Rams' Coaches Need To Be More Creative ..
Bernie Miklasz • Thursday, September 23, 2010 12:15 am
Let's say it for the 100th time, just for the purpose of being fair: The St. Louis Rams lack depth. They are precariously thin on talent at many roster positions. They suffer from an acute shortage of proven playmakers.
And some of the most talented, promising players are young. Rookie quarterback Sam Bradford has ability, toughness and intelligence. But he isn't a finished product. He'll make mistakes. He'll have to survive the early-career hard knocks.
Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo and staff are at a disadvantage when they go into games.
I'm not trying to be nice here; that's the reality.
And to be not so nice ...…
The coaches are being paid to make tactical adjustments, select the correct personnel and put their players in a position to win. Even bad teams can benefit from good coaching.
After losing close games to the Cardinals and Raiders to open the season, Spagnuolo and his assistants are 1-17 since taking over last year. And the coaches have to start doing a better job. The have to distinguish themselves and show they can make a positive difference and find ways to win close games.
Early into Spagnuolo's second season, the Rams have continued a glaring trend of getting mashed in the second half.
Particularly in the third quarter, where the Rams' numbers are incomprehensibly bad.
In 18 games under Spagnuolo and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, the Rams have scored 28 points — with only one touchdown from scrimmage — in the third quarter.
That's an average 1.5 points per third quarter.
It hasn't been so bad in the second quarter of the 18 games; the Rams have been outscored 127 to 91.
But in the third quarter the Rams have been outscored 103-28.
This perhaps explains why I'm of the opinion that the staff seems to be slow to adjust, adapt and counter the other team's strategy when reorganizing at halftime.
When the opposing coaches make changes to address the Rams' tactics, I don't see much evidence to suggest that the Rams' coaches have an effective Plan B.
In the first two weeks, the Rams outscored the Cardinals and Raiders 17-13 in the first half — and were outscored 20-10 in the second half.
Steven Jackson has averaged 5.2 yards a carry in the first half, 2.2 yards in the second half. Bradford has completed 67 percent of his passes in the first half, only 48 percent in the second half.
This week, Spagnuolo insisted the coaches make adjustments early and often. But he was contradicted — at least in one area — by Jackson, who noted that the St. Louis running game got clamped down once the Raiders put an eighth defender in the box.
This is hardly revolutionary strategy. Jackson and the Rams frequently see defenses stack the box to take away the run. But Rams coaches have not come up with a way to work through the traffic. Too often, they just abandon the run, and that's the worst possible response. The good teams find a way to pound the ball, even when the defense uses eight-man fronts.
Sure, it would help to have a more dangerous passing game, a downfield threat, more weapons. But the Rams aren't there yet. They don't have a longball specialist at wide receiver. But even within the limitations, the Rams should be doing more.
Where is the creativity? Why not spread the formation and slip the ball to Jackson? Or, where are the frequent passes to Jackson out in space, with a couple of big blockers in front of him?
Why not bunch the wideouts and increase the chance of confusing defenders and give the receivers a chance to slither into open spaces? Where are the four-wideout sets? When blitzed, why don't the Rams counter with misdirection runs? Why not ratchet up the tempo and put Bradford in a no-huddle attack? The Rams seem to think that they can just line up straight and beat the defense head-on. Good luck with that.
With such a shortage of playmakers, why do the Rams have fourth-round draft choice Mardy Gilyard standing on the sideline? Gilyard is slippery and elusive. In his college career at Cincinnati, he flashed a real knack for taking a short pass, busting a couple of moves and turning upfield for attractive gains. I don't understand why the coaches can't put in a few plays each week to utilize Gilyard's skill set.
Tampa Bay is a surprising 2-0 this season. One of the new additions, wide receiver Mike Williams, was also a fourth-round draft pick in April. Unlike Gilyard, Williams is being given a chance to make an impact. He caught a crucial 35-yard touchdown pass Sunday to put the Buccaneers in the lead for a 20-7 win at Carolina.
Tampa Bay doesn't have exceptional receivers, so Williams was given an early shot. The Rams have pedestrian receivers but are reluctant to use Gilyard. Does that make sense?
And take a look at the Cincinnati Bengals. They have two star wideouts in Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. But their rookie wide receiver, third-round pick Jordan Shipley, already has 10 receptions. If a team with elite receivers is willing to play a rookie, then what are the Rams saving Gilyard for?
Spagnuolo has to loosen up and turn the available talent loose. When your roster is low on skill, you can't afford to keep talented kids on the bench. This applies to the rookie tight end, Fendi Onobun. He's raw. But Onobun is an amazing athlete with a basketball background who can probably outleap defenders. So get him involved in the passing game; try to set up some mismatches.
Rams coaches don't have a lot to work with. We know that.
But the coaches surely can make better use of what they have.
Re: Rams' Coaches Need To Be More Creative ..
How about the halfback option? When the opposing defense stacks the box run a play where Jackson has the option to throw a pass! Do something, please!
How about an end around with Gilyard? This kid can flat out fly. Do something, please!