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Rams look for consistency on offense
BY JIM THOMAS
Thursday, August 25, 2011 12:25 am d
Sam Bradford isn't asking for a lot. Just a little rhythm, consistency and staying power from the offense in Friday's Governor's Cup preseason game in Kansas City.
"I'd really like to see our offense come out and establish a rhythm early," Bradford said. "I'd like to see us put together a couple scoring drives, or a couple six-, 10-play drives. I'd like to see us get in a rhythm and stay in that rhythm."
The Rams did nothing of the sort last week against Tennessee, at least not when the starting unit was on the field.
"We did some good things at times, but it just seemed like rarely did we ever string multiple plays together," Bradford said. "In order to be a good offense in this league, you've got to be consistent and you've got to be able to put good plays together."
The game opened with a monster play, an 83-yard touchdown pass from Bradford to Brandon Gibson. It was the longest preseason play from scrimmage, run or pass, since the Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995.
"We wanted to come out and show that we weren't scared to take shots early in the game — back them off a little bit," Bradford said. "It was a great way to start the game. We've just got to find a way to be better after we do hit a big play like that."
The first-team offense went into hibernation after that, gaining only 70 yards on 27 plays over the rest of the half. Of those 27 plays, only two resulted in gains of more than 9 yards, and 13 went for zero or negative yards.
The longest "drive" in the five subsequent series of the half went for only 22 yards. The Rams crossed midfield only once in that stretch, reaching the Tennessee 43 before being pushed back to their 45 following a 6-yard loss on a screen pass and a 6-yard loss on a sack.
"It's got to start up front," center Jason Brown said, referring to the offensive line. "It starts with us — moving the football and running the football. We had a lack of success running the football last week; they kept overloading the box on us. In order to open up our passing game we have to have a successful running game because that'll get those safeties out of the box."
The Rams had trouble with the stacked boxes, and trouble picking up blitzes against a Tennessee defense that was more physical and aggressive than Indianapolis, which plays a Cover 2 scheme that relies more on speed and finesse. The Chiefs present a different challenge as the first 3-4 front team that the Rams will see.
"You're going to see a little bit something different from every single team that we go against this year," Brown said. "The main thing that you have to do is not allow too much of what a defense does affect what you do. Because some of the things that we do, we know that we have the potential of doing them great. And if you have 11 guys doing their assignment, there shouldn't be a team that's able to stop us. You see? So it's really a focus that goes back to ourselves and our own performance."
But at the moment, the Rams have a lot to chew on and sort through learning the scheme of coordinator Josh McDaniels. They're installing the new offense without the benefit of minicamps or OTAs in the spring. Their wide receiver corps remains in flux, in part because of injuries and in part because of newcomers. Their quarterback, Bradford, has more duties at the line of scrimmage this year.
"Sam has a lot more responsibility as far as deciphering the defense, as far as making the (line calls), where I had that responsibility last year," Brown said. "You only have a few top-caliber quarterbacks around this league that their offensive coordinators give that type of responsibility to. I mean, we're talking about Drew Brees. We're talking about Peyton Manning. We're talking about Tom Brady. But Sam is such a bright and talented kid, he's picking it up wonderfully."
But there have been glitches, such as the delay of game call that took place early in the second quarter against the Titans.
Lastly, it looks to be a more wide-open offense, which means the strange, new world of four-wide receiver sets, empty backfields, deeper passes and greater demands on pass-blockers.
"I think being able to spread the field and throw in so many different formations, out of a lot of different personnel groups, is something that's going to give our offense an advantage this year," Bradford said.
Maybe so, but it may take awhile to get there. If form holds true, and the starters play very little in the Sept. 1 preseason finale in Jacksonville, the Kansas City game will mark the last big opportunity to smooth out some kinks before the regular season.
From his perspective on the other side of the ball, cornerback Ron Bartell is impressed with how the McDaniels offense is progressing.
"To be honest, to only be three weeks into it, I think they've done a great job," Bartell said. "We have a lot of weapons. They're spreading the ball out. I don't think you can just pinpoint one guy anymore. We have a young tight end, Lance (Kendricks), that looks pretty good. Some receivers that look good. And the running backs — they have a lot of versatility."
Bradford would like nothing better than to start putting some of the pieces to that puzzle in place Friday.
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