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Rams' offense offers some signs of progress
By Bryan Burwell
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Maybe a few months from now if the Rams have opened the regular season on an impressive and efficient roll, we'll look back on the uncomfortable first steps of this 2008 preseason with a bit of humor.
But for the time being, as this franchise is still trying to resell itself to a disenchanted marketplace, looking good in the preseason does matter. Impressing the hometown crowd, no matter how sparse it might be for a Saturday night preseason game, should continue to be a priority for a franchise desperately seeking to get a little love.
So by the time most of St. Louis tuned in to this late-night, tape-delayed broadcast of a 7-6 victory over the visiting San Diego Chargers, they got to see some positive signs. When searching for signs of life in the Rams' dormant preseason offense, sometimes perspective can be almost as important as points.
From the perspective of the incurable cynic starving for a simple touchdown from the Rams' first-unit offense, this dress rehearsal against the Chargers didn't offer much solace. For the 10th consecutive preseason game in the Scott Linehan era, the first-unit offense failed to score a touchdown.
But beauty is clearly in the eye of the beholder, and from the rose-colored perspective of the head coach starving for the faintest signs of prosperity, life is indeed a beautiful thing.
"I know I'll probably get questioned about a number of things (like that nagging little touchdown draught)," a grinning Linehan told a room full of reporters after the game. "But it really doesn't matter to me because we got our first win of the preseason and our first win at home. So you can ask me anything you want, I'm a happy man, so fire away."
So let us join the head coach with a little upbeat mood. With just a little squinting required, Saturday night was the first glimmer of life for the struggling Rams offense. Did the first unit score a touchdown? Nope. But for a change, the starting offense finally showed that it can score.
Call me the incurable optimist, but even without Torry Holt or Steven Jackson on the field, I could imagine the possibilities of Al Saunders' offense.
The first unit did not score, but sparked by the best show of force by the restructured offensive line, we were reminded that just as in Kansas City and Washington, a Saunders offense always can run the ball. It showed that the offensive line can put its fingers into the artificial turf at the Edward Jones Dome and move the pile and that Antonio Pittman (nine carries, 67 yards, 7.4-yard average) and Brian Leonard (eight carries, 38 yards, 4.8 avg.) can actually provide a suitable rushing attack in Jackson's absence.
After nearly a month together, this offense is still clearly a work in progress. While the running game started to look good, quarterback Marc Bulger continued to look rusty as ever. He threw two interceptions on the first two offensive possessions, and finished his two-quarter outing completing only seven of 14 for 56 yards and a paltry 20.8 pass-efficiency rating.
It's still something of a mystery why Bulger continues to look so bad in preseason games, particularly because during two-a-days in Mequon, Wis., he was a model of pinpoint accuracy. He didn't just look good, he looked crazy good.
But the preseason is designed to knock the rust off, so Bulger has two more weeks to find his rhythm. So let's consider this preseason a step-by-step process for the offense. Step 1 was getting the offensive line to click. Check. Step 2 was finding a consistent running game. Check. Step 3 should be getting Jackson signed and back into camp. Imagine how much better things would look if that had been Jackson galloping behind those large gaps that Jacob Bell, Orlando Pace, Richie Incognito, Alex Barron and Nick Leckey were providing.
Step 4 has to be getting Bulger's passing mojo back. What I saw on Saturday night against the Chargers was not quite as bad as it may have looked. On that first interception he threw on a deep route to tight end Randy McMichael, Bulger clearly overthrew him, but it's also a by-product of Saunders' high-risk, high-reward passing philosophy.
Eventually, that deep route to the tight end is going to be one of the signature plays of this revamped offense. I've seen it click in seven-on-seven contract drills in camp, and you'll see Bulger and McMichael hook up on that same play probably 35 or 40 times before this season is over.
So through these squinting and optimistic eyes, I saw progress.
Re: Rams' offense offers some signs of progress
Re: Rams' offense offers some signs of progress
The Offense of Line showing promise will just make Jackson (holdout) become a monster. I also hope bulger comes out of his funk.
Our Rams actually play good D, and they are going to need it big time in the first month of the season.
Fingercross, they can surprise everyone.
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