What was anticipation and excitement lead to disappointment and concern for the Rams after they lost 27-19 to the Cleveland Browns in their preseason debut. While there were some negatives, there are still positives that can be taken out of this loss. Thankfully it is only a preseason game, and the coaches and players can now get a better idea of what they have to work on.
First things first, the first team defense did not show any signs of being a top ten defense like they are expected to be. Granted it is only a preseason game and Fisher didn’t throw in any complex blitzes or anything like that, but the defensive line still struggled to get pressure and the secondary just struggled to do anything. Weeden seemed to have his way with the secondary going 10/13 and 112 yards and throwing one touchdown through the first quarter while also converting three third downs on the opening drive and again for a touchdown on the second drive. The defense seemed to struggle covering the middle of the field, and the secondary also missed some tackles.
The first team offense didn’t look too bad. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but they were explosive as advertised. Bradford connected with Givens on multiple occasions down field. Givens had three receptions for 82 yards and one touchdown. His longest reception being a bomb of 59 yards. Givens has turned out to be quite the deep threat, possibly one of the best in the league. After the game Givens said, “Me and Sam decided to send a message, ‘This is the effort you’re going to get every Sunday.'” Bradford looks like he could be on his way to a career year. He seemed calm, cool, collected, and confident in the pocket getting good protection. Bradford was one of the few positives in tonight’s game going 5/8 for 102 yards and touchdown. Neither Austin nor Cook had a catch in tonight’s game, although Austin was targeted a couple times and was out there to return a punt return that he didn’t get a chance to return. You don’t want to show all your guns in the first show, but expect both to be targeted a little more in the upcoming preseason games.
In the running back competition it looks like Richardson may have just separated himself from the group. On the team’s first drive Pead made a costly fumble that turned into an easy seven points for Cleveland and then three plays later the Rams were forced to punt which was returned for a touchdown…17-0 Browns. Richardson had 4 carries for 24 yards along with two receptions for 20 yards and a drop. Richardson showed what he can do and showed why he deserves to be the number one guy while Pead lost a little trust. Stacy didn’t have a bad day either having seven carries for 23 yards and two receptions for 13 yards and a drop.
As for the reserves and other side notes, Radway impressed having three receptions that went for 78 yards and a touchdown. Tight End Lutzenkirchen made a nice catch along the sidelines that caught some eyes. Chris Williams started the game at left guard ahead of Shelly Smith, but Smith will still get his opportunities. Linebacker Ray Ray Armstrong also had a strong first game and made a good first impression. He and Lutzenkirchen should make the final 53 man roster after going undrafted. Both Brian Quick and Stedman Bailey both had respectable games as well. The Rams came out of the game fairly healthy, Saffold did get hurt during the game, but it was nothing major. Fisher did say he could miss some time and he wasn’t sure how much though. Greg Zurlein also knocked down a 54 and 55 yard field goal…no big deal
Fisher said after the game that he kept everything really basic and that’s what the intention was. Many of the players and even Snead described it as being a very vanilla game plan. It is only the first preseason game and the first game is never an indication of where you are at. The Rams have a lot of young players that showed some positives, but also had some young player mistakes. The Rams coaches know what kinds of things that they need to work on and they will have a game plan set in nine days when they have to play the Packers in the dome. The Rams may be 0-1 in the preseason, but it is only the preseason. The Rams went 4-0 in 2010 only to go 2-14 in the regular season. The Lions went 4-0 only to go 0-16 in 2008. The Rams will be ready for week one and there is nothing to be too worried right now after the first preseason game. In other words, don’t write off the playoffs just yet.