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RamView, 8/8/2013: Browns 27, Rams 19 (Long)
RamView, August 8, 2013
From The Couch
(Report and opinions on the game.)
Preseason Game #1: Browns 27, Rams 19
The Rams come out wobbly for the second straight preseason under Jeff Fisher, but hey, rookies are going to be rookies... get the mistakes out of the way now and get them ready for real games. The Rams look ready for the regular season already in some aspects...
Position by position:
* QB: ...the most important aspect being Sam Bradford, who looked as sharp as he's looked in his career. Bradford (5-8-102, TD, 145.8 PR) looked confident in the pocket and comfortable in the offense, standing tall and dealing. All eight passes he threw should have been caught. Bradford’s field-reading was terrific and his passing was close to pinpoint. He had Daryl Richardson wide open on an early 2nd-and-7. After that was dropped, Bradford got the first down with a gorgeous 20-yard sideline throw to Chris Givens, then perfectly timed a screen pass to D-Rich for 17 more. He had Tavon Austin deep over the middle for a play that should have been very big but was another drop instead. Drops and bad special teams buried the Rams in a 17-0 hole before Bradford dug them out with a pretty 60-yard bomb to Givens, who capped that drive with an easy TD catch. Bradford looking as good as he did, while barely even using his top two receiving weapons, was the biggest takeaway of the night for me, so the rest of the game didn’t bother me too much. Clean up the rest of the team’s miscues and this offense can take over games. Austin Davis (9-16-96, 74.0 PR), who looks tiny, came in late in the 2nd and got a quarter-plus of work, with Kellen Clemens playing the 4th. Davis only looked very comfortable in the 2:00 offense. No surprise to camp watchers, on his first snap, he looked indecisive, held the ball far too long and got sacked. He needs to be on the move and needs to take off and run when trouble arrives, but he’s playing like he’s being discouraged from running. Bad idea. Davis’ touch was also very questionable. Wide open quick slant for Nick Johnson in the 3rd, he throws it about 90 mph. Rolling into a wide open throwing lane late in the 3rd, with Brian Quick very open on the sideline, Davis takes too much off the throw and lets the DB catch up for the break-up. Clemens (6-13-116, TD, 63.8 PR) fared as well as he could with the scrubs. He had two INTs, but neither were his usual stupid kind; one was tipped at the line, and the other was the game-ending Hail Mary, which probably should have been caught by Emory Blake. Clemens did roll out and shot-put a short throw to Raymond Radway for a 53-yard TD and some late excitement. Bradford’s the one who’ll be the primary cause for excitement, though, if he keeps playing like he did tonight.
* RB: Well, it doesn’t look like that lasted long. But do I mean the RB1 battle or Isaiah Pead’s career? That’s why I’m not an NFL GM; I would have cut the frustrating Pead (3-18) on the flight home for fumbling on his first carry of the game, which helped bury the Rams in their early hole. Phil Taylor hacked it out with a normal tackle; Pead was carrying it high but not tight. Pead was also a disaster on kickoff returns. I’ve already run out of patience with the guy; hopefully Jeff Fisher’s will pay off. Pead did have one of the night’s better blitz pickups. Daryl Richardson (4-24) started, and showed he deserves that job and most of the carries, though he had a bad drop as a receiver. Looked as good as he did last year otherwise. Just hits the hole and runs bigger and tougher than his size, bouncing up quickly from a couple of impressive hits. And defenses have to respect his speed, a threat that set up Givens’ TD as D-Rich drew extra attention going into motion. at the goal line. Zac Stacy (7-23) did about what you’d expect from a rookie running behind the scrub o-line. He dropped a pass, danced a little too much, got himself drilled a couple of times… learning experience. He showed nice running power and used his blocks well. Benny Cunningham (4-20) got the trash-time carries, with a little Chase Reynolds mixed in. Hard not to like Cunningham; he moves the pile on every carry. If he starts reading the field better, he’ll be a decent threat. There’s more than enough good competition here to inspire Pead to pick up his game, and he needs to.
* Receivers: There were a couple of highlight performances, but what mainly sticks from this group this week is dropped passes. Austin Pettis (0-0), Tavon Austin (0-0), Brian Quick (2-27), Raymond Radway (3-78), Emory Blake (0-0), Nick Johnson (0-0), Richardson and Stacy all had passes in their hands that wound up on the ground, and three of those, Austin, Radway and Blake, cost the Rams likely touchdowns. That UPS truck at Rams Park Friday morning better be delivering extra JUGS machines. Fortunately, Chris Givens (3-82, TD) had an excellent first half, burning Trevin Wade deep for a 60-yard bomb and finishing the starters’ only TD drive with an easy scoring catch in the back of the end zone. Stedman Bailey (2-27) stood out as the next best WR, making a couple of dynamite catches from Davis outside his frame. That’s supposed to be Pettis’ strength, but instead, he muffs a simple comeback to kill the Rams’ 2nd drive. Bailey’s going to be the one catching passes from Bradford if that keeps up. The Rams must really have wanted to get a good look at Quick, going to him a lot. Didn’t notice him getting open by a lot but he’s making himself a better target. His 17-yard catch over the middle set up Greg Zuerlein’s half-ending FG. A super leaping catch to convert a 3rd-and-16 in the 3rd unfortunately got called back. Davis threw him too much of a softball on an open sideline route in the 3rd, but that’s one where we want to see Quick get physical and make the play anyway. Still, I think there’s progress there. Austin got 1-on-1 coverage from a LB on a deep cross in the first and dropped the ball. Tavon vs. LB should = a TD every time. Radway sprinted away with a Clemens dumpoff for a 53-yard TD late in the game but dropped a deep pass that would have given the Rams a chance to tie the game. He’s still making himself a tough cut. The Hail Mary pass to end the game was in Blake’s hands but Justin Cole ripped it out for an INT. Tight ends did not have much to do in tonight’s game plan, but Philip Lutzenkirchen (2-18) flashed with an impressive sideline catch. Still a lot of sorting out to do at the receiver positions.
* Offensive line: The season got off to a very poor start for Rodger Saffold, who got whipped by Desmond Bryant on the Rams’ second play of the game and injured himself reaching out in a diving attempt to blatantly hold him. Fisher says Saffold “is going to be OK,” and reports say he injured his shoulder when he hit the ground. Looking at replay, if you asked me, I’d say he felt something before he hit the ground. I’ll gladly be wrong; it’s a season-ending injury if I’m right. Joe Barksdale was up-and-down in Saffold’s place. He had some problems in pass pro but was pancaking people as a run-blocker. He played RT and LT tonight but his grade tops out at OK depth, not a long-term solution. Going deeper on the depth chart, though, things just got laughable. Ty Nsekhe got whipped by Quentin Groves on his very first snap of the game in the 2nd, had to hold him… and still gave up the sack. In the 4th, he got smoked again and forced Davis to scramble, and come up short, on 4th-and-5. He also got rag-dolled around on running plays. Nsekhe’s looked bad in camp and is completely inadequate at tackle. So was Sean Hooey, who spent most of trash time getting turnstiled. (The scrubs were so bad as to make former Ram Justin Cole look like a world-beater.) The good news is the Rams do have an anchor at LT in Jake Long. He got run over once but was usually dominant in pass pro. Harvey Dahl was impressive run-blocking, especially on the two Richardson runs that set up Givens' TD. Chris Williams looked good at LG and can be awarded the starter's job there already. Shelley Smith had some excellent mauling run blocks, but he had no answer at all for speedier pass-rushers, getting beaten repeatedly. The backups also continue to struggle mightily with stunts. Cleveland's other sack came when Mingo and Brian Sanford stunted, and Barksdale and Smith got confused and lost Sanford. Tim Barnes is making himself a tough cut, doing some tough run-blocking at center. He blew the line open on an 11-yard Pead draw play in the 2nd. The line's starring moments, though, came with Bradford in the game. Corey Harkey was awesome on the long bomb to Givens, fighting off Mingo forever before Bradford finally unloaded. Protection was immaculate on Bradford's TD pass as well; Sam had enough time back there to read the Obamacare bill. The o-line's challenge now is keeping up that level of protection with Saffold missing significant action.
* Defensive line: Even with Cleveland’s top two RBs out, run defense was a pleasant surprise, allowing only 82 yards total on 2.8 yards a rush. Chris Long and Kendall Langford had early stops. James Laurinaitis played strong against the run. He blitzed on a play in the 1st, blew up the up-blocker, and Alec Ogletree and Jo-Lonn Dunbar followed him through to stuff Brandon Jackson for a loss. Laurinaitis also had a great fill that set up Dunbar for another TFL. An unpleasant surprise, though, was the top-sacking defense in the league last year giving Brandon Weeden and company too much time to throw. Chris Long got good penetration most pass plays, but Robert Quinn contributed little against Joe Thomas but a good stop on an end-around, and the Rams got surprisingly little push up the middle from Michael Brockers and Langford. Unable to get the Browns off the field the first eight minutes, the starters left the game after one drive. The Rams scored just two sacks and both were really gifts. Eugene Sims got one near halftime because the RG didn’t know the snap count and Matt Conrath flew by him and blew up the play. Garrett Goebel got a gift in the 4th when the RG, maybe the same guy, stepped on Bobby Hoyer and tripped him for a loss. Conrath and Mason Brodine had more impressive games than the starting DTs. Conrath continues to be super-quick off the ball and played the run well. The new surprise of camp, though, appears to be the very active Brodine. He stopped the run, and in the 2nd – this is a defensive tackle, people – got out on the wing and shut down a screen pass. Brodine’s most impressive play came near the goal line in the 1st. Cleveland came with a super jumbo set, double-teaming Brodine, and he still beat it to help stuff Jackson at the 3. The Rams need to combine run defense that good with pass rush a lot closer to what they got last season, though, or like tonight, they’re not going to get the opposing offense off the field. The most lamentable play was 900-year-old Jason Campbell keeping a drive alive with a 12-yard scramble in the 2nd. William Hayes and Josh Hull were supposed to contain, but were running like they each had a piano on their backs. Make that two pianos. And a camel. I don’t see rookie help coming. Gerald Rivers has inherited this year’s role of rookie DE who’s only interested in pass rush and not run defense. Gave up a big run on his side late in the game, and a guy who gets token pressure as a speed rusher and shows no bull rush at all isn’t worth the risk. The Rams, though, don’t need a rookie DE to spring up an save their season; their deep veteran rotation just needs to make sure to hit its groove by the time the games are for real.
* Secondary: Given that it’s preseason, and the Rams defense under Tim Walton is apparently going to continue its annoying tendency to lay the DBs ten yards off the receivers on 3rd-and-short, the secondary played as well as you could expect of it. The Browns might have thrown at Janoris Jenkins once. Cortland Finnegan made several good plays and smothered Greg Little at times, including perfect coverage on a 3rd-and-goal end zone pass in the 1st. Trumaine Johnson beautifully shut down a back-shoulder fade for Josh Gordon the previous play. Unfortunately, that drive had been kept alive by T.J. McDonald whiffing on a 3rd-and-5 draw play. Why are the Rams the only team that ever falls for these worthless 3rd-down draws and screens in preseason? Darian Stewart and James Laurinaitis did shut down an end-around perfectly in the 1st. The rookie linebackers had some unsurprising stumbles in pass coverage. Cleveland’s first TD was set up by a 30-yard completion to TE Jordan Cameron on a simple drag route that Alec Ogletree misplayed. He kept dropping back in coverage instead of picking up the receiver. Ogletree closed impressively to track down Dion Lewis on a screen in the 1st. Ray Ray Armstrong misplayed a screen in the 2nd. He looked unsure what to do and also dropped back off the back instead of picking him up. Good job to close down on the play, but at the cost of a facemask penalty. Learning quickly, though, he swallowed up a dumpoff pass for little gain later. They’re both excellent athletes who are going to make valuable contributions. At safety, Rashard Hall and Cody Davis both had moments in the 2nd half. They’re both good run supporters. Davis broke up a downfield pass, while Hall blew up a run and a screen but also, shades of the Rams receivers, dropped an interception in the 4th. Throw Robert Steeples into what’s becoming a spirited contest for 8th or 9th DB. He had several tackles and closed well on short passes. Andre Martin doesn’t appear to react all that quickly and looks well behind those other DBs. The Rams are going to rely on a ton of youth for pass coverage this season, but so far it looks like youth is going to serve them well.
* Special teams: John Fassel has a LOT of work ahead of him; special teams did NOT look good. Pead was fatally indecisive on kickoff returns and his blockers were consistently beaten downfield by the Browns anyway. Cunningham got the late returns and was infinitely more decisive than Pead, even got one out to the 30. Coverage was awful on a 91-yard punt return TD by Travis Benjamin in the 2nd. Johnny Hekker (55.7 avg) outblasted his coverage with a 66-yard rocket. No Ram was within 20 yards when Benjamin fielded it. Sims may have been the only defender on the play in the correct lane, and when he got held and couldn’t hold the edge, Benjamin was gone. Well, there was Hekker, with a woeful tackle attempt. Ram coverage teams showed a disturbing lack of speed all game. They looked like they were running in peanut butter and got outrun to every ball. Fassel also might want to tell Tavon Austin not to expect 60-yard punts if he’s going to use him as a returner. Austin never got close to a 37-yard punt in the 4th, but he had dropped back at least 10 yards too deep. On the good side, there’s the Return of Legatron, as Greg Zuerlein blasted 54- and 55-yard FGs. Hekker launched a couple of punts over 60 yards. Rodney McLeod swallowed a punt returner whole in the 3rd, and rookie UDFA Daren Bates pops up in my notes a lot for being around the ball. The kickers saved the night from being a complete disaster, but special teams need to get a lot faster, and a lot better, quickly.
* Strategery: Apparently, Jeff Fisher’s teams are not going to look very good coming out of training camp, losing 38-3 last year and digging an immediate 17-0 hole this year. Coming out strong is not Fisher’s main objective, unless you just beat him in the Super Bowl; then he’ll get ridiculously vindictive, have his guys hitting in non-contact scrimmages and run Eddie George 15 times in the first quarter of a preseason game. As annoying as it is any time of year to see teams worse than the Rams get the drop on them, I can live with games like this as long as they’re not reflected in the regular season results. The Rams got a good look at a lot of players in lifelike situations, which is what they were looking for. Penalties (6-45) weren’t terrible, and Pead’s was the only really bad turnover. That’s tolerable. The defense was more vanilla than Duck Dynasty, with almost no blitzing at all; that won’t happen in the regular season, Jack. And hey, talk about keeping your cards close to your vest – Jared Cook and Tavon Austin were targeted a combined total of ONCE. Let’s all hope this is the last time Jared Cook doesn’t get mentioned in a RamView until the Strategery section. My main concern after tonight is what exactly Fisher has down on his 2-point conversion card. Down 27-19 after Radway’s TD, you kick the PAT. Then, since it’s preseason you can afford to go for two to win the game if you get another TD. Was Fisher going to try to tie the game if the Hail Mary had worked? Coach, rule #1 of preseason: don’t let a game go to overtime!
* Upon further review: And now for the “it’s preseason for these guys, too” section of the recap, starting with John Parry’s officiating crew. They missed a hold on the punt return TD and a pretty obvious false start early on in Cleveland’s 3rd-quarter FG drive. My biggest concern, though, is what they let somebody called Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, all 330 pounds of him, do to Stacy in the 3rd. The play’s dead, though Stacy and Kitchen don’t know it yet, and Kitchen gets a ten-yard run at him, levels him with a forearm to the head, knocking his helmet practically into the stands, and then steps over him and taunts him after the play. That is arguably THREE personal fouls by one guy on one play. No flag. Isn’t the NFL supposed to be cracking down on these kind of things? C-minus
* Cheers: The “Rams Broadcasting Network” has added Torry Holt to last year’s excellent booth of Marshall Faulk and Andrew Siciliano, and we got an entertaining broadcast, with some bugs. Siciliano had trouble with spots, called Eugene Sims “Ernie” (I usually try to call him Kenneth), called Radway “Raddaway” (not to be confused with Haddaway), and botched the end-of-game run-off rule. There’s no run-off on a false start when the clock is already stopped. Torry had occasional trouble with grammar and needs not to chuckle while he’s emphasizing a point he’s trying to make. Marshall continues to be the best in the business in breaking down plays, like the screen to Richardson in the 1st, but marveled a little too much at the Rams making plays when the real reason for the play being made was a Browns lineman getting tripped or forgetting the snap count. Favorite call: a completion to #81, (Cameron Graham), who Siciliano jokingly identified as Holt, who then objected to someone else using his old number. This should be a fun crew to listen to the rest of the summer.
* Waiver bait: It's preseason for the Rams website, too, which does not list Justin Veltung (who's been in camp for a week), says two tight ends wear #89, and does not list whoever that was wearing #82 last night. Was that Mike McNeill? Whoever it was won't last long, the way he got beaten downfield and blocked poorly on kickoffs. Tonight better have been a wakeup call for Pead. Les Snead doesn’t need a wakeup call, but the Saffold injury should have set off alarms in the GM’s office, because it puts the Rams one injury away from Nsekhe taking the field. That won’t be pretty. Jermelle Cudjo’s probably giving his foot dirty looks after watching Conrath and Brodine speed by him on the depth chart tonight. Football is a cruel and unforgiving business.
* Who’s next?: Next Saturday we'll see if the Rams can do any better against the Green Bay Packers than they did the last time the Pack was here. The Packer offense has taken some hits already in 2013. They lost Greg Jennings in free agency and Jordy Nelson for the time being to an injury. A line that hasn't really protected Aaron Rodgers all that well the last couple of seasons took a hit with a season-ending injury to tackle Brian Bulaga. Rodgers is still Rodgers, and can uncork throws that just can't be defended, but these injuries level the field a bit, and it would be nice to see the Rams get after the Packer QBs with success. The Ram offense's main tasks will be to hold on to the ball much better and keep protecting Bradford. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry will offer Barksdale a worthy test. The Rams' main challenges so far, though, don't look like anything this coaching staff can't handle.
Game stats from nfl.com
Last edited by MFranke; -08-11-2013 at 12:01 AM.
Re: RamView, 8/8/2013: Browns 27, Rams 19 (Long)
Nice post Mike, one note Radway had 3 catches for 78 yards and a TD. If he would have caught the deep ball I think he would have made the team last night.
Re: RamView, 8/8/2013: Browns 27, Rams 19 (Long)
I had to turn the game off after no flag on that punt TD. I was already skeptical when blatant holding wasn't called on the 3 yard TD, and also on that screen to the left that went for big yardage.
And this wasn't bad officiating, but it looks like the RAMS are still getting bit by the bad bounce. A possible tipped INT goes straight to the only Brown in a group of RAMS, and Peads fumble bounced right to the only Brown in a group of RAMS. Could the team just be cursed?
-08-10-2013 #4Registered User
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Re: RamView, 8/8/2013: Browns 27, Rams 19 (Long)
when exactly is andrew helmick supposed to be back?
2 weeks or so?
Re: RamView, 8/8/2013: Browns 27, Rams 19 (Long)
Rambos, thanks for the heads up, got that fixed. --Mike
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