Week One: Post-Game Observations
Week One: Post-Game Observations
Are you ready for some football!?!
Well, it doesnít appear as if the Rams were. Miscues on both sides of the ball throughout the game made this a tough one to watch and probably even a tougher one to be a part of. But perhaps the most crushing part of the game was not the final score but the number of injuries the Rams sustained during the contest. Letís break this one down, shall we?
Offensively, the Rams appeared to run the ball fairly well. Steven Jackson started things off with a big gain for 47-yards. Roger Saffold, Jacob Bell, and a downfield block by Lance Kendricks helped free the Beast on the opening score. But Jackson would pull up with a quad injury that would keep him out the rest of the day. In his place, Cadillac Williams looks like the back-up the Rams were looking for. He showed good vision, good elusiveness, and good hands out of the backfield. He finished the day with 140 total yards, giving Rams faithful hope that they may have found their #2 RB solution.
Unfortunately, there werenít many solutions on offense beyond that. Sam Bradford looked off to start the season. He did not get much help from his receivers, a supposedly improved unit that struggled to get open and dropped multiple passes. He did not get much help from protectors, an expensive unit made up of top free agents and draft picks. But there were plays to be made that he just missed on.
Sam did not attempt an intermediate or deep downfield throw until the game was well out of hand in the fourth quarter. He checked down a number of times and his accuracy was not present. On at least three occasions, open receivers had to make significant adjustments to passes that were thrown either low or to the side, two of which resulted in incompletions. Sam had at least one if not two red zone touchdowns that he missed by either checking down or overthrowing the receiver. To his credit, he had an Oscar-worthy play-action fake on a reverse, but if thatís the best individual play youíve made all game, then itís not been your best outing.
When you look at how the rest of the offense played, one can understand why Bradford had trouble finding a rhythm. The offensive line did a poor job protecting Bradford on the day. He was rushed and hit numerous times, sacked four times. Just about everyone had a day theyíre like to forget. Jason Smith was pushed around before leaving the game with injury, allowing Adam Goldberg to pick up where Smith left off. Roger Saffold was beaten badly on a sack by Trent Cole as well. Protection issues couldnít have made Bradford feel too comfortable.
While Sam missed some throws, it didnít help that a number of the ones he did make were dropped by his new and improved receiving corps. For as talented as rookie tight end Lance Kendricks looked in the preseason, he had a rough day today with two first down drops that stood out like a sore thumb. Brandon Gibsonís hands were supposed to have improved last year and coming into this year, but he had two drops on catchable balls as well (he did make a nice diving catch on a deep sideline pass, however). Rookie receiver Greg Salas dropped a low ball but showed decent elusiveness on a WR screen late in the game. Heralded free-agent pick-up Mike Sims-Walker was targeted only three times by Bradford all day, coming away with one reception. This unit, which was supposed to be upgraded from last seasonís underwhelming group, opened the year with more of the same Ė inability to separate (it should be noted they were playing a talented secondary) and dropped balls.
There were some bright spots on defense, but like their offensive counterparts, those highlights were soon flushed out by poor performances the rest of the day. The Rams did a good job early in the game containing LeSean McCoy. But by the fourth quarter, the Rams were overpursuing and losing containment like it was their job, allowing McCoy to run all over them, specifically for a 40+ yard touchdown run. The Rams added a number of new names at outside linebacker, but I donít think they got their moneyís worth in todayís outing. On Shadyís long touchdown run, new strong side linebacker Brady Poppinga was caught cheating way too far to his left, and safety Craig Dahl did not fill the very large gap adequately enough.
Many fans were a bit confused when Robert Quinnís name appeared on the inactive list. The Rams must think theyíll be able to pressure Vick adequately without him, we all concluded. Well, so much for that idea. Unless the Rams were bringing a heavy blitz, then the pressure was inconsistent at best from the Ramsí front unit. And this was going against an Eagles offensive line made up of castaways along the interior and a left guard playing right tackle. Chris Long had a couple of pressures and a gimme sack that was forced by a blitzing defender, but James Hallís impact was felt more in the running game than in pressuring the quarterback. The interior defensive line made little noise and were generally washed out against the run. The Ramsí defensive lineman on more than a few occasions today found themselves suctioned into the same area of the Eagles offensive line, allowing Vick a clear running lane for a big gain. I donít know whose idea it was to only rush three on third down, but obviously St. Louis did not get to the quarterback and allowed long completions. Maybe Quinn can contribute next week as a situational rusher; we could sure use it.
In the secondary, I thought it was a solid performance for some, not so much for others. Ron Bartell didnít really impress me today. He was step for step with DeSean Jackson on an early deep pass but typically couldnít locate the ball to break it up. He was also flagged for hands to the face while trying to piggy-back on Jeremy Maclin on what would become a touchdown drive for Philadelphia. Prior to Bartellís penalty, Bradley Fletcher had one of his own that gave the Eagles even more yardage. But overall I thought Fletcher had the better game both in coverage and on an early blitz that helped Chris Long get his sack. Justin King, what can I say? He looked lost in coverage today and had a hard time making some tackles. As a blitzer off the edge, he showed some ability. But the Rams should expect more from their nickel corner. At safety, Quintin Mikell looked like a man who was ready to face off against his former team. He generally tackled well in the open field and had a nice forced fumble on a safety blitz. He did appear to get victimized on the DeSean Jackson touchdown pass in the back left corner of the end zone, however. Craig Dahl continued to show why heís a marginal starter. He was out of position more than once in run support, allowing big plays.
On special teams, the Ramsí coverage looked fairly good; it always helps when your opponent runs the ball out from eight yards deep in the endzone. But Danny Amendola had some issues with punt returns, and Josh Brown missed a field goal from within 50-yards. Any time you have a chance to put points on the board, you have to take it, especially against a better team.
Ultimately, this day was not only bad for the Rams because of the result, but because of all the injuries to key starters that were sustained during the contest. Steven Jackson (quad), Jason Smith (ankle), Danny Amendola (dislocated elbow), Sam Bradford (finger), and Ron Bartell (stinger) all left the game at one point with fans holding their collective breath. Of all of them, Amendolaís appears to be the most serious of the group, which is a huge blow as he still is the receiver Bradford feels most comfortable with. If heís forced to miss an extended period of time, then someone else on an underwhelming unit will need to step up.
All in all, while we were all happy to see the return of NFL football, this was not the opening day many Rams fans expected. The Rams faced quite a bit of adversity, and while the game was closer than the score would indicate, head coach Steve Spagnuolo and company have a lot of work to do to rebound from this defeat. Fans knew the first part of this 2011 schedule would be rough though, so if the coaching staff and players can get some of these mistakes corrected and begin to find a comfort level on both sides of the ball, we may see a completely different Rams team down the stretch.
The key for St. Louis will be... how does this team respond?
Re: Week One: Post-Game Observations
Rams respond by presenting the run game, which seems to be their strength, offensivelyat this point. If Jax can't go, mix in heavy doses of Cadillac and Norwood. If Sam is limited, were in trouble with Feeley.