Running back Steven Jackson noted all teams are playing catch-up after the lockout, but felt good about the team's progress in the new system. Jackson often had to slog for yards in last year's conservative attack that eased quarterback Sam Bradford into the NFL, but there's anticipation he'll be more of a receiving threat this year.
"I think coach McDaniels is going to allow for myself to be displayed in places that we've all seen before," Jackson said. "It may be a refresher to some, but nothing different, nothing new, just help me be a better player overall."
Danny Amendola and free-agent pickup Mike Sims-Walker were Bradford's top targets in a scrimmage last Saturday and lead a much deeper wide receiver corps than the Rans had in coach Steve Spagnuolo's first two seasons. Guard Harvey Dahl adds another well-regarded big body to the line and rookie Lance Kendricks looks like an upgrade at tight end.
For the first time in his career, Jackson has two capable backups in free-agent pickups Cadillac Williams and Jerious Norwood.
"The sky's the limit for us," Sims-Walker said. "I think we've got all the tools to be great."
Spagnuolo has been impressed overall with Bradford's command of the offense, although he said Bradford struggled in practice on Wednesday.
"I think he's picking up a lot of the mental stuff pretty well and he seems to be running that huddle extremely well," Spagnuolo said. "I look at the whole picture, how are they are meshing?
"Maybe I assume that Sam's going to do well, so I don't look at that part."
Sims-Walker said he'd rather be catching passes from Bradford than any other quarterback in the NFL. He's been playing at all three receiving spots.
"I'm not going to learn all this overnight," Sims-Walker said. "I've been studying my butt off, working, trying to get it down, and I think I've caught on pretty good."
Sims-Walker caught 43 passes with a 13.1-yard average and seven touchdowns last year for the Jacksonville Jaguars. That was a falloff from 2009, when he had 63 catches, so he has something to prove.
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"I just call it Chapter 2, this is part two of my story," Sims-Walker said.
Spagnuolo estimated Thursday night that "Sam's crew" would probably get 12-15 plays. The Rams practiced in shoulder pads only the last two days, a lighter load physically heading into the game, and Friday's practice will be shortened.
"It'll be good to hit somebody else, I know that," Spagnuolo said. "I'm just hoping the fact that you're playing another team juices them up for an evening. We can have a good go at it."
Veteran cornerback Al Harris (knee) was restricted to conditioning drills. Two second-year tight ends, Mike Hoomanawanui (concussion) and Fendi Onobun (groin), have had minor setbacks.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press