Bernie Bytes: Rams should throw deep

BY BERNIE MIKLASZ
Friday, October 15, 2010 9:37 am

* The Rams have to take some shots downfield. I understand the wisdom of putting rookie QB Sam Bradford in high-percentage passing situations in an effort to build his confidence and comfort level and minimize mistakes. This is a process. And to this point offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and QBs coach Dick Curl have done a very good job in helping Bradford in his transition to the NFL. And I had plenty of concerns about Curl's effectiveness. But so far, everything has been fine. But now it's also time to expand a bit. Here's one of the problems: Bradford and the Rams do not try to stretch a defense. There is virtually no threat of the deep pass, and opposing defensive coordinators know it. Without having to worry about getting burned downfield, coordinators can clamp down on all of the Rams' short passes. That makes it even harder for the Rams' receivers to get yards after the catch.

According to STATS LLC, the Rams have attempted the second-lowest number of passes in which the ball is in the air for 21+ yards. Only Miami, with 9, has attempted fewer deep balls than the Rams (10). On attempts of 21+ yards, Bradford is only 2 of 10 with an interception. His passer rating of 17.9 on 21+ throws is the worst in the league. Yes, I realize the Rams are not stocked with an arsenal of deep receiving threats. It's a problem. And that problem has been made even more severe with the season-ending loss of WR Mark Clayton. But still, you can't go into the shell. You have to let the defense know that you're willing to throw it over the top. The Rams have to give defensive coordinators something else to think about when they're plotting strategy against Bradford and the Rams. Perhaps Danario Alexander can help the cause.

It makes sense for the Rams to milk the clock and try to maintain possession to keep the ball away from the high-scoring Chargers. And the Chargers will expect that, too. The element of surprise for the deep pass will be there for the Rams on Sunday.

* On the other hand, Sunday the Rams defense will see the best deep-ball passing attack in the NFL when the San Diego Chargers set up to air it out. On passing attempts of 21+ yards, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has completed 13 of 22 for 497 yards and 5 TDs. His passer rating of 143.0 on passes of 21+ throws is the best in the league. The Chargers have completed 29 of 40 passes thrown to TE Antonio Gates; that's an outrageously good percentage. He's averaging 16.5 yards per catch and has 7 TDs. One thing that amazes me about Gates is this: teams always give him a free release off the line. Why wouldn't you try to bump the guy at the line and try to disrupt his pattern? Makes no sense.

* I'm hoping the San Francisco ***** win some games ... if the 'Niners end up with the 1st overall pick (and I don't believe they will), it will set them up to take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. And he appears to be as every bit as good -- talent, intelligence and upside -- as Rams rookie QB Sam Bradford. Moving forward, the Rams have an advantage over the NFC West because they've established Bradford and he is by far the best young quarterback in the division. The other teams will likely need to address their QB position in the next year or two. Luck to the ***** would be great for San Francisco and bad for the Rams, Cardinals and Seahawks.

* Other than having good health, the key for Danario Alexander in the NFL will be his ability to handle "press" coverage from cornerbacks that get physical at the line. Several scouts have told me the same thing about DX: the question is if he can get into his routes without being hindered. Alexander usually had a free release playing WR in the spread offense at Mizzou. He could quickly get into his pattern and reach top-end speed. I'm sure DX has worked on that during his time with the Rams, so at some point we'll see the improvement. He is certainly big enough to handle the physical coverage.

Thanks for reading ...have a nice weekend.

-Bernie