Long before Eric Dickerson considered taking the season off, Coach John Robinson went looking for a passing attack.
He rounded up quarterback Dieter Brock from Canada, tight end Tony Hunter from Buffalo and wide receiver Chuck Scott from Vanderbilt.
The result? It's still too soon to tell, but so far the passing game has resembled a lead balloon.
In three exhibition games, the Rams haven't thrown a touchdown pass. Hunter, acquired in trade for Vince Ferragamo, and Scott, a second-round draft choice, have caught only one pass each, and the television public's first view of Brock from Columbus, Ohio, last weekend failed to create visions of Super Bowl XX.
"I'm certainly not worried about him," Robinson said. "I think our passing game is doing fine, if we had passed well last weekend. We slipped backward."
The Rams lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, 14-12, but Robinson was more disappointed with appearances than results.
He partly blamed himself for sending his team into a game without a game plan, leaving the quarterbacks and receivers to operate in an uncoordinated offense. But the wide receivers have been generally unimpressive.
Looking at the starters, Henry Ellard has caught eight passes but also has dropped half that many, and Ron Brown has yet to flash his Olympic speed since having arthroscopic knee surgery in July.
Brown said he is not near returning to full speed.
"About 85%," he said. "(The knee) still gets sore. I can't cut or put any pressure on it like I need to."
Receiver coach Lew Erber said: "Brown probably has less experience than anyone out there, as far as catching the ball. He's probably caught 50 balls in his whole life and isn't in the greatest shape now."
The backups are more enigmatic.
"I'm in a dilemma there," Robinson said. "Our situation is not clear."
The immediate problem is that he must reduce the roster by nine players to 50 today, then to 45 next week. He wants to keep the best one or two backup wide receivers, but he isn't sure who they are.
Other wide receivers still on the roster are sixth-round draftee Michael Young of UCLA, free agent Michael Harper from USC, and veterans George Farmer and Otis Grant--with Ellard, Brown and Scott, a total of seven.
Erber said: "It'll be the hardest cut I've been involved with and the worst year for going to 45. We could make a decision that could be totally wrong."
As Grant walked off the practice field Monday he said: "We worked out here today in 100 degrees and nobody let up. That shows we want to get it done."
It also shows that most of them except Ellard and Brown are worried about their jobs.
Scott has said: "I don't want to make the team just because I was a second-rounder. I don't want them to think, 'He's not that good, but we have to keep him.' I'm about as nervous and anxious as everybody else to see how it's gonna turn out."
Grant, who has five receptions, said: "There's been a lot of receivers going in and out. I'm playing a position where I'm learning on the run. But we're gonna keep scrapping until we get it right."
The receivers stayed after practice Monday for extra drills, and Hunter stayed alone after that to work with assistant coach Norval Turner.
"I asked him to do some ball reaction drills," Hunter said. "We hadn't done those here."
Eric Dickerson's backup, Barry Redden, was excused from Monday's and today's practices to attend his grandmother's funeral in Florida. . . . Defensive back Eric Harris also was absent. He was having his lingering knee injury checked. He'll miss some practice time but won't have surgery. . . . On the impasse with unsigned nose tackle Greg Meisner, Coach John Robinson said: "We'll have an announcement on that very soon." A trade seems imminent.