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Bulger's stats suffer early in preseason
ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams' revamped offense has done little for Marc Bulger's numbers so far.
In two preseason games the quarterback is an uninspiring 10-for-23 for 85 yards and three interceptions, one returned for a touchdown. Factor in the return yardage on the picks, and Bulger, one of the NFL's highest paid at his position, has a net of 3 yards in the air.
It's not the only reason the first-string offense, turned over to new offensive coordinator Al Saunders this year, still has not scored in 10 preseason games under coach Scott Linehan. Running back Steven Jackson remains a holdout entering the final year of his contract, two of the interceptions were on tipped balls, and there have been some dropped passes.
Still, Bulger knows he can do a lot better.
"I've been doing this a long time, and I know nights like tonight aren't acceptable for whatever reason," Bulger said. "There's a million reasons why I could tell you things happen, but you know, it's a bottom line business.
Bulger's 63.5 completion percentage is second in franchise history and sixth-best among active quarterbacks. The Rams have been forecasting a big rebound for him coming off an injury-plagued 2007 in which he had more interceptions (15) than touchdown passes (11).
Bulger's interceptions in Saturday's 7-6 victory over the Chargers came on consecutive passes in the first quarter. San Diego was without 14 starters because of injuries or player conservation, with six missing on defense, and backup cornerbacks Antoine Cason and Cletus Gordon totaled 69 yards on the two interception returns to set up a pair of short field goals.
Cason returned a long pass that was tipped by tight end Randy McMichael, and Gordon jumped a timing sideline route intended for Drew Bennett.
"This is a precision game and timing. You've got to be right on," Linehan said. "We've just been off a couple of clicks. I have no concerns at all that it'll start coming around."
Bulger was taken out after getting hit from behind while preparing to pass late in the first half, and the team feared a rotator cuff injury for a few minutes. After the game, he said the injury was a "5-minute thing," and is expected to be ready for the third week of the preseason.
Another factor in the latest slow start is tackle Orlando Pace's somewhat uneven play coming off a season-ending shoulder injury in last year's opener. Wide receiver Torry Holt was held out of Saturday's game due to a minor back issue.
"We're definitely starting off slow on offense," Linehan said. "We've got to get our timing down. I don't want to go through the litany of reasons why. It doesn't matter. We've just got to get meshed together."
Jackson's backups were not the problem against the Chargers, with Antonio Pittman gaining 67 yards on nine carries, Travis Minor getting 39 yards on 11 carries and the lone touchdown, and Brian Leonard gaining 38 yards on eight attempts.
The first stringers just missed scoring their first touchdown in the second quarter, making it to the 1 before getting pushed back and then denied.