Jackson's return is among few positives for 0-7 Rams

Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Rams coach Scott Linehan watched from the sideline Sunday during a 33-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. (JOHN FROSCHAUER ~ Associated Press)

Linehan's job does not appear to be in immediate jeopardy despite rumors.

ST. LOUIS -- Steven Jackson could return for the St. Louis Rams this week after being out a month with a torn groin. Whether he can make any difference on a beat-up, underachieving, winless team is another story.

Coach Scott Linehan's second season has been a disaster, torpedoed early by missed opportunities before collapsing under the weight of injuries. The 0-7 start is the worst in franchise history, taking a 1962 team that finished 1-12-1 off the hook.

Linehan, who coached the Rams to an 8-8 record last year, is finding it tougher to be optimistic. His options coming off a lackluster 33-6 loss at Seattle: a home game against Cleveland followed by a bye.

"There's not a lot of things to be too happy about," Linehan said. "If we put on a good performance at home, we can salvage some things this season."

Shaw denies report

Linehan's job doesn't appear to be in immediate danger. Owner John Shaw told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that a report that Linehan could be fired during the bye week was "ridiculous."

"There will be no coaching changes during the bye week," Shaw said. "No one's happy about 0-7, including our head coach. But that's ridiculous."

The last Rams coach to get such a short leash was Rich Brooks, put on notice after a 2-7 start in 1996 and subsequently fired after a 6-10 season. Dick Vermeil got a chance for a third year after totaling nine victories his first two years, and the Rams won their first Super Bowl in 1999.

Linehan's task now is to salvage the team's often-shaken confidence. He hopes reinserting Jackson, who led the NFL in yards rushing and receiving last year, will be a spark.

"I think there's a good chance [Jackson will play]," Linehan said. "You guys all know what he adds to the table for us.

"It gives us an explosive player on the field."

The team's other stars, meanwhile, are starting to stumble. Quarterback Marc Bulger returned to the lineup after missing two games with broken ribs and had a horrible game, throwing two interceptions while getting sacked seven times. Torry Holt dropped a touchdown pass and Isaac Bruce fell down on a 31-yard catch with clear sailing ahead to blow another TD catch.

"It looks to me like it's worked its way all the way to the top," Linehan said. "Even our top players are for whatever reason lacking confidence.

"The only way out of that is to execute and make plays and finish off drives."

Scarce points

The Rams are averaging 10.1 points per game, only one point ahead of the league-worst 49ers. They've had injury issues on the offensive line and center Brett Romberg is likely out this week with a pair of sprained ankles, adding yet another issue.

Linehan, with a thin smile, said the line would have its "umpteenth" combination this week with Andy McCollum starting at center and Claude Terrell filling in at left guard.

Bulger had little time to operate behind a makeshift line that struggled, with guard Richie Incognito and tackle Milford Brown both having troubles.

The Rams' defense is a rock by comparison. The Seahawks game was the first time coordinator Jim Haslett had his projected opening-day lineup on the field and Seattle was held to 289 total yards by a unit paced by linebacker Will Witherspoon's 16 tackles.

"If you've been around our guys and see them in the locker room, they don't lack confidence," Haslett said. "They're actually having fun out there playing.

"It's frustrating like this whole team is, but they have a nice bond. I think it's a pretty good group."

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