After last week’s zealous optimism it’s time to crash back down to reality with a harsh look at the preseason so far. Don’t kill the messenger….
5. Jason Smith, Right Tackle?
In the 2009 draft the Rams selected Baylor OT Jason Smith with the 2nd overall pick. Of the three tackles at the top of draft boards, Smith was seen as having the largest upside and mobility in comparison to Eugene Monroe (Jaguars) and Michael Oher (Ravens). He was noted to be a pretty raw prospect with his history as a TE and Baylor’s shotgun offense. Due to injuries he only played in 8 games last season, 5 as a starter, with a concussion holding him out towards the end of the year. Coming into 2010 with the departure of false-start machine Alex Barron, Smith was expected to start at left tackle, yet more injures and sluggish performances have seen him handed the right tackle role while second round rookie Rodger Saffold has been handed the premier job protecting the QB’s blindside. Smith needs to be seen to develop this year and show that the Rams didn’t reach for a right tackle, paying him $33m of guaranteed money.
4. Uninspiring play-calling
Last year offensive co-coordinator Pat Shurmur was criticized in his first season on the job for his unoriginal and tame play-calling. The Rams lacked the attitude and downfield plays once heralded by the Greatest Show on Turf and although the fan base is willing to accept we’re a different beast these days, we all want to see some air under the passes once in a while. The pre-season has been similarly disappointing. Lots of check downs. Short passes have dominated the game plan. Game reporters have been noting only 3rd stringer Keith Null has been given any opportunities to really ‘air-it-out’. When you spend the #1 draft pick on quarterback and play for a franchise with only 4 win and very little excitement in the past 3 years, you want to see the new saviour making some plays, not a short pass on 3rd and 7 to a TE.
3. For all the hype, Bradford has looked shaky
After a underwhelming debut headlined by four sacks whilst going 6/13 for 57 yards, Sam Bradford was hoping to capitalize on a more cohesive O-Line in the second preseason game against Cleveland. The pouring rain, some nerves and several bobbled snaps later, the man the franchise is depending on finished 6/14 for a paltry 24 yards. At least he wasn’t sacked though. Bradford has so far accumulated stats that read 12/27 for 81 yards and no TDs and 4 sacks. That’s a 44% completion rate. We can all make excuses till we are blue in the face, but at the end of the day, he needs to do better!
2. Injury bugs
The Rams have been woeful in keeping the players on the field over the past few seasons. Training camp may not have seen any major injuries befall players, but niggles and knocks are causing problems for the Rams secondary. Bartell, King, Butler and Dockery have all missed time and for a unit that will face Larry Fitzgerald, TJ Houshmanzadeh and Michael Crabtree, it’s not a good sign. Jason Smith who missed multiple games last season, as already mentioned, has also missed time in camp, while nominal #1 QB A.J Feeley has now picked up a thumb and elbow injury forcing rookie signal caller Sam Bradford into a starting role. Adding Dario Alexander, a player who has had 4 knee surgeries recently, to the WR corps probably won’t help the Rams to stay healthy either!
1. Out-matched in all areas
In both games so far the Rams have looked inconsistent. We’ve converted less 3rd downs, gained less total yards, less net passing yards and less net rushing yards than our opponents. We converted 9/33 (27%) on 3rd down compared to 14/31 (42%) by opponents, racking up 322 total yards (vs. 699), 232yds passing (vs. 523) and 90yds rushing (vs. 176). Even in the Browns game that we won, Cleveland had more passing and rushing yards than us as well more success on 3rd down. We’ve scored only one TD on offense in eight quarters and our only highlight of note has been a Danny Amendola 92yd punt return, which he followed up by fumbling on the next punt.
We. Must. Improve.