Another week, another preseason game to dissect and digest. However, unlike the opening week of the preseason, the matchup versus the Packers was much “meatier,” filled with marquee names and star talents; albeit, for only a couple of series. Aaron Rodgers vs. the St. Louis Rams pass rush. The return of Sam Bradford. The second chance for Michael Sam to leave an impression. Those were all headlines that did not disappoint on Saturday evening. As always, even with the “starters” spending most, if not all, of the day on the sidelines watching, there is plenty to take away from this preseason bout. Here are our quick thoughts on the St. Louis Rams loss to the Green Bay Packers.
1. Sam the Ram is back. The opening drive was a tad disappointing, with Bradford obviously working through a pre-scripted list of plays, which did include a solid 4th down conversion, but ended with a punt after gaining only 21 yards on 10 plays. However, once off the script, Bradford opened up the offense, going 4 for 5 passing for 63 yards and a touchdown on his second drive. Bradford was confident, poised, and, most importantly, accurate on that final possession. That is nothing to scoff about, considering the inexperienced Greg Robinson was the starting left tackle and, worse, Mike Person was starting on the interior.
2. We cannot talk about the final Bradford drive without mentioning Brian Quick, who looked every bit of the second-rounder Les Snead and Jeff Fisher had hoped he would be back in 2012. To open the second offensive series, Bradford launched a pass down the middle, leading Quick, and putting the ball where only his monster receiver could catch it. Quick did just that, plucking the ball out of the air and striding for 41 more yards before being taken down. Three plays later, Brian ran a brilliant go-route on the outside, forcing Packers cornerback, Sam Shields, to blatantly hold him to prevent the touchdown. In two plays Quick essentially got the Rams from their own 24 yard line, all the way down to the opposing 17 yard line. That is what we’ve been waiting for….
— Daniel Doelling (@Daniel_Doelling) August 16, 2014
3. Overall, Greg Robinson looked solid starting at left tackle with the “first-team” unit. On his third series, he did allow a sack on Shaun Hill, but would later make up for it with a mauling pancake block; which was actually flagged as “holding.” In two starts, Robinson’s inefficiencies in pass protection have not been glaring. That is all we can ask for at this point in the preseason.
— Daniel Doelling (@Daniel_Doelling) August 17, 2014
4. While some may criticize Brian Schottenheimer for his lack of creativity in pass calling, he does appear to understand the immense talent the Rams possess at tight end. St. Louis regularly lined up in two- or three-tight end sets, often showing run, then bolting a quick pass to one of the many talented blocker-receiver hybrids. In fact, the fourth down conversion and the touchdown were both completions coming from that type of action. Much like last year, we should expect Sam Bradford to throw a lot of passes in short yardage situations and in the red zone.
5. Once again, the cornerbacks and defensive ends stole the show for the St. Louis Rams defense. Lamarcus Joyner and Marcus Roberson were particularly impressive. Joyner led the team in tackles, and forced a fumble that Cody Davis would recover and return for a decent gain. Roberson was just as active on the field, although it may not show on the stat sheet, regularly being targeted in coverage, to no avail. With EJ Gaines on the sideline, the rest of the defensive backs had plenty of time to shine. If forced to pick which two battling cornerbacks were in the driver’s seat to make the 53-man roster, it would be Roberson and Gaines, with Brandon McGee and Greg Reid on the outside looking in.
6. TJ McDonald was also impressive in his short time on the field yesterday, making several consecutive big plays on Aaron Rodgers’ “failed” second drive. Although there was one instance where McDonald chose to lay a big hit instead of attacking the ball, his intensity on defense was the personification of “tone setting.” The reps we’ve seen from the former USC standout this perseason, the more he is starting to look like our version of Kam Chancellor, the enforcer in the secondary.
7. Just when many thought the battle for the final spot on the defensive line had been convincingly won by Ethan Westbrooks, Michael Sam kicked down the door and made his presence felt on the football field. Sam would finish the game with two tackles, two hits on the quarterback, and a sack. However, Westbrooks was arguably the best defensive lineman on the field for the second consecutive week, finishing the day with four tackles, two hits, one sack, and one pressure that forced another sack later in the game. The last two games of the preseason should determine which player will make the squad for the St. Louis Rams. However, whoever does get cut will have some very impressive tape that should land them on another roster very quickly…
8. On the lone disappointing note, Ray Ray Armstrong continued to struggle with the first-team unit. Last week, Armstrong got swept up against the run, regularly getting lost in traffic and failing to get off blocks. This week, Armstrong was exposed in coverage, being credited with two massive mistakes on the opening series alone that led to huge gains for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. As we said last week, we had all better hope James Laurinaitis is full-go by Week 1 of the regular season.
9. On the injury front, there was one loss yesterday; Isaiah Pead. Pead went down on the opening kickoff return of the night without being touched, and was unable to walk off the field under his own power. It was later reported that is was, in fact, an ACL tear, ending his 2014 season before it started. Given the already-murky waters surrounding Pead on the 53-man roster, it is hard to imagine that Pead didn’t just play his last snap for the St. Louis Rams. With Benny Cunningham, Zac Stacy, and Tre Mason all performing admirably, and Chase Reynolds continuing to impress during practice and on special teams, Pead might have been on the outside looking in, even before the injury. It would not be surprising to see the St. Louis Rams reach an injury settlement and cut ties with Pead sometime in the near future.
10. Johnny Hekker snapped back into form against the Green Bay Packers, averaging an impressive 45.5 yards per kick on his four punt attempts. Greg Zuerlein, however, continued to struggle with accuracy, sailing his lone field goal attempt (albeit from 55 yards) wide right of the uprights. At the end of the day, the last two positions on the field that the St. Louis Rams need to worry about are punter and kicker. Both will be ready to go by the start of the regular season.
Tags: St. Louis Rams