Boller set for longer fill-in job as Rams starting QB

ST. LOUIS -- Kyle Boller made two starts earlier in the season for the St. Louis Rams, filling in for injured quarterback Marc Bulger.

Boller is the starter again, perhaps for the rest of the year, with Bulger out three to six weeks with a broken left shin bone. Besides getting a longer stint, it appears he'll have a better chance for success.

The Rams (1-9) are still one of the NFL's worst teams, but have made strides on offense in recent weeks. Steven Jackson enters Sunday's game against Seattle (3-7) with four straight 100-yard games behind an improving line, although he missed practice Wednesday due to lower back spasms. Inexperience has been less of a problem with the team's no-name wide receiver corps.

The Ramsbeat the Lions 17-10 for their first victory earlier this month and set a season high for scoring two weeks ago in a 28-23 loss to the unbeaten Saints.

"I think our offense has made huge strides," Boller said Wednesday. "It's one of those deals where I'm excited to be in there with these guys.

"Steven's done great, the offensive line's done great, and I think our receivers have stepped up."

Boller, who signed a one-year contract with the Rams, started two games earlier this season when Bulger was out with a bruised rotator cuff. He also filled in during the preseason after Bulger fractured the pinkie on his right hand, and now he's getting an audition for 2010.

He hasn't played since Week 5, a 38-10 loss to the Vikings in which the Rams had 400 yards total offense but negated it with three turnovers inside the Minnesota 10. Boller threw an interception in the end zone and made the most costly turnover on the Rams' fifth play of the game, fumbling without contact and the Vikings' Jared Allen scoring on a 52-yard return.

"Thanks for the reminder," Boller said with a wry smile. "We've got to protect the football. We can't turn the ball over, we can't give them points."

Jackson expects to play, and the Seahawks (3-7) are certain he will.

"Oh, he's going to play," coach Jim Mora said. "Big deal. That's not unusual for a running back who's carrying the ball as much as he has, to miss a day of practice."

Jackson is second in the NFL with 1,031 yards rushing after his fourth straight 100-yard game last week in a loss to the Cardinals and also is second in the NFL with 1,262 yards from scrimmage.

Jackson said he wasn't hurt on any particular play, referring to the injury as "wear and tear of the year."

"Anyone who has had any back problems, it's just one of those things where you've just got to wait it out," Jackson said.

The Rams haven't signed another quarterback, leaving rookie Keith Null as the backup. The sixth-round pick took his first snaps with the first-string offense on Wednesday, but Spagnuolo would be happy if Null doesn't play a down the rest of the way.

"I hope not to, if that makes any sense," Spagnuolo said. "The thought process hasn't gone that way."

That's sure to disappoint disgruntled Rams fans who've been clamoring for the rookie given the team is losing big anyway.

Wide receivers Danny Amendola and Ruvell Martin took some snaps in preparation for emergency duty. Amendola said he hasn't played quarterback since his freshman year in high school, but seemed confident.

"I'm what you call an athlete," Amendola joked, "so I like to think I can get it done."

Guard Richie Incognito (foot) was restricted to conditioning work and is likely to miss a fourth straight game. Rookie offensive tackle Jason Smith did not pass baseline tests for what Spagnuolo termed a mild concussion and the coach believed Smith would be tested again Thursday.

Punter Donnie Jones (illness) was sent home.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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