Sam's Silver Linings - Week Sixteen
Due to the Christmas holiday, this week's Silver Linings is a day late. I apologize for the delay, but it is not often that my family all gets together. Here's this week's column!
Janoris Jenkis should be the NFL rookie of the year.
Four defensive touchdowns so far this season, three of them from interceptions. He has tied the rookie record of scoring three times off of those interceptions, joining Ronnie Lott and Lem Barney, who are both in the Hall of Fame. The gamble the Rams took by drafting him has paid dividends this year, and as long as his off-field conduct remains above board, it looks like the Rams may have a pro-bowl quality corner for years to come.
As has happened too many times this season, the Rams started off looking like they werenít ready to play in the NFL. For the first 15 minutes of play, the offense looked rather ineffective, making fans everywhere begin preparations for disappointment. Our defense stood strong, but somehow still allowed too many yards to be gained by the Bucs. As has happened many other times this season that same defense made a beautiful play that changed the entire gameÖand it was Jenkins who came to the rescue.
What really puzzles me about the Rams is the offense. We have seen Bradford take the offense down the field and score quickly, efficiently, and repeatedly. I donít understand the lackluster offense at the start of many games. It seems like they arrive on the field, and arenít really fired up until the defense lights a fire under the posterior sections of the offense. We have an elite running back in Steven Jackson, a very talented backup in Daryl Richardson, so the ground game canít be the reason. Sam Bradford can thread a needle at 80 yards with his talent; he has the mental skills to outthink the competition, so that canít be the issue. Amendola, Gibson, Pettis, Kendricks, and Givens have proven they can catch the ball (although not at the same level as Bruce and Holt), so that isnít the issue, either. Our offensive line has been able to hold off the best defenses in the NFL. So, what is the problem with the offense?
Iím sure I am not the only one who has pondered this question. I am also sure I am not the only one who has come up with the obvious answers.
It doesnít take much to see that one of the factors affecting our offense is motivation. Brian Schottenheimer has been effective as an offensive coordinator in the past, so I am not sure why he doesnít have the offense fired up. Although we arenít loaded with the same level of talent as in the days of the GSOT, we do have some good talent on the field. We also have some players who would struggle to make an Arena league team. Talent and motivation are different things; many politicians are motivated, but do not have the talent to be successful.
The offensive line is another factor contributing to the less-than-stellar performance of our offense. It isnít easy to hold back 300 pounds or more of rushing defensive muscle back for 5 seconds, but when someone gets paid six or seven figures to do just that, they should put forth more effort. After all, we canít win games with our QB flat on his back.
Our wide receivers seem to be learning as the season goes on. They are better able to find separation, make the cuts they need to, and stay on their assigned routes more often than they were early in the year. The only concerns I have are the lack of speed available for the long pass plays, and the ability to hang onto the ball.
During the offseason, I hope that the Rams are able to address those issues. Free agency and the draft should solve the player issues; the motivational factor is something that only Fisher can address. I have little doubt that next year will be different.
As I sit here in my new Rams long-sleeve shirt (itís COLD outside, and the snow we were promised went south of us by over 100 miles), I am reflecting on the season so far, and I am happy with what we have seen from the Rams this year. Sundayís win was a nice Christmas gift for us Rams fans. Going from a bottom feeding mess to 7-7-1 is not only satisfactory, it is exactly what Fisher virtually guaranteed. The path to that record was not exactly as we anticipated; we lost to some teams that we should have easily beaten. We also beat teams that we should not have even been able to score against.
With all of that being said, I will now give you week 16ís ďSilver LiningsĒ:
1. Janoris Jenkins: Like I have already said many times, he is the steal of the draft. His ability is something I look forward to watching for years to come.
2. Steven Jackson: We did not get to see him break the 1000 yard mark on the season. This week, we will. Steven has been a workhorse for years, and rumors aside, he should remain in horns for a few more years. Nineteen carries, 81 yards, and one TD is not anything to sneeze at, especially for a running back with the mileage of #39.
3. Lance Kendricks: Quick, name the last Rams tight end that was as dependable as Kendricks. Yeah, I thought so. He has really been dependable this year, and his 4 receptions for 119 yards and a TD confirm this.
4. Sam Bradford: After a slow start, once again he was able to move the ball down the field quite efficiently. If he had an O-line in front of him that could keep him upright, and some receivers that could break away downfield, he would be considered elite by any standard. As it is, he was able to complete 13/27 for 196 yards and 2 TDís, but also had one INT.
5. James Laurinaitis: Eleven solo tackles, one assist, and an interception. Not a bad dayís work for #55.
6. Chris Long: He is one of the stalwarts of the defense. The identity of the Rams would be very different if he was not wearing the Blue & Gold. He did only sack Freeman once, but I guarantee you that Freeman was watching for him every time his hands touched the ball.
7. Quintin Mikell: He stepped it up again this game with 10 solo tackles, one assist, one sack, and a forced fumble. Sometimes, the old guys are the ones who hit the hardest, and he proved that once again in this game.
8. Jo-Lonn Dunbar: Although he has missed about 15 or so tackles this season, he has also made some crucial ones. Against the Bucs, he made nine solos and one assist. He is another reason our defense is so effective.
This coming Sunday, we end our season with a visit to Seattle. I have been giving one Seahawks fan a hard time about this upcoming game. He seems to think they will win easily; I reminded him that we may not be in the playoffs, but we have already beaten them once this year, and we are the ONLY team in the NFC West that is undefeated in our division. No matter the outcome, I have a feeling this game is going to be one that will go down to the last few minutes before it is decided.
For those of you who will be travelling this week please be careful. Donít drink and drive; the life you save might be mine! I hope you all had a great Christmas, and I wish you all a great new year in 2013.