Last night the St. Louis Rams put on a show for the world, playing their first nationally televised game against the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos. The game was exciting from the opening snap, with some highlight reel plays from the Rams and the Broncos doing their best Chip Kelly impression with their hurry-up offense. While the final score suggests that St. Louis lost the game, it is certainly not indicative of the battle between the “starters.” It is safe to say Jeff Fisher will be much happier with his film than John Fox. Anyways, without further ado, here are Ramblin’ Fan’s quick thoughts on the game…
1. First and foremost, let’s have a moment of silence for all those “experts” and analysts that had been ripping on the Alec Ogletree selection after his performances in the opening half of the preseason. “The Tree” was the obvious player of the game last night , making massive plays on the ground and in coverage. Unofficially, the rookie outside linebacker finished the night with: 6 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 1 defensive touchdown, 2 pass deflections, and 1 interception. The quickest way to make doubters close their mouths is by going out and performing on the football field. Ogletree certainly shut a few nay-sayers up last night.
2. Since Bradford joined the NFL, his confidence has always been in question on the football field. At the start of last season, there were questions about him suffering from “cabin fever,” or rushing due to defensive pressure that wasn’t necessarily there. Between Jeff Fisher, the new pieces on the offense line, and his new offense weapons, Bradford has obviously found his comfort zone. The Rams’ signal caller has been sensational in all three preseason games so far, finishing last night with a 56% completion percentage, 110 passing yards, and his first touchdown connection with Jared Cook. If this is any indication of how Bradford will play during the regular season, he could certainly move up into the upper echelon of quarterback in the league.
3. Benny Cunningham needs to make this 53-man roster, solely for the purpose of giving the St. Louis Rams someone besides Isaiah Pead to return kickoffs. Pead was not really given the opportunity to show off his potential last night, with most of his kicks sailing over his head. However, we have seen Pead’s success as a returner, or lack of, dating back to last season. Benny Cunningham has been impressive on nearly every return he has taken this preseason. With Terrance Ganaway gone, there is no reason Cunningham shouldn’t see the “first team” snaps at kick return against the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday, and eventually make the team as a depth running back and special teams player.
4. Having no inside knowledge on the rationale behind the receiver rotation, we all have to be somewhat perplexed by the refusal to given Brian Quick and Stedman Bailey more snaps with the first-teamers. Austin Pettis was abysmal last night, in one case looking over the wrong shoulder on the corner route that likely should have been a touchdown. Both Bailey and Quick have been impressive in practice and during their preseason games. At some point, the coaching staff is going to have to shuffle the rotation. Or, at least, we hope…
5. Whatever Jeff Fisher did at practice to improve on tackling, he should continue to do for the rest of the preseason and on into the regular season. Granted, there was still a fair amount of arm tackles last night, but there were no glaring misses by players in the open field like there had been against Green Bay. James Laurinaitis, Alec Ogletree, Cortland Finnegan, and Rodney McLeod all stood out on the defensive side of the football last night simply with their tackling. That is a good sign!
6. Speaking of Rodney McLeod… go ahead and make him the starter.
7. Greg “the Leg” was certainly unleashed last night, getting to attempt a 58-yarder in the notoriously thin-air in Denver. In Ramblin’ Fan’s “bold predictions,” we suggested that Zuerlein would enter the history books with a 60+ yard field goal. We’ll have to settle for a 58 yard make, with about 5 to 10 yards of extra power.
8. With Devin Hester and Josh Cribbs in their primes, opposing punters would try their best to kick the football out of bound, or even sacrifice distance in an attempt to force a fair catch by the return men. Tavon Austin may very well be that type of player, with two excellent returns last night in the punt game. Aside from the Alec Ogletree force-scoop-and-score, Austin’s 81 yard punt return on the Rams’ first drive was likely the highlight of the game. Dynamic…
9. Not to be outdone by the other rookies, T.J. McDonald was impressive last night as well, getting his paw on a field goal attempt. Aside from the block, McDonald was also impressive with the first-teamers, recorded 3 tackles next to his new partner, Rodney McLeod. More importantly, we did not hear McDonald’s name for most of the night. Oddly enough, that is a good thing; meaning there was no blown coverage, missed tackles, or penalties that drew attention. Last night was a “coming-out party” for the 2013 rookie draft class. Let’s hope they can keep it up into the regular season.
10. Johnny Hekker was a monster in the punt game last night, with two absolutely beautiful kicks landing inside the 20 yard line. Consistency was a problem for Hekker last year, with the occasional “shank” during some big moments in the game. So far, the sophomore punter has been nothing short of phenomenal, much like the rest of the special teams-trio.