As expected, in the aftermath of the opening week of preseason, analysts, pundits, and “experts” exploded with bold conclusions, season predictions, and their “picks” for depth chart battles across the NFL. Chris Johnson look like the best running back in the league, the New England Patriots should be Super Bowl favorites, and Chip Kelly should scrap the Eagle’s new offense scheme completely. Rams Nation was not immune to this league-wide overreaction, especially with some shaky opening play from several rookies, and “lack of play” for several others. So, to ease the tension that some might be feeling, we decided to put this over-analysis into a “what if” scenario.
What if we based the entire St. Louis Rams roster and season outcomes on their single preseason performance against the Cleveland Browns?
1. Completely reshuffle the wide receiver depth chart
Tavon Austin and Austin Pettis both saw one target… and both had one dropped pass. Time to pack their bags and send them to the waiver wire, as players like Raymond Radway and Justin Veltung are obviously the future in St. Louis. While your at it, you can go ahead and pencil Chris Givens into the Hall-of-Fame, catching 100% of this targets and scoring on every third reception. By doing some quick math, we see Givens had three receptions in the first half ,while averaging 27.3 yards per catch… double that catch total, for six receptions per game… multiply that by 16 regular season game… and that should equal roughly 2,620 receiving yards and 32 touchdowns. Not too shabby!
2. King Sam, Lord of the Football
If you go back and watch all eight of Sam Bradford’s throws, you will notice that every single one hits a receiver in the hands. In fact, Daryl Richardon, Austin Pettis, and Tavon Austin were in excellent position to pull in their targets, with the ball being away from the defender and well within each player’s catch radius. With Pettis and Austin cut from the team (as mentioned in the previous paragraph), there should be fewer drops… lets say an 87.5% catch rate (i.e. seven catches for every eight attempts). With an impressive 145.8 quarterback rating, Bradford is easily the most dominant signal caller in the league. Averaging roughly 100 passing yards per quarter, our fourth-year star should be on his way to a 6000+ yard passing season. Naturally, that will likely result in some massive leads, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to stop passing the football. Maybe, the St. Louis Rams will follow Pete Carroll’s lead and resort to running up the score to make the offense look better…
3. Wasted picks! Can we get a re-draft?
Alec Ogletree and T.J. McDonald were a bit shaky to start the game, both blatantly missing assignments. A missed tackle by McDonald led to a first down on the Browns’ opening drive, which would eventually lead to a field goal. Ogletree would completely blow coverage on the Rams’ goal line stand, which resulted in a Brandon Weeden touchdown pass. Why not just cut our losses now? We already cut Tavon Austin, but St. Louis should just go ahead and release their next two 2013 draftees, wiping out nearly the entire draft class from Rounds 1 though 3. At least we can keep Stedman Bailey on the roster.
4. Greg “the amazingly awesome, super Leg” Zuerlein
While it is atypical for a kicker to spend the entire season booting 50+ yarders, the St. Louis Rams might just have to consider it after Zuerlein hammered a 54- and 55-yarder against the Browns on Thursday. In fact, why not just save time and send out the special teams every time the Rams make to the opposing 35-yard line? The quicker you end the drive with a score, the quicker you can get the ball back and score again…. right?
5. No luck on special teams…
With players like Tavon Austin, Chris Givens, and Isaiah Pead, the St. Louis Rams imagined this offseason that the return game would pick up significantly, after posting one of the worst averages in the NFL last season. That looks to be a no-go, with a mere 26.3 yard return average on kickoff, and only 9.0 yards per return on punts. To make matters worse, the coverage team allowed two kickoff returns for 25+ yards, and allowed Travis Benjamin to run the opening punt back 91 yards for a touchdown. John Fassel might want to watch himself this season, because he is certainly on the hotseat.
6. From first to worst in the pass rush
Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers, and Kendall Langford combined for a grand total of zero sacks against the Cleveland Browns. Where is the pass rush? Naturally, Eugene Sims should immediately be slotted into the starting lineup, but what else can the St. Louis Rams do to improve their ability to get to the quarterback? Probably nothing. Maybe hiring a defensive coordinator wasn’t such a great idea after all…
For those who may have completely skipped over the introduction and went straight into reading through those highlights without any context… WE ARE JOKING!
As Jeff Fisher mentioned in both his post-game interview and his press conference on Friday, no one should be drawing any conclusions from the Rams play on the field last Thursday. Preseason games are a prime opportunity for the 1st-team offense to get some quality reps running some basic offensive plays and, more importantly, a chance for fringe players to make a case for themselves to make the cut for the 53-man roster at the end of August. Instead of getting our panties in a bunch, we should sit back, relax, and relish in the fact that football is finally here!