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Rams’ Pass Rush Makes Dash to Sidelines

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Raider quarterback Jeff Hostetler dropped back in the pocket and waited, and waited . . . and waited.

Hostetler camped out and took whatever time he needed to take target practice on the Rams’ secondary Saturday night, a rare luxury for any NFL quarterback.

So where was the stellar pass rush the Rams had promised their fans this season?

For the most part, limping to the sidelines after failing to put any pressure on Hostetler, who moved the Raiders up and down the field at will in the first half of a 29-20 exhibition victory at Anaheim Stadium.

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By late in the second quarter, starting defensive tackle Sean Gilbert and defensive end Gerald Robinson were sidelined with ankle injuries, and the Rams were forced to line backup linebacker Henry Rolling at right defensive end after incompetence by backups left them no other choice.

“We couldn’t get any pass rush,” Ram Coach Chuck Knox said. “We gave the quarterback plenty of time to throw and move around.”

Robinson, who has started three exhibition games at right defensive end in place of Fred Stokes (sprained knee), limped to the locker room to have his sore left ankle X-rayed.

Rookie Ernest Jones, a converted linebacker, replaced Robinson but soon was pulled in favor of rookie Brad Ottis, a second-round pick.

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After Ottis failed to get within the same area code as Hostetler on one series, the Rams were left with Rolling, who was replaced at outside linebacker this week by free-agent acquisition Joe Kelly. “We have to acknowledge that we have three starters out,” Knox said. “And we’re awfully thin out there.”

But the biggest loss was Gilbert, who sprained his left ankle when a pile of players fell on him with 41 seconds left in the second quarter.

Knox said Gilbert and Robinson will be examined today. But defensive end Robert Young, who’s coming off knee surgery last season, fears the worst with Gilbert.

“They (trainers) said Sean should be back in a couple weeks,” Young said. “He hurt his knee and his ankle on the play, and they said the ankle was worse. They’re talking about doing an MRI (exam). I’m praying for him.”

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Defensive tackle Jimmie Jones, the Rams’ prized free-agent acquisition from Dallas, spent a good part of the first half getting his sore right wrist examined before returning in the third quarter.

The Rams had entered training camp last month confident that their defensive line would be one of their strengths. Perhaps the strength.

And now? Less than a month into training camp, they have already flown in defensive ends Charles Mann and Jeff Bryant for workouts, hoping to add depth to the line as Stokes rehabilitates his knee.

Mann, a former Pro Bowl player with Washington, has undergone nine knee surgeries, including two in the past year. Bryant had played for Knox in Seattle.

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“Yes, everybody looked at us as a strength coming in,” Young said. “But to see guys like Sean, Gerald and Fred going down week after week is very frustrating. They’re some of our marquee players.”

After failing to produce a sack in last week’s loss to New England, the Rams’ first-string defense again couldn’t get close to Hostetler. Hostetler completed 12-consecutive passes in one stretch, threw for one touchdown and ran for another in leading the Raiders to a 20-3 halftime lead.

So the Rams are now 0-3 in the exhibition season and haven’t won an exhibition game in two seasons. Has this shaken the team’s confidence? “The only thing that will shake my confidence,” Young said, “will be if we lose Sean or Gerald for the year.”


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