The St. Louis Rams have started the preseason 0-3, leaving fans wondering if it is any indication of what to expect during the regular season. We always say the preseason record does not mean a thing, but it can serve as an good eye test as to how the team is performing as a whole. The defense has faced two high scoring quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning, but overall has looked solid. The offense is another story.
The Rams went into the half this past Saturday up 20-10 against Manning and the Denver Broncos. If one is only scoreboard watching, they could be led to believe Sam Bradford and his weapons are finally producing. Even if you look at how the first scoring drive happened, you see a Bradford to Jared Cook connection for the touchdown.
The scoring drive was set up by a beautiful 81-yard punt return by the rookie Tavon Austin. Even the CBS color commentator was impressed by Austin’s speed. The following play, as previously mentioned, was a Cook to Bradford pass. Cook used his athletic ability to out jump the defender for the grab. Bradford came out the next couple series and went 5 for 5. After that, the Rams had back-to-back three and outs with Bradford finishing the night 9-of-16 passing.
The Broncos dominated the ball as they had possession of the ball for most of the first half. The reason for the Rams lead at the half was their rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree. This game was dubbed his coming out party as he stripped the ball from running back Ronnie Hillman and ran it in for score. Later in the half, Ogletree dropped an interception, but made up for it when he picked off Manning at the end of the half.
The defense once again is showing they are a force to be reckoned with. Last year the front seven showed they are sack machines finishing the season tied for the NFL sack lead. This year the secondary may look to get some notoriety and show off their ball-hawking skills. They are young and inexperienced, but the back four are improving in coverage and aren’t afraid to hit. Sometimes they gamble and get beat when they go for those hard hits, but Jeff Fisher is willing to work at harnessing their talent.
It is fair to say the defense carried the Rams’ offense last season. This year I expect the defense to do the same, but if the Rams want any chance at making the playoffs, the offense needs to contribute. Bradford will have the same offensive coordinator for the first time in his career and is surrounded by young, talented offensive weapons.
Most of his weapons do not have more then three years of experience in the league. Austin Pettis has showed a flash of brilliance in seasons past, but he’s yet to prove he can be a consistent contributor. Rookie receiver Austin showed off his speed on a couple of punt returns, but is struggling to catch the ball when it comes his way. Chris Givens has been a consistent deep threat; it is only a matter of time before they put double coverage on him. The Rams running game is sure to struggle this year with out their offensive staples of so many years in Steven Jackson.
The Rams look like a much-improved team this season, but I am afraid their record will not reflect it. The defense will be an improvement from last season as they are set to finish the year ranked in the top 10. Sam Bradford and the offense will struggle this season as the receivers and running backs are still young. If the Rams have any chance on improving from last years 7-8-1 record, those backs and wideouts will need to become instant contributors and prove all the naysayers wrong.