According to Jeff Fisher, today is a Thursday in Rams Nation, with the St. Louis Rams set to faceoff against the Baltimore Ravens in only two days. After their nationally televised game against the Denver Broncos, where the defensive starters saw nearly 50 snaps, there were plenty of individual performance worth mentioning. Instead of merely listing off some players, Ramblin’ Fan figured we would do our first installment of the “Who’s Hot & Who’s Not” series, detailing which players and units are lighting up the TV screen and which are… not!
Hot: Alec Ogletree
Alec Ogletree, affectionately known as “The Tree,” played like a man possessed on Saturday, following a handful of below-average games against the Green Bay Packer and the Cleveland Browns. He wiped those “troubles” away on the big stage, recording 6 total tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 1 defensive touchdown, and 1 interception. Pro Football Focus graded Ogletree as the 5th highest overall linebacker and, by far, the top coverage linebacker from Week 4, joining the likes of Von Miller, Ahmad Brooks, and Luke Kuechly in that upper tier.
Not: Darian Stewart
Darian Stewart can not catch a break with his hamstring, missing all of last week with the soft tissue injury, including the game in Denver. He was held out of practice yesterday, and figures to be a scratch for the Baltimore matchup, which is only two days away. With both Craig Dahl and Quintin Mikell gone, Stewart was essentially handed the starting safety job. With a handful of young defensive backs hungry to get their chance in the secondary, it appears as though time might be running out for the “veteran” St. Louis Ram.
Hot: Rodney McLeod
The “young defensive back” leading the charge for Darian Stewart’s job is second-year, undrafted free agent, Rodney McLeod. After getting the start against the Peyton Manning-led Broncos, McLeod received excellent reviews from Jeff Fisher, enamored by both he and T.J. McDonald’s defensive maturity against the hurry-up. Manning got the offense lined up at a blistering pace, disallowing the safeties to re-align themselves in the secondary. As a result, the young duo merely played “right safety” and “left safety,” performing whichever role was necessary in the coverage. Impressive! McLeod ranked 11th among safeties in Week 4, allowing only a single reception in coverage, and not allowing any yards after the catch. With those types of performances, against elite quarterbacks and receivers, he could certainly earn a place in the starting lineup… if he hasn’t already.
Hot: Special Teams
Since the opening week blunder against the Cleveland Browns, when Johnny Hekker out-kicked the coverage resulting in a punt return for a touchdown, special teams have been nearly perfect. Greg Zuerlein has hit three field goals from 54+ yards, including a 58-yarder against the Denver Broncos. Johnny Hekker has been outstanding, landing 44% of this punts inside the 20 yard line and allowing only 22 yards on 5 returns. Tavon Austin finally got his shot on punt return, taking his first legitimate return for 81 yards before being “tackled” by Alec Ogletree on the sideline. Even the field goal defense has been successful, with a partial-block against the Packers and T.J. McDonald registering an official blocked field goal against the Broncos. Now, if only the kick return game would start to heat up…
Not: Janoris Jenkins
Hard to knock Jenkins for following defensive orders and laying back in a soft zone, but he has still been nothing short of “adequate” so far this preseason. The second-year defensive back has allowed an 88.9% catch rate and has yet to record any pass deflections or interceptions. Worse, Jenkins was regularly on the ground against the Denver Broncos. In one case, Jenkins slipped on his break-back cut, leaving the underneath receiver wide-open for an easy catch-and-run first down. Later in the game, Peyton Manning completely spun Jenkins in coverage, throwing him off balance, and allowing an easy first down catch on the sideline. The lazy-man, soft-zone is obviously not Jenkins’ forte, with Tim Walton throwing very little man-to-man coverage in the to defensive game plan. However, there will be times this season where the Rams will be in “prevent,” and our up-and-coming stud will need to perform better than he has this preseason.
Hot: Sam Bradford throwing to Jared Cook
After ending the preseason opener without a catch, Jared Cook has been on a rampage with the starting offense. In only 48 offensive snaps, Cook recorded 5 receptions for 87 yards, including a highlight-reel touchdown grab in the endzone. Sam Bradford’s newest toy has shown off both his explosiveness and red zone abilities already this preseason. If this is any indication of how the regular season will go, we’d advise everyone to take Jared Cook early in their next fantasy football draft.