Rams Moving Ahead
Rams Moving Ahead
Saturday, August 15, 2009
By Nick Wagoner
After reviewing the film of his first game as a head coach, Steve Spagnuolo made sure, like always, to keep the big picture view as his main focus.
While there were plenty of positives to take away from the team’s 23-20 win against the Jets on Friday night, there were also a few negatives. But the idea is to not get too high or too low based on either of those things, especially after just one preseason game.
And that’s the message Spagnuolo conveyed late Saturday afternoon after he had finished watching the tape.
“We have to do work in all different areas,” Spagnuolo said. “Like I said, this is a beginning, not an end. This wasn’t a final exam, this was just a – I’m not going to say a pop quiz because we knew this was coming – but we will take whatever we can out of it good and bad and hopefully get better. We have kind of been pushing that all the way through.”
That didn’t change on Saturday and isn’t likely to anytime soon, either. In the meantime, Spagnuolo will have the opportunity to continue to evaluate his players. Of course, Spagnuolo and staff will not completely ignore what happened on the field on Friday night, either.
Certainly, knee jerk reactions to a spectacular catch or forced fumble or long touchdown run will not be the order of the day for the Rams but there’s no doubt that making plays to stand out will earn certain players some opportunities they haven’t yet been afforded to this point.
“There will be a little bit of juggling,” Spagnuolo said. “I don’t know that there was anything that drastic that you will go out there tomorrow and say ‘Oh my God, they have changed here and there.’ We have a long way to go. We still have two more games before we have to make any decisions and then that final game. There will be a little bit of juggling, maybe more some guys getting some reps with the ones that haven’t and vice versa but that’s about it.”
Clearly, no player made a bigger impression on Friday night than running back Samkon Gado. Gado got his first action of the game working on special teams and also took first half snaps at fullback in place of Mike Karney.
To open the third quarter, Gado had a 25-yard kickoff return followed two plays later by his 77-yard touchdown run off the left side.
In a matter of an hour and a half, Gado showed the type of versatility that Spagnuolo seems to covet up and down the roster.
“Anybody that can play two positions I think is valuable,” Spagnuolo said. “I think anybody with versatility gives you a leg up. You go to 53 and all of a sudden it’s 45 on gameday, versatility is big.”
Gado wasn’t the only Rams running back making a strong impression. Antonio Pittman showed some juice, picking up 36 yards on four carries and rookie Chris Ogbonnaya got some tough yards to help salt the game away.
Regardless of how it might shake up that competition, Spagnuolo was mostly pleased with the performance of his running backs.
“I don’t think at this point,” Spagnuolo said. “Whether it changes or doesn’t change, they are all still hacking away and we have got some ways to go. Nothing will happen right away. Some guys shined and did a good job and I think all of them have worked extremely hard. It was encouraging to see some of those runs and some of the cuts those guys were making so it’s a good thing.”
Beyond the running backs, Spagnuolo also had high praise for the Rams’ top two picks, linebacker James Laurinaitis and tackle Jason Smith. Both acquitted themselves well in their NFL debuts.
Spagnuolo also liked the effort from the wide receiver group and receiving corps, mentioning Laurent Robinson’s 50-yard catch specifically.
All that said, Spagnuolo was just as pleased with some of the details as what was going on between the sidelines.
Spagnuolo has maintained that the first preseason game is a sort of extension of training camp and a great opportunity to work out all of the little things that go into making a gameday run smoothly.
In addition, Spagnuolo wanted to get a look at how his team deals with one another on gameday, looking for spirit and competitiveness.
For example, this was the first opportunity for the coaching staff to put on the headsets and communicate during the game. Both offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and defensive coordinator Ken Flajole have opted to stand on the field and do their work closer to the players rather than the pressbox.
“I think that’s really their call,” Spagnuolo said. “We talked about that way back in the spring. Both wanted to be on the field. I know that’s where I always wanted to be as a coordinator. I think the interaction with the players on the field when you are trying to make adjustments and corrections is important.”
Perhaps the most important aspect of any preseason contest is coming out of it relatively healthy, something the Rams apparently accomplished.
Guard Jacob Bell took a blow to the head on the offense’s first play and did not return. He has a mild concussion and will be evaluated on a daily basis.
Quarterback Brock Berlin had the wind knocked out of him and also suffered what Spagnuolo called a “mild” MCL sprain.
Receivers Brooks Foster (ankle) and Tim Carter (groin) were banged up and will have MRIs according to Spagnuolo. Receiver Donnie Avery (foot) and defensive tackle Adam Carriker (ankle) will be out again this week.
On the bright side, Spagnuolo said he expects to get fullback Mike Karney (ankle) and safety Craig Dahl (hamstring) back sooner than later.
All things considered, the result was positive and a step in the right direction. But it won’t take long for Spagnuolo to get his team to begin working on the next step and putting the initial preseason success in the rearview mirror.
The Rams return to the practice field for an open practice on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
“I thought overall as a team I thought they did some good things,” Spagnuolo said. “I was as much looking forward to the sideline and team interacting as I was what was going on on the field and I thought that was pretty good. I thought guys responded to each other. The young guys came in when we were down and responded. Certainly we have got to clean some things up, there were some big plays we gave up defensively, the sacks on offense but that’s what these preseason games are for. After having watched it, we will piece it all together and get back to work tomorrow.”
Re: Rams Moving Ahead
I was also impressed with Pittman. I could see a large improvement over Darby when he came in. I'll wait on Gado though only because I haven't seen him play as much as Pittman. But definitely a good performance from the two of them.
Re: Rams Moving Ahead
I really like that both coordinators have opted to be on the field. I think it reinforces that idea of team and the ongoing teaching part of coaching.
It's Spags The Teacher and his likeminded staff that I'm putting my faith in and glad to hear that all the football brainiacs are going to be in close contact on game day so the Rams' edumakation in the ways of winning is a constant.