams most weeks last season.
The approach is not substantially different than what Fisher has asked of his players on the practice field. Since starting back to work at the end of July, Fisher and his staff have emphasized speed and understanding from their players through practice sessions, even with the pads on.
Playing another opponent does offer one marked change for the team, the chance to dial up the physicality and hit someone whose paycheck has a different signature on the bottom of it.
"Obviously it was great to start camp, but after two weeks of it, I think it's about time we go out there and play someone else," Sam Bradford siad. :I'm sure our offensive line, defensive line, they're looking forward to hitting someone else, hitting someone other than our own guys. So it will be good for us to get out there Sunday."
Steven Jackson echoed that, citing the personal benefit of lowering the pad and smacking a defender.
"Whenever I can get out there, get hit around, get tackled, fall to the ground a little bit, it's all good because you've got to get your body ready as much as you've got to get mentally prepared for the season," Jackson said.
"From a physical standpoint we're really in good shape," Fisher said of his team on Friday evening.
The starters will not see extensive action on Sunday, especially running back Steven Jackson. Fisher said this week that the veteran runner could see a few less plays than the other starters even.
"You're talking about anywhere from 12 to 20 plays," Fisher said of his starters' playing time. Guys competing for a starting job could take the field earlier, so look for changes on the offensive line as well as wide receiver with the starting offense. On the other side of the ball, the corners and linebackers could see a heavier rotation early in the game.
"The challenge is going to be get guys playing time and get guys playing time early in the game," Fisher said. "Because typically as you move through the preseason starters play early and then they work backups later and we've got talented guys that are going to be playing the second half. So don't be surprised if you see some different guys playing earlier in the game over the course of the preseason."
The Rams will have a walkthrough on Saturday before suiting up on Sunday afternoon, one step in a long march toward the season ahead.
"Obviously we still have a ways to go before we're ready for the regular season, but that's what camp's for, that's what these preseason games are for," Bradford explained, with a hint of advice for fans watching Sunday's game on television. "It'll be nice to see something different, see how we adjust to those different things, you know, and learn."