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Thread: Maligned tackles kept heat off Bradford ..

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    Maligned tackles kept heat off Bradford ..

    BY BERNIE MIKLASZ, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist


    The Rams offensive line has problems, but for a few moments let's suspend the concern to take note of how well the group played in standing up to Seattle’s furious pass rush during Sunday’s 19-13 win.

    I wanted to wait until I could check the numbers at Pro Football Focus and have accurate stats and the proper context. I didn’t want to assume things that may have not been true. In watching the game, it looked like Rams offensive tackles Wayne Hunter and Barry Richardson had good days against Seattle.

    And it’s true. They did.

    According to Pro Football Focus, Hunter played all 64 snaps and was responsible for only two hurries on Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. That’s outstanding, especially when we consider the opponent. Coming into his matchup with Hunter, Seattle defensive end Chris Clemons was leading the league in sacks and pressures.

    No one on the outside gave Hunter much of a chance to win the conflict with Clemons, but he did. Playing 57 snaps, Clemons didn’t have much of a chance to get at Bradford. Clemons had only two hurries and one tackle. Even though he played on an injured knee, Hunter shut Clemons down.

    On the other side, Richardson had to deal with rookie edge rusher Bruce Irvin and veteran tough guy Red Bryant. Playing all 64 snaps, Richardson was bested for three hurries. That's all.

    So in 128 combined snaps Sunday, Hunter and Richardson didn’t allow a sack or a hit on Bradford. The Seahawks managed only five QB hurries against the Rams’ two maligned offensive tackles. Without Hunter and Richardson controlling the rush on the edges, the Rams don't win this game.

    The Rams offensive line isn’t the strongest area of the team, and the expectations are pretty low. The line didn’t inspire much confidence in training camp and the preseason games, and that’s before the injuries hit the group.

    The loss of starting center Scott Wells and left tackle Rodger Saffold created disorder. Another injury put raw but promising rookie guard Rok Watkins on injured reserve. The depth, already shaky, was quickly eroding.

    Rams O-line coach Paul Boudreau had to scramble and move his bigs around. Hunter joined the team late in camp after being acquired from the NY Jets, and he moved in at left tackle. Robert Turner shifted from left guard to center. Combo lineman Quinn Ojinnaka was quickly re-signed after being waived on the final preseason roster cut. He became the starter at left guard.

    The right side wasn’t affected as much. Right guard Harvey Dahl is the team’s most respected lineman. Richardson won the job at right tackle after outplaying former No. 2 overall draft pick Jason Smith, who was swapped to the Jets for Hunter.

    There are issues, obviously. Through four games only five NFL quarterbacks have faced more pass-rush pressure than Sam Bradford. According to Pro Football Focus, Bradford has been under fire on 38.5 percent of his dropbacks this season. Only Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers has been sacked more times than Bradford, who has gone down 14 times.

    Pro Football Focus charts every play in every NFL game, and the Rams O-line has been responsible for allowing 52 pressures on Bradford. That’s the league’s fourth-highest (worst) total. PFF ranks the Rams’ O-line 30th among the 32 NFL teams in pass blocking efficiency.

    The most glaring hot spot is left guard, where Ojinnaka is struggling mightily in pass protection. Sunday, Ojinnaka was beaten for a sack, one hit and three hurries. For the season, Pro Football Focus has Ojinnaka accountable for three sacks and 14 pressures. No NFL starting guard has given up more sacks than Ojinnaka, and only one guard has given up more hurries. In their pass protection ratings, Pro Football Focus ranks Ojinnaka 54th among guards -- or worst in the league.

    Turner has performed very well in his pass-pro duties at center, and Dahl has been fine except for a bad game in Chicago.

    Hunter and Richardson will be under duress all season, and they’ll have to do all they can to stand ground and keep the wolves away. If the two OTs can repeat the performance they gave against Seattle enough times this season, Bradford will have more of a chance to make plays. And Bradford made plays Sunday, keeping multiple scoring drives going with important third-down conversions.

    Moving On …

    A few other notes culled from the statistical gold mine at Pro Football Focus:

    • Bradford ranks 16th among NFL quarterbacks in PFF’s accuracy rating, which takes into account the dropped passes, intentional throwaways to avoid sacks, spikes to stop the clock, and the receivers’ yards after the catch. Bradford’s accuracy rating of 72.8 percent puts him just behind Eli Manning (73.9) and Drew Brees (73.7.)

    • Bradford’s accuracy rating of 53.8 percent on deep passes is the fourth best among quarterbacks.

    • Bradford has an accuracy rating of 70 percent when he’s being pressured by the pass rush; that’s the ninth-best in the NFL. (Again: the rating gives us a more reliable accounting of a QB’s true accuracy because it doesn’t hold drops, throwaways, spikes and hit-while-throwing attempts against him. Which is fair.)

    • Rams defensive end Chris Long is third in the NFL with 25 quarterback pressures. He’s tied for first for most hurries (20.) In PFF’s Pass-Rush Productivity rankings, Long is No. 3 behind Miami’s Cameron Wake and Denver’s Elvis Dumervil.

    • On the other side, Robert Quinn has 11 pressures and is ranked 34th in Pass Rush Productivity.

    • The Rams need much better play from defensive tackle Kendall Langford, the pricey free agent that was signed away from Miami. Langford improved in his pass rush against Seattle, but in four games he has only one QB pressure and one QB hit. And in playing the run, Langford hasn’t been credited with a single “stop” by Pro Football Focus.

    • As you undoubtedly noticed, the Rams gave extensive playing time to rookie wide receiver Chris Givens on Sunday. And they rolled out their other rookie wideout, Brian Quick, who was the 33rd overall pick in this year’s draft. Givens played 48 snaps; in the first three games the most he’d played was 20 snaps vs. Washington. And Quick was used for 13 snaps against Seattle. That may not sound like much, but it’s a big increase over his prior activity. Quick played only 3 snaps against Detroit, 3 against Washington, and was inactive for the Chicago game.

    • If Givens and Quick played more, then who played less? Veteran Steve Smith was on the inactive list for the Seattle game. And in the first three games, Brandon Gibson played 46, 51, and 43 snaps respectively. The participation fell to 38 snaps in the Seattle game.

    • Givens hooked up with Bradford for the 52-yard bomb Sunday, and Quick provided one big play with a 19-yard catch for a first down on a third and long. That led to a Rams’ field goal. But it will take time for the rookies to establish consistency. Givens has been targeted 10 times in the passing game so far, and has only three catches. Quick has been targeted four times, with one catch. Combining the two, the Rams have tried to pass to the rookies 14 times and have four completions. But at least Givens and Quick are playing more, and that’s the best way to develop them.

    • When the Rams throw the football to Danny Amendola, they have a passer rating of 104.6. Amendola has been targeted 41 times and has made 30 catches for 349 yards, two touchdowns and one INT. (One of the TDs came on the fake field goal that burned Seattle.)

    • When quarterbacks target Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan, they have a woeful passer rating of 36.7. That’s primarily due to his three interceptions. But when Finnegan gives up a completion, he contains the damage with his tenacious tackling ability. And Pro Football Focus grades Finnegan as the league’s No. 1 slot CB when he lines up there. Finnegan plays the outside and the slot.

    • QBs have completed only seven of 16 passes when they go after Rams cornerback Bradley Fletcher. And what about the rookie, Janoris Jenkins? Teams have completed 17 of the 27 passes attempted with Jenkins as the primary cover guy. But he’s broken up three passes, and has an INT. Jenkins has provided tighter coverage in the last two games, with Chicago and Seattle completing 6 of 11 against him for only 50 yards.

    Thanks for reading …

    — Bernie

  2. #2
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    Re: Maligned tackles kept heat off Bradford ..

    Ojinnaka 54th among guards -- or worst in the league.

    I know we are on a short week, so I would guess he starts Thursday. But with the extra days maybe they can give Shelley Smith a go. Ojinnaka is the worse guard I have ever seen.
    hawaiianpunch likes this.

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    Re: Maligned tackles kept heat off Bradford ..

    The OL's performance far exceeded my expectations and the guys up front were the unsung heroes of the game IMO. They kept Bradford relatively clean, and did enough to help him put the Rams in scoring position.

    The Hunter/Smith swap is looking like another very shrewd Fisher/Snead move.

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    Re: Maligned tackles kept heat off Bradford ..

    Quote Originally Posted by Rambos View Post
    Ojinnaka 54th among guards -- or worst in the league.
    Ojinnaka is the worse guard I have ever seen.
    agreed, he gets run over a lot

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    Re: Maligned tackles kept heat off Bradford ..

    Another example of how good coaching can make mediocre players look better than they actually are. Scheming the offense to hide the protection issues of the o-line is something we seemed to lack last year. We're making these guys look good, and they're gaining confidence too, which I'm sure is an especially big deal for Hunter. New York is an easy place to lose it.

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    Re: Maligned tackles kept heat off Bradford ..

    Maybe we need to lineup our FB for pass protection more often to help Ojinnaka out.

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