Thursday, August 23, 2012

NFL Preseason Preview - St. Louis (1-1) at Dallas (1-1) (ET) - Fort Worth Star Telegram

While the Dallas Cowboys continue to be beset by injuries over the course of this preseason, Sam Bradford's health doesn't seem to be much of an issue for the St. Louis Rams.

The third-year quarterback's prolonged recovery from a high ankle sprain was a huge reason why the Rams plunged back to the bottom of the NFC with a 2-14 record last season, but he's been displaying the form that earned him the league's Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2010 through St. Louis' first two warm-up efforts under new head coach Jeff Fisher.After going 7-of-9 for 57 yards in a loss at Indianapolis to begin the slate, Bradford helped the Rams to a 31-17 victory over in-state rival Kansas City last Saturday at the Edward Jones Dome by firing two touchdown passes in the game's first five minutes. The former No. 1 overall pick finished with 102 yards while making good on 6-of-9 attempts in just one quarter's worth of snaps.Lance Kendricks and Danny Amendola were on the receiving end of Bradford's scoring strikes and Steven Jackson contributed 49 yards on just seven carries to an all-around good effort by the Rams. St. Louis' defense chipped in as well by recording five sacks and forcing four turnovers on the evening.Cowboys triggerman Tony Romo also had a strong showing his last time out, with the veteran signal-caller competing 9-of-13 passes for 75 yards while playing sparingly in Dallas' 28-20 loss at San Diego this past Saturday.Romo was operating minus several key weapons against the Chargers, with tight end Jason Witten (lacerated spleen), wide receiver Miles Austin (hamstring), center Phil Costa (back) and left guard Nate Livings (hamstring) all inactive for the contest. Neither Witten nor Austin will play the remainder of the preseason, while dangerous wideout Dez Bryant is out for Saturday's clash as well after experiencing knee tendinitis in recent practices.Livings is expected to return for Saturday's tilt, and Dallas' defense will also get back three starters who were all held out last weekend -- nose tackle Jay Ratliff (plantar fasciitis), outside linebacker Anthony Spencer (hamstring) and end Jason Hatcher (groin).The Cowboys also faced San Diego without pass-rushing terror DeMarcus Ware, who's doubtful for this week's game because of a mild hamstring strain. The defense still fared quite well despite its depleted state, limiting the Chargers to 53 rushing yards and getting a pair of interceptions of Philip Rivers from free-agent cornerback Brandon Carr.Dallas was also strong on that side of the ball in its opener, yielding a modest 253 total yards in a 3-0 shutout win at Oakland on Aug. 13.Austin and Bryant's unavailability should provide extended looks for a host of candidates competing to be the Cowboys' No. 3 receiver. Cole Beasley, an undrafted rookie out of Southern Methodist, may now have a leg up on the job after amassing 104 yards on seven receptions against San Diego.Returnees Kevin Ogletree (four catches, 64 yards) and Dwayne Harris (four catches, 42 yards, 1 TD) also stated their case with productive outings last week.St. Louis comes into the game with fewer medical concerns, with ex-Packers center Scott Wells set to make his Rams debut this weekend after recovering from offseason knee surgery and wide receiver Brandon Gibson (hamstring) questionable to return from a one-game absence. Fellow wideout Danario Alexander (hamstring), cornerback Bradley Fletcher (rib cage) and defensive tackle Trevor Laws (knee) are not expected to participate.Saturday's clash marks the 24th all-time preseason meeting between these teams, but the first of the exhibition variety since 2000. The Rams posted a 24-17 road decision in that bout and hold a 13-10 edge in the overall series.The Cowboys did rout the Rams by a 34-7 score in Dallas during Week 7 of last year's regular season, however, behind a superlative 253-yard, one-touchdown effort from running back DeMarco Murray.

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