The most common statement made around this time of year about the NFL is, “It is only the preseason, it does not mean anything.” After watching the first game against the Cleveland Browns, St. Louis Rams fans want to believe this game means nothing after their shaky start on offense.
To say nothing can be taken away from what fans watched on Thursday is the same as saying we cannot take anything away from what people see on the practice field.
That is not necessarily true. There are a few nuggets that can be taken away from the first preseason game. Although it is true the result of the preseason doesn’t matter, what is important to see is how cohesively a unit works together. This can be an indicator of what to expect. Below are a few observations that were made watching the game.
Chris Given Can Play
Last season Chris Givens emerged as one of the St. Louis Rams top receiver, going on a five game stretch of catching a 50-yard plus pass from Sam Bradford. Many experts believe Givens is a solid receiver, but do not know if he can be a consistent contributor.
During the game against the Browns, Givens had 3 receptions for a total of 82-yards and a touchdown for an average of 27.3-yards per catch. One of those catches was a 59-yard bomb from Bradford.
Givens does have the talent to produce big numbers in the NFL as he caught right under 700-yards last season with only 42 receptions. Bradford might look to him as a security blanket as he did with Danny Amendola, but the other Rams receivers will need to step up so he does not always draw double coverage.
Daryl Richardson deserves to be the starter
Coming out of the backfield Daryl Richardson showed his head coach he can both run the ball and catch out on the flats. Richardson had an impressive game as he ran for 24-yards in only four attempts and caught the ball out of the backfield twice for 20-yards. Given that he is not the next Marshall Faulk who can line up anywhere on the field and put up big numbers, but it is good to have a running back who isn’t just one dimensional.
When the pocket was collapsing on Bradford, Richardson was there a couple of times at the check down to catch the ball instead of the quarterback getting sacked. Granted Richardson only ran the ball four times, he rushed for an average of 6-yards.
When second-string running back Isaiah Pead was put in with the first team offense, he fumbled the ball. Pead also finished the game with a 6-yard average and a total of 18 yards rushing, but was not convincing in that he should start over Richardson.
The one area Pead did perform well in was in kick off returns where he returned the ball twice for a total of 43-yards. But even then he isn’t guaranteed that position as backup running back Benny Cunningham ran for seven less yards in one less attempt. Pead needs to make the most of his touches in the preseason as he will miss the first game of the regular season do to a suspension by the league.
Do not let the score fool you, Rams defense will be good
The final score of the game was 27-19 in favor of the Browns. During the regular season this may cause a case for concern, but not only should Rams fans not worry because it is the preseason, but because the first unit did not see the field much.
In fact the Rams defensive line only played one series and were able to hold the Browns to three points on the opening drive. The rest of the first unit played an additional series.
The Rams secondary did show that they are still young and need more time to develop, but they were not terrible. Rookie starting safety TJ McDonald led the team in tackles with four and assisted in two.
As for the linebackers, rookie Alec Ogletree was impressive. Although he finished the game with two tackles, every time the Browns were breaking out for a big play, Ogletree was there.
The offensive line did look good as they kept Sam Bradford standing the whole time, but right tackle Rodger Saffold went down on the second play. The good news is he injured his shoulder and may be out for two weeks. The bad news is his only full year as a starter came his rookie year. Rams fans are praying Saffold is not an injury prone player.
The receivers that worked with the first unit were, Chris Givens, Austin Pettis, and Tavon Austin. Givens came out and played one heck of a game. Pettis and Austin could not catch the ball. The ball was thrown to them exactly where it needed to be, but they could not keep their hands on it.
Austin is most likely to get a lot of playing time this season as he was taken with the eighth pick, but Pettis needs show consistency on the field. Look for Brian Quick to try and make some noise during the preseason and fight for that starting spot.
If Bradford has any shot at looking like he is a franchise quarterback, he will need the receivers to catch the ball and make big plays for him.
It is only one game into the preseason and the Rams kept it very vanilla. The third preseason game is usually considered around the league to be the most important. The Rams will face off against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on primetime. That will be a tough opponent, but one should look to see if the Rams have made any improvements since this week 1 game. The result of the game will not matter, but it can be a slight indicator of how the Rams look against a Super Bowl contending team.