Relish in this feeling Rams Nation, of waking up in the morning and not having to pause for a moment before reading the analyses from the previous night’s games. The Rams had an impressive outing against the Chiefs, and the media has finally given Jeff Fisher and Co. some much needed love after constantly questioning Sam Bradford’s accuracy, pocket poise, and his “cabin fever” in the backfield. Again, it is a preseason game, so as much as St. Louis would like to chalk the victory up in the win column, we have to remember that it will all get erased on Aug. 31 when the team make the cut to finalize the 53-man roster and the “real” football begins. However, just because it isn’t a regular season game doesn’t mean that we can not take away some valuable information from the film. Here are my top 8 observations from the game:
1. It looks like we may have found a glimmer of hope at left guard
“Rok” Watkins disappointed all of Rams Nation when he showed up overweight and out of shape to OTAs a coupe of months ago. Our 5th round selection was supposed to come in and challenge some of the veteran free agents for the starting job, but instead was running extra sprints on the sideline and working with the second unit. Yesterday, Watkins displayed the mauling power that the Rams expected of him out of college. Not only was he impressive in run blocking, but also shining in pass blocking. Fisher had his to say about his two rookie linemen after the game, ”They’re getting opportunities to play early and we felt like they were going to contribute. I have to look at the tape to look at the big men on both lines, both Brockers and Watkins, but it looked like they were getting the job done.”
2. Bradford seems to be in remission from the “cabin fever”
Bradford has looked the picture of confident in both of his preseason showings so far. He is 13 of 18 passing for 159 yards, with 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. More impressively, he has yet to be sacked in the preseason, and is exhibiting the confidence to step into his throws and deliver the ball with the defense rushing him. Last night, he was facing some heavy pressure from the LDE, who beat Barry Richardson around the end and the RDT who got his arms up in the passing lane, before Bradford floated the pass over his hands and into Amendola’s. For as much criticism as the offensive line has taken, Bradford seem fairly impressed with their performance thus far. ” I thought those guys played great tonight,” Bradford said of the line. “I don’t think I got touched once. Anytime that you come out of a game and you’re not sore, it’s a great feeling. So, props to those guys. They played great tonight.” Confidence in your offensive line can go a long way for a quarterback, just ask Tom Brady and his Super Bowl rings.
3. Mixed bag from the running backs from the draft
In the 2012 draft, the Rams used their 2nd and 7th rounder on running backs after a failed attempt last season to signed veterans for backups. Daryl Richardson looked impressive, hitting the open hole and using his speed to gain extra yardage, moving North and South. Pead on the other hand, picked up right where he left off from the Colts game, insisting on running laterally instead of taking what the defensive was giving him. It is early in the preseason still, so there is still time to work out the kinks at practice and throughout the next two games for Pead, but it is nice to see Richardson taking advantage of his opportunities in the game.
4. Young defensive backs are causing turnovers
Talk about returns on your investment, “Tru” Johnson and Janoris Jenkins put on a show last night on the defensive side of the ball. Both played well in coverage and did not allow receiver to gain additional yards after the carry. More importantly, both were directly involved in the turnover game, with Janoris Jenkins causing a fumble on the Chiefs’ opening offensive play and Trumaine Johnson deflecting a pass that dropped down into the waiting hands of DT Matt Conrath, who recorded the official interception.
5. Our defensive line has some massive depth
We all have an idea of how the first team defensive line will look with Quinn, Langford, Brockers, and Long. What we got a glimpse of last night was watching our rotational players, and even some of the fringe defensive lineman, show off against the wilting Chiefs offensive line. Our second and third didn’t miss a step once the starters where off the field, with Smith and Hayes both pulling down the quarterback for a sack and the rest of the line maintaining consistent pressure that led to an interception and a couple of forced fumbles.
6. Greg Zuerlein has earned his nickname
No, I do not mean Young GZ as he has apparently been anointed in the locker room, I mean Greg the Leg. Zuerlein effortlessly boomed a 52 yarder, in what Marshall Faulk, who was commentating the game, claimed “looked like a chip shot.” More impressive, in 6 kickoffs (4 touchdowns, 1 field goal, and the second half), he recorded two touch backs and, more importantly, kicked the ball deep enough so that the returners passed the 20 yard line only once. In the regular season, returners are much more conservative on when they will take the ball out of the end zone; so, we could be seeing games where there are zero returns on kickoff.
7. It is clear that Bradford missed Danny Amendola last year
These guys have been through a tough couple of seasons together. Clearly, Bradford is looking to make up for lost time through his targeting of Amendola on the outside. The couple started and ended their night together on pass completions and completely dominated the 1st Quarter through the air. Even more impressive, was that Amendola was being moving from the slot to the outside on a number of plays and running route in the excess of 10 yards. With the connection these two have in the passing game and Amendola expanding his route tree, they could prove to be the next dynamic duo in the NFL
8. Where are the punt returns?
The box score at the end of the game tallied 3 punt returns for 5 yards. Granted it is still the preseason, so the coaching staff is still working on testing out players as return men. Still, regardless of how our offense played in this game, we are going to need all the help we can get from special teams, and under 2 yards per return is not going to cut it.