– Good Sunday afternoon, Rams fans. We’re going to do things a bit different this week because of the late return from last night’s game and a slight adjustment to the usual schedule that accompanies this weekend.
– There was no postgame blog last night as we traveled back from Dallas and got back around 2:30 a.m. Also, Coach Jeff Fisher’s usual day after game news conference has been pushed back to Monday because he and his staff have to make 15 cuts to take the roster from 90 to 75 between now and Monday afternoon. More on that in a bit.
– But in the meantime, let’s take a quick look back at last night’s 20-19 loss to Dallas before we forge ahead. This will be a quick week with a lot going on and I hope to have a story you’ve all been waiting for finished later this evening as well.
– On the injury front, real quick, the Rams seemed again make it through without any real issues. WR Brian Quick and QB Kellen Clemens both took some vicious shots that seemed to knock them woozy but Quick just had the wind knocked out of him and Clemens was just woozy for a moment. Quick returned to the game and Fisher said Clemens could have under normal circumstances. Both were looked at for possible concussion symptoms and cleared of any such ailments.
– G Harvey Dahl has an illness stemming from a virus. He did not play last night and might be questionable for Thursday night against Baltimore. He’s expected to be good to go for the regular season opener, though.
– Obviously, the performance from the first unit in last night’s game was disappointing, on both sides of the ball. If the game against Kansas City was a step forward for the Rams starters, this week saw them stuck in neutral or taking a step back.
– Let’s start with the offense where QB Sam Bradford said it was his group’s worst performance of the preseason. And really, aside from rookie RB Daryl Richardson, nobody on the first unit was able to have much of a strong performance. Everybody else had their struggles.
– Bradford finished six-of-17 for 64 yards and a rating of 47.2. He was sacked twice and hit a handful of other times. Obviously, coming under fire made things difficult on Bradford but he also missed some throws when he had time to make them. By his own admission, he still has plenty to work on in the final preseason game before the regular season arrives.
– The offensive line was without Dahl and Scott Wells was getting his first action at center but it didn’t seem that many of the leaks came from the center or right guard spots. Bryan Mattison filled in for Dahl. The pressure on Bradford came from different places as Dallas DC Rob Ryan drew up some nice blitzes that were anything but vanilla. Plenty of work to be done for this group as a whole, though.
– At receiver, it was tough sledding getting open against the talented corner duo of Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr. There were no plays to be made and part of the reason Bradford and Clemens had issues getting the ball out was the absence of open receivers. Surprising also that rookie WRs Quick and Chris Givens did not get some reps with the first unit as expected.
– Richardson did have a nice performance, rushing 10 times for 51 yards and even finding room to run in his attempts with the first unit. He is quick and decisive and he does an excellent job of making himself small through contact. It seems defenders have trouble getting a clean shot on him.
– Isaiah Pead had trouble finding running room in his work with the 1s but picked it up a bit as the game wore on.
– RB Steven Jackson said he’s interested to see how the competition pans out between the rookies running backs. Fisher initially declined to call it a competition after the game but seemed to soften on that as he finished his answer. It would seem based on production that Richardson is certainly making a push for that No. 2 job. Pead did have a good night on kick returns, including a 47-yarder early in the contest. It seems he’s in good position to wrap that job up.
– On the other side of the ball, Fisher pointed to one thing that he was particularly disappointed in and it shouldn’t come as much surprise: the tackling.
– To play in Fisher’s defense, you had better be a good tackler. It’s why a guy like Cortland Finnegan is such a good fit because he’s not afraid to stick his nose in and make a tackle. It’s partially why Josh Gordy was dealt to Indianapolis because that’s not one of his strengths.
– But on Saturday night, the missed tackles were glaring, particularly in the secondary. The most egregious, of course, was when CB Janoris Jenkins and S Craig Dahl converged on Dallas WR Dwayne Harris and Harris split them with no problems on his way to a 38-yard touchdown catch. But nobody was immune: S Quintin Mikell, CB Trumaine Johnson, even Finnegan missed tackles. That’s an area that has to be cleaned up.
– Some of the things that were done to DE Robert Quinn last night without so much as a yellow flag would be considered felonies in some states. Quinn consistently beat Dallas T Tyron Smith but was only rewarded with one sack. He could easily have drawn about four other holding penalties. At least.
– Fellow DE Chris Long also should have had some holding penalties go his way. On one play, he was tackled. By his facemask.
– While there’s no doubting Jenkins’ enormous talent and potential, it’s probably unfair to think there won’t be some growing pains. He missed some tackles and slipped on a long pass completion last night.
– Trumaine Johnson got the first opportunity in the nickel against the Cowboys. He, too, had some growing pains. Will be interesting to see how that job plays out as the Rams have used someone different in the nickel as the third corner in each of the first three games. Have to think it will ultimately be Bradley Fletcher’s job but that’s far from certain.
– Some nice moments from rookie DT Michael Brockers. He regularly gets doubled but still finds a way to create some havoc, particularly on runs up the middle.
– The Rams will have plenty to work out defensively before the opener as well. Rocky McIntosh started at SLB on Saturday. Does he beat out Mario Haggan for that job? Who is the third corner in the nickel? What’s the starting safety combination going to be? Those are just a few of the questions that need answering.
– Young GZ, rookie K Greg Zuerlein, still doesn’t seem to be human. He just makes it look so easy. And though he still has to do it in high leverage situations, he’s proved without a doubt that he can handle the adjustment to kicking in enormous stadiums with large crowds.
– A few other random thoughts:
Fisher has not hesitated to point out some officiating miscues and it’s hard to blame him. Obviously, these are replacement officials and they are entitled to make some mistakes but last night was brutal. In addition to the aforementioned holding penalties that went uncalled, there were a number of other clear mistakes. WR Greg Salas made a tremendous one handed catch for a touchdown late in the game. The play was reviewed and overturned. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was close but how in the world was there anything conclusive about the review that would give you enough to overturn it? And to show that it went both ways, it seemed the runner was down by contact or that there was no conclusive evidence on a Rams challenge earlier and worse, a seemingly random offensive pass interference call on Dallas TE Joe Phillips.
Point is, it’s got to be better, much better.
– Tip of the cap to RB Chase Reynolds, he had a nice final drive and got in the end zone for a touchdown.
– How poised is the kid QB, Austin Davis? His pocket awareness and ability to make plays on the run is really impressive. Going to be hard to keep him off the final roster.
– Pretty solid game for the tight ends last night: Mike Hoomanawanui, Lance Kendricks and Mike McNeill had solid moments and Cory Harkey got in on the act as well.
– The Rams will chop it down to 75 by tomorrow. I wouldn’t expect anything earth shattering in this first round of cuts. The final cut is next Friday by 9 p.m.
– Also, I will continue to remind all week but Thursday night’s game against Baltimore is a 6 p.m. start, not 7 as it was originally announced. SIX O’CLOCK. I’ll keep reminders here and we’ll have social media reminders throughout the week.
– As always, thanks for reading. Updates on the first round of cuts will come as we make them available and stay tuned tonight for what should be a good story on a subject that people have been asking about for awhile.
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