Bernie Bytes: Thank Titans For Blitzing Bradford
Bernie Bytes: Thank Titans for blitzing Bradford
BY BERNIE MIKLASZ
Monday, August 22, 2011
Ten takeaways from the Rams vs. Titans in Preseason Week II:
1. It's interesting, the considerable anguish being expressed over the Rams' inability to keep QB Sam Bradfordsafe and warm in Saturday night's exhibition vs. Tennessee. I've even heard/read people questioning why the Titans blitzed so much for a preseason game, with the implication being that it's bad form to do so. I guess I'm in the minority, but I thought this was great for the Rams. I was happy to see it. I'm glad the Titans did it; send a thank-you card to Nashville. Getting blitzed like mad in Preseason Week II is exactly what the new Rams offense needs to help get ready for the real violence, which begins Sept. 11 when Philadelphia comes to town. The Rams will play 11 games this season against defenses that ranked among the league's top 15 for most blitzes in 2010. The Rams are putting in a new offense. This offense will feature some empty-backfield looks and take other risks that leave Bradford vulnerable. You don't think teams are going to go after Bradford during the regular season? Isn't it a good idea to get a test run now? Check for system flaws, see where the weaknesses are, work on timing, get syncronized and clean up the blitz protection in time for the regular season. Tennessee did the Rams a valuable favor. Better to learn how top handle the heat now instead of getting caught flat-footed on Sept. 11.
2. And how was Bradford against the blitz last season? Pretty good for a rookie. Pretty good for an offense that didn't have game-changers at receiver. Bradford finished with a passer rating of 82.3 when blitzed, which ranked 22nd among regular quarterbacks. Of the 34 sacks on Bradford, 17 came on the blitz. He threw 7 TD passes when blitzed, with only 2 interceptions. But the Rams didn't really make defenses pay for blitzing last season; of Bradford's 224 passing attempts against the blitz the Rams pulled off only eight completions of 25 yards or more. If the Rams can smooth out the protection issues, and Bradford makes the right decisions, the 2011 Rams should be able to leave more burn marks on a blitzing defense.
3. Last year when I wrote that the Pat Shurmur offense was a smart, sensible and effective way to break Bradford into the NFL, I was shouted down by more than a few folks that apparently believed the Rams were lining up at WR withJerry Rice, Raymond Berry and Paul Warfield. The conservative approach wasn't thrilling, and the Rams were particularly impotent in the red zone. But the Shurmur offense kept Bradford busy, kept him safe, and got him through a rookie season in which he took every snap. And remember how worried we were about Bradford's shoulder and durability after his injuries at Oklahoma? Only 13 teams allowed fewer sacks than the Rams last season. Bradford was sacked on only 5.4 percent of the downs in which he set up to pass, and that was the 12th-lowest (best) rate in the NFL. Well, things have changed. Bradford is ready to take the next step by operating a more adventurous, ambitious offense. And new Rams OC Josh McDaniels is innovative and creative. But the new style also will make Bradford a more accessible target for defenses. And that's the trade-off. So get used to it. Sam will be on the ground more than he was in 2010. But the Rams will also be making more big plays.
4. I'm wondering why a penalty wasn't called on the Titans' defensive player that went in low at Bradford ... I guess the moral of the story is: you have to be Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees to get a call like that. From what I've seen this summer, NFL officiating crews need more work than the players do this preseason.
5. Preseason or no preseason, it would be nice to see more pop from RB Steven Jackson. SJ39 broke 25 tackles in 2009, and 13 in 2010. He had 755 yards after contact in 2009, and 662 in 2010. The decrease could mean nothing. But Jackson turned 28 last month, so it could mean something. Just saying ...
6. Sorry to overreact, and it is nothing personal, but seeing OL HankFraley with the first team actually frightened me.
7. As for the cavities in the Rams' run defense vs. the Titans: easy explanation. When you are starting the same outside linebackers that you used in 2010, the results won't improve. There is a reason why the Rams signed veteran free-agentsBrady Poppinga, Ben Leber andZac Diles. The Rams will muscle up on their run defense as soon as they plug in the new starters at OLB and get them in sync with MLB James Laurinaitis and the defensive front. I know Leber hasn't had much practice time, and that Diles has struggled a bit to learn the defense. But the Rams need to upgrade and change is inevitable.
8. What to say about the competition at wide receiver? Still pretty wide open, obviously. We assume that Danny Amendola is safe, and thatBrandon Gibson has greatly enhanced his status. Other than that, it's difficult to handicap the rest of the field. The final decisions could be based on some variables; it depends on how the coaches are grading the players. And it could depend on the politics of the draft, the politics of free agency. How important is the performance in the preseason games? Is that a significant factor, then Mike Sims-Walker has some work to do. But the Rams aren't going to cut him, are they? I'd think not. I'd expect Sims-Walker to start. OK, so how much of an edge doesMardy Gilyard have in his ability to return kicks and punts and cause mayhem in his role as a gunner? Donnie Avery and Danario Alexander have the most explosive big-play potential, but can they be trusted to hold up, given their injury histories? Suppose the Rams cut another worthy receiver to go with Avery or Alexander, only to see one of them go down again? And then there are the rookies, No. 3 draft pickAustin Pettis and No. 4 choice Greg Salas. Do the draft-choice investment give the rookies the security of favorite-son status? If not, would the Rams dare take the risk of trying to put one of the rookie WRs on the practice squad? I wouldn't think so. And it would be pretty embarrassing for the front office to cut one of them. (And I don't see how the Rams would cut a third-round draft choice after a rookie training camp, though it's happened before.) Is Alexander at a disadvantage because he wasn't a draft pick? Or is he at a disadvantage because he's had five knee surgeries? Will Gilyard be saved because the Rams used a fourth-round pick on him in the 2010 draft?
9. There is no reason to make any decisions now, but I will say this: if Avery is healthy, he's got to be on the roster. Because he brings a quality -- pure speed -- to the mix that we don't see from the other wideouts.
10. Looks like the Rams found themselves a good backup running back at the Cadillac Ranch.
Thanks for reading...
Re: Bernie Bytes: Thank Titans For Blitzing Bradford
Ah think Bernie has been using Barry Waller for his stats :) Not a bad read
Re: Bernie Bytes: Thank Titans For Blitzing Bradford
I wouldn't thank them, but I see his point.