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HornIt's thoughts on Rams vs. Chargers
Overall it was a bit disappointing. Not because they weren't opening up the offense or because the coverage units on special teams were shaky though. For me, the disappointment primarily lies in two places so far. Drive killing turnovers on offense and a continued display of what I see as a flawed scheme defensively.
On offense the first team continues to, in the words of Hank Stram, matriculate the ball down the field. The problem is that they keep committing crucial turnovers that prevent them from converting what are otherwise nice drives into points. I don't know if Hedgecock's knee was down or not, but that's the point. It was too close to call and just holding on to the ball eliminates the problem to begin with. And Bulger has got to make better decisions.
Still, overall the O-line played well, the WR's played well, Leonard played well and the QB's played well. McMichael did a good job on Merriman, Klopfenstein did not do a good job on Phillips.
On defense they continue to do the same kinds of things that hurt them last year against the run. They overload to the strong side too much and guess with their gap coverage from the back 7 too much. Rather than reading and reacting and filling the hole where the play is going, they shoot and fill gaps on a guess, and too often they are guessing wrong. This leaves them very vulnerable to weak side runs and cutbacks and it's killing them. And when you combine that with tackling poorly, as they did last night, you get the results we saw last night. I've been trying to remain open minded about this for a long time now, but I do not like this defensive scheme and I'm getting impatient because I'm getting tired of seeing them do the same thing and getting the same results. In contrast, I was watching SD's defensive back 7 last night, and they were all about reading and reacting and they were quick to recognize and get to the ball carrier rather than simply getting to a gap, though the Rams didn't give them a lot to defend last night when it came to the running game, which I'll talk a little more about later.
With that said, who looked good and who didn't look so good?
Who looked good:
Frerotte - I have to start with him because I have to admit I do love to watch his arm and how he zings the ball around. He was on top of his game last night I thought, zipping the ball in there on the money and looking very calm and in control. That 34 yard laser to Bennett between defenders was something to behold. He looked like a high caliber starter out there Saturday night, and I think he could start for a lot of teams in the NFL. The Rams are very lucky to have a backup of his quality at QB.
Leonard - He didn't have a high average per carry, but he was running hard and making the most of what he had. I know there have been a lot of complaints about how vanilla the Rams offense has been, but I think that only applies in this game really to the running game. Leonard did all of his work between the tackles and almost all of that came straight up the middle. There was very, very little variety here and I suspect, though I don't know for sure, that this had to do with the competition at Center. It appears they were looking at McCollum and Romberg in the power run blocking game. This didn't help the Rams offense overall because it didn't stretch the Chargers defense or make them guess about what was coming at all. It was just straight ahead, power football. Mano y mano. I thought Leonard showed well in this situation.
McCollum - If the entire C competition was based on last night only, I'd have to give the edge to McCollum. He did a pretty good job getting movement on the running game and he did a very good job of pass protection. There was no interior pressure while he was in there. Romberg played OK, but wasn't quite as effective in the run game and did get beat once on the pass rush, which forced Frerotte to scramble out of the pocket.
Setterstrom and Incognito - To go along with McCollum, the interior O-line was very solid against the first unit of the Chargers' defense. They lined up and played power football against a very physical team across from them and held their own. They kept the interior pocket pretty much perfect.
Holt - For the second week in a row I though Holt looked very good. He was easily beating his man, getting separation, and showing no ill effects from his off season knee surgery. He only played briefly but pulled in 4 passes.
Brad Lau - You can't just use his last name because nobody knows him yet, but I thought he played well. He was doing a good job lead blocking for Alexis and I'd like to see him get a chance to unseat Hedgecock, but I don't think that's going to happen. From what I can see this guy does a better job of hitting moving targets than Hedgecock does and is more athletic than Hedgecock is. Maybe he'd hold onto the ball better too.
Hagans - Well, Hagans seemed to have his coming out game last night. His hands looked superb, not letting the ball get to his body and snatching the ball out of the air. He appeared to have a good feel for where defenders were, which helped him find open spots in the defense and get some RAC. He showed some good moves. If only he had a little more speed is what I kept thinking, because he was a step away from breaking a couple of those for big gains. This seems to plague him as a punt returner too. He needs that extra step to do the things Hakim used to be able to do, but he did a very good job none the less and he looks very good catching the football. He may have earned a roster spot last night with that performance. We'll see.
McMichael - One wonders when they will unveil him in the passing game. It would be nice if Bulger would look his way because he was WIDE open on the INT that Bulger forced into coverage. However, the job he did on Merriman will no doubt go unnoticed, but shouldn't. He silenced him and some might remember how loud Merriman was last year when the Rams faced the Chargers. Excellent job there by McMichael.
Lovell - This kid continues to impress on FG's. He hasn't hit anything yet that hasn't split the uprights and I mean split them right down the middle. He's going to hook on with somebody and I just wonder when the Rams are going to have to start looking at a kicker of the future for them? Wilkins is in his 14th year now. When will it be the time? If it's soon, then Lovell needs a more serious look. The problem I see with him is his kickoffs aren't getting deep enough, but then, neither do Wilkins' anymore.
Wroten - Wroten was a man out there. That was the best I've seen him yet for the Rams. He easily had the best night of any Rams defensive lineman. He was consistently beating the guy across from him on the pass rush and he held up OK against the run. Very disruptive. Looked like a man possessed. I was wondering what got into him? He looked like he did at LSU.
Hall - I thought James Hall looked solid both against the run and getting pressure from the right side against the pass. He actually forced Rivers to scramble on the play of the Chargers first drive where Rivers hit Gates on a 28 yard play that was just a spectacular throw and catch. And he was also about to get pressure on the play that followed that was the TD to Vincent Jackson, but he was completely tackled by McNeil and it wasn't called. He beat McNeil like a drum to the inside and McNeil flat out tackled him, using perfect tackling form too. You have to see it to believe it. If you have it recorded, watch it again. How a blatant hold like that isn't called every time just baffles me. Anyway, Hall played well against one of the best LT's in the game.
Alston - Best I've seen Alston play. He was showing excellent speed and was probably the only LB that was tackling. I did see him fail to get off blocks a couple times, but at least he made some plays and when he did get to the ball carrier he made the tackle.
Draft - It was good to see one Rams defensive player laying some wood out there. Draft was pretty much it. He was flying around and bringing a bad attitude when he made the tackle. It's good to finally see him get into the mix.
Donnie Jones - This is looking to be a very good signing. He has been booming them consistently. Both last week and this week he's looked very, very good.
Who didn't look good:
Hedgecock - He just continues to not impress me. The only thing he does well in my opinion is lead blocks into the line, where targets are stationary. When he has to hit somebody on the move, he flails and he isn't effective. And on his 2 pass receptions, he ended up losing a fumble on the first and bobbled the second, barely holding onto it to make the catch. They have to be able to do better than him at FB.
Klopfenstein - He caught a few, which was good, but he continues to struggle as a blocker. He almost got Bulger killed and continues to not play physically.
Bulger - He wasn't bad except for the INT, which was just a horrible decision, but if this were the regular season, I'd have to say he's in one of his cold streaks. He just doesn't look confident or engaged right now and he was clearly outplayed by his backup in this game. The deep in to Bruce was perfect though. He's just been too inconsistent and was again against the Chargers.
Carriker - He was getting handled easily. The Chargers were running right at him and he wasn't doing much to stop anything. I'd have to imagine that he'll get talked to when they watch the film, because on a couple of draw plays he ran right past the play. He got sucked into the traps the Chargers set for him.
All the starting LB's - I thought Witherspoon especially had a bad game, but they all looked terrible out there. None of them were tackling. It was all arms and half arsed efforts. Too me, this game was a classic example of a weak side LB playing the role of a MLB. Again, I'm trying to stay open minded about what Haslett is doing on defense, but games like this make it very, very difficult to do so. Last night I saw a group of LB's who do not appear to be cut out for the role of standing up to a running team like the Chargers and who are also put into positions that don't help them succeed.
Atogwe and Chavous - See the LB's. Poor tackling, bad angles, you name it. Not good. And Atogwe, how can you get thrown off of a 5'6" punt returner like you're on a bucking bronco?
The St. Louis fans - I don't believe I have ever seen so many empty seats for a nationally televised prime time game before. That was embarrassing. That place couldn't have been even half full to start the game, and as early as the 3rd quarter looked to be about 1/4 full, maybe. You could hear a pin drop in that place. Of course, the good news was that the TV audience could hear every audible the QB was barking and everything the PA announcer was saying in the background, so it was kind of like being right there.
Phil Simms - This guy has said Isaac Holt for years now. He continued to do it last night. Will he ever learn?
Don't want to make too much of the 2nd preseason game. There are some good things happening with this team and I think we can see them happening. The new additions are looking good, James Hall, Donnie Jones, Chris Draft, Todd Johnson. The young players are progressing for the most part I think. Games like last night do show the Rams are deep now at QB, RB, WR and that they have some more options these days when it comes to kick returners, LB's, even on the D-line.
There are obviously still a lot of questions to be answered on defense. We're going to have to give Carriker and Ryan some time to develop into consistent pros. We'll have to see how or if Haslett adjusts. This is an aggressive defense that got turnovers last year that has not done that in preseason so far this year, so maybe the defense is holding a lot back right now too.
Special Teams I'm not nearly as worried about as a lot of people are. I see definite improvement in the return game and I saw a lot of improvement in the coverage units last year. I have no reason to believe that won't continue to get better this year since they have better depth overall and better ST players this year than they did last year. Against the Chargers you could tell they were looking at some fringe players at key ST positions. They were not set up the way they will be come September. What I've been looking for this preseason is a better return game and I think I'm seeing that.
This was a basic test against one of the most physical, deepest teams in the NFL. It was probably good for them to get knocked around a bit, though they didn't get knocked around so badly that it would do damage. They have a better idea now of where they need to continue to work to improve. They were quite obviously looking at some very specific things last night, such as the Center competition and Leonard and the remaining WR spot(s). It makes me wonder what they're doing with Looker? Is he going to make the team or have they already decided to replace him with the younger guys? Why isn't he playing and why isn't Hall playing at WR and why are Hagans and Stanley looking like the 5th and 6th WR's right now? It may all mean nothing, which means a lot of this game was just about looking at players and situations.
I neither came away from this game with warm and fuzzies nor feeling good about the team. I think they've got work to do. This game tells me they may still be a year or two away from serious making a run and competing with the best teams in the NFL. Some of these young players need to develop for them, and it looks like that's happening, but it probably can't happen soon enough for most of us. So really, I'm not concerned about the offense. I like what I'm seeing there, except for the turnovers, which they did a great job with last year so I won't get too worried about it yet. I'm not concerned too much with the special teams. I think they'll continue to improve. I like a lot of the young players on the defense. My biggest concern is still Haslett and his defensive scheme and philosophy.
Re: HornIt's thoughts on Rams vs. Chargers
Really top notch post Hornit, I think you nailed it almost perfectly.
Re: HornIt's thoughts on Rams vs. Chargers
I enjoy reading your extensive and thoughtful analysis. Thank you.
Barron almost got Bulger killed - and Klop is going to be a flop if he can't learn how to block.
I think the Pass protection has issues and Bulger has to be hurting today.
What the hell was Chavous doing on that TD? He didn't look good in coverage at all.
I was worried by how easily our D got pushed around out there.
Re: HornIt's thoughts on Rams vs. Chargers
I wonder how much better the defensive scheme will look when our players are making tackles. The scheme might not be the best and it might need some work, but I won't say its completely flawed until I see some defensive players do their jobs and the system still not work.Sprtsmac :football:
Re: HornIt's thoughts on Rams vs. Chargers--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I wonder how much better the defensive scheme will look when our players are making tackles.JUST WIN ONE FOR THE FANS
"HIT HARD, HIT FAST, AND HIT OFTEN"Adm. William "Bull" Halsey
Re: HornIt's thoughts on Rams vs. Chargers
Great post HornIt. Very insightful and informative. I share your impressions about Alston and Draft. Alston had a superb tackle in Q4 at the end of the game to halt a sure TD and force a FG. Draft also played with sure tackling ability, hitting some guys on SD who will not easily forget his name and number. Interesting assessment on Lovell. I agree Jeff Wilkens is getting to the end of an illustrious career and we have to consider the future. I don't see us keeping him, but we will have to begin thinking of a replacement sooner rather than later.
I am glad you feel better about the KO and punt coverage vs. last year. I saw the KO return and almost got sick on the spot. I expect Al Roberts will be busy watching film on that return for a few days and rethinking who will be on his coverage units. That was the worst display of coverage based on sloppy tackling, bad angles and slow footed players I have seen in a long time.
As long as we learn the lessons correctly from this game I feel optimistic we can contend for the playoffs. Crawl before you walk, walk before you run....we'll get there. The core of this team is good and the coaching is learning to work with what they have.
Re: HornIt's thoughts on Rams vs. Chargers
Excellent observations, HornIt! I hope we can expect to see this kind of effort each week from you. Well done!
I tend to agree with you about the MLB position. I think we need a bigger presence in the middle to stuff the run.
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