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Rams Scoring More, But Not Enough
Rams scoring more, but not enough
BY JIM THOMAS
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Over their last five contests, the Rams have scored either 20 points or 17 points in every game. An optimist might call that consistency. A realist would call it a rut.
In any event, it's not enough points to be a consistent winner in the NFL. And since there isn't any evidence of the team ending the pattern, the question becomes: Has this Rams offense reached its ceiling? Will this be as good as it gets in 2010?
"No, I don't think so," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "Everybody wants to score 50 points a game. It doesn't happen in this league very often. We just want to score one more point than they do.
"So I don't feel that way. I mean, there's a lot of football to be played here. Let's not forget we have a young football team ... there are still some things that are new to some of these guys that are playing in there."
In other words, Spagnuolo feels there's room for improvement in the next month and a half. But 10 games into the season, the Rams have topped 20 points only once, in a 30-16 victory over Washington in Game 3. At a point in the season where there is next to nothing left on the street in terms of free agents, it could very well be that the Rams have reached their level of competency for this season.
Compared to last year, the offensive improvement has been significant. With six games still to go this season, the Rams already have scored more touchdowns (18 to 17) and scored more points (177 to 175) than they did in the entire 2009 season.
The Rams averaged 10.9 points a game in '09; they are averaging 17.7 points a game so far this season. That's a touchdown per game improvement, which is impressive. But in the big picture, 17.7 points is still about a touchdown a game short of where you want to be in the NFL.
As it is, the Rams' 177 points this season ranks 28th in the league, ahead of only Minnesota (172), Miami (172), San Francisco (160) and Carolina (117) in scoring offense.
"There's always room for improvement," wide receiver Brandon Gibson said. "So we're just going to continue to improve."
In the doghouse earlier this season, to the point where he was on the pregame inactive list the first two games, Gibson has been the Rams' most productive wide receiver lately. He has 19 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown over the past three games.
Danny Amendola has been a constant as a slot receiver and is on pace for 96 catches, albeit for a modest 789 yards. But as soon as Mark Clayton went down with a season-ending knee injury in Game 5 against Detroit, Amendola has been attracting extra attention — even double teams — particularly on third down.
After a miserable, injury-plagued start, Laurent Robinson has shown signs of life lately, with 12 catches over the past three games. Robinson is coming off his best game of the season, with five catches for 55 yards against Atlanta. After the first seven games of the season, during two of which he was inactive, Robinson had only seven catches for 42 yards.
So unless Gibson and Robinson continue to improve, where do the Rams go for more offensive production?
• Danario Alexander: Since the loss of Clayton, the Rams haven't had anything resembling a deep threat, and Clayton also was the team's best run-after-the-catch player. Alexander can provide both those elements, as he showed against San Diego. But given his left knee problems — namely, a fifth knee operation 3½ weeks ago — is it realistic to expect much?
• Mardy Gilyard: Gilyard occasionally flashes his playmaking ability and open-field skills during practice. Is there a package of plays, however small, that could be installed weekly to try to showcase those skills on game day? Or will this be the equivalent of a redshirt season for Gilyard, who has only six catches?
• Michael Hoomanawanui: Now that he's back from an ankle injury, Hoomanawanui is starting to be utilized more in the passing game. The past two games, he has lined up frequently at fullback, giving him more opportunities to play and giving the Rams more versatility in the backfield. Hoomanawanui may have the best hands of any Rams pass catcher, regardless of position, and has better speed than originally advertised.
• No huddle: Quarterback Sam Bradford clearly is very comfortable in the no-huddle. Why not play to one of his strengths? It's tougher to run the no-huddle on the road because of crowd noise, and four of the Rams' final six contests are on the road. But why not sprinkle it in more often?
• Two-back sets: Kenneth Darby has some quickness in the open field and can catch the football. In any two-back set Steven Jackson is going to attract most of the attention. But both of them in the backfield keeps the defense guessing to some degree.
• The return game: Yes, there are more ways to score than just on offense. The '99 Super Bowl championship Rams scored 11 touchdowns on returns. Throughout the NFL this season, there have been 73 touchdowns scored on returns — be it kickoffs, punts, blocked kicks, interceptions or recovered fumbles. Arizona has a league-high eight such return TDs.
The Rams have zero. They are among only five NFL teams without a return TD of any kind this season. The Rams have scored only one defensive TD during Spagnuolo's coaching tenure, an interception return for a TD by Leonard Little against Jacksonville last season.
A pair of street free agents, CB Chevis Jackson and LB Kawika Mitchell, took physicals and worked out Tuesday at Rams Park, but neither was signed by the team. Jackson, a third-round draft pick by Atlanta in 2008, was with Jacksonville earlier this season. Mitchell has 85 career starts with Kansas City, the New York Giants and, most recently, Buffalo.
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Re: Rams Scoring More, But Not Enough
I can't be the only one who thinks The Rams have let at least one TD opportunity per game pretty much go to waste because of mental errors & inconsistent execution, rather than simply being outplayed by superior defenses ? Ditto for The Rams D vs offenses,now that I think about it; all the dropped INTs,etc.And while Bradford's been amazing , as Spags would phrase it, I'm sure Sam would be the first to say he's missed some he could have made,inc that deep sideline pass to Laurent in the last game. I agree with all JT's ideas about how to max the talent but eliminating the mistakes by the guys who are already creating chances is easier,no?
There's also SJ getting his arm almost literally untied from behind his back pretty soon; I know the pins are staying in but the cast seems to get smaller & less bothersome every game. That oughta help.
I do wonder what happened to Fells. Hasn't been the same since he hurt his knee,it seems.
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