EARTH CITY, Mo. -- St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher has been quite clear that his team once again won't make a decision on a starting quarterback until the moments before Sunday's meeting with the Dallas Cowboys.
With Shaun Hill's injured thigh still in doubt, there are plenty of signs pointing to Austin Davis getting a second consecutive start. Davis impressed in his first NFL start last week against Tampa Bay when he completed 22-of-29 for 235 yards with many of those completions coming in the face of pressure and in tight late-game situations.
Should Davis get the call against the Cowboys, there are many ways for him to be even better. And he'll likely have to be given that this week's opponent will almost certainly be better than the one the Rams saw last week.
"We left some points on the field," Davis said. "We’re not going to be able to do that this week. Dallas has a great offense. They’re going to score points and we’re going to have to match that.”
That Davis is even able to talk about making improvements from one week to the next is a testament to his fortitude. Last year at this time, he was looking for a job on an NFL roster. The Rams had released him after a rough training camp and preseason, in part because of his penchant for taking off and running too early rather than hanging in the pocket and keeping his eyes downfield waiting for something to materialize.
When Davis re-signed with the Rams after Sam Bradford's Week 7 injury in Carolina, they set about getting that part of his game squared away. Davis' progress wasn't as apparent on the practice field in this camp as it was during the preseason games but the difference was still noticeable.
“He’s always been real athletic," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "That’s one of the first things we really liked about him. I think him working with [quarterbacks coach Frank] Cignetti on some of the pocket movement stuff certainly helps. But really the only way to do it is to get out there and play.
"Certainly by going against our defense in practice when he was running the scout team stuff, you get a lot of work on that because obviously they are very good at rushing the passer. It’s something he’s worked on. The hardest part of doing that is not the movement part, he’s got those skills, it’s keeping your eyes up and kind of seeing where your receivers are going. ”
In that regard, what Davis did last week against Tampa Bay was even more of a surprise. Time and again he hung in the pocket with pressure bearing down on him and delivered an accurate throw, none more so than what amounted to the game winner to receiver Austin Pettis in the fourth quarter.
And though the Rams didn't ask Davis to do much until those closing moments, they also didn't scale back the offense for him at all. If it looked simple, it's because that's mostly what the offense is. In addition to his ability to maneuver in the pocket and make throws against pressure, Davis also has shown a willingness to take some shots down the field.
Through two games, Davis is 9-of-12 on throws 15 yards or more down the field. That's the highest completion percentage on such throws among qualified quarterbacks.
“There were a lot of things for him to improve, still are," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "Again, he’s got to put another good game together this week. He’s not going to be satisfied, we’re not going to be satisfied with just one good game. That was something again when he came back he had a plan. He came back in great shape. He really worked hard this offseason, spent some time doing some stuff on his own. He came back ready to play and ready to compete.”
Fisher has repeatedly made it clear that there is no quarterback controversy to be found in St. Louis. But if indeed Davis gets a second consecutive start, an improvement over last week could make it one.