2007 season theme alert: "under the radar"
With a solid preseason win now ginning up interest in the Rams, "under the radar" talk is ratcheting up. Justifiably so. Because the term holds such a special place in the lexicon of modern media analysis clichés, every August brings a couple of teams with the label.
The Rams definitely deserve the oft-used moniker. Last Friday's game solidified that with solid performances from the unknown key factors like Carriker, Leonard, Jonathan Wade, the defense and the special teams. I don't want to let one preseason game against the rebuilding Vikings feed elevated notions, but I don't think the guarded optimism we've been expressing at TST is out of line.
I'm more convinced about our chances to win the division after seeing the first quarter of the Niners game last night. Watching their defense play, I don't know where all the hype is coming from. They really struggled with the 3-4 last night. It's their first year implementing that scheme and I've read before where teams usually struggle a bit in their first year with that particular scheme. It's early, really early, but I'm thinking that this might factor into SF's overall results this season. And this year, with the way our division could go, one game might cost them the title. Conversely, the 3-4 defense has been a big part of the AFC's success as teams emulate the Patriots and the Ravens and if SF pulls it off with precision in 2008, they could be a force to be reckoned with.
The gang overall at Football Outsiders got a jump start on their Every Play Counts series, where they present instant reactions to the games, and they echoed the rest of us with their impressions of the Rams rookie class.
Their praise wasn't reserved for Carriker and Leonard though. Here's Doug Farrarr on Steven Jackson:
There shouldn't be any question about SJ's seriousness in breaking the total yards from scrimmage record. He may well be hurt in that quest by the presence of Brian Leonard, but this should be the year where Steven Jackson becomes a household name, mentioned in the same breath as LT and LJ.
Again, I didn't see the game (thanks NFL blackout) so I'm soaking in the thoughts of everyone who did. The one note of concern I saw here was the play of Ron Bartell, who was seen taking bad routes more than once in his quarter of play. Hopefully, there's enough preseason left to make him into an adequate substitute starter while Brown's out. Tye Hill will cover the number one WRs for opponents, which should help in week one against Steve Smith and the Panthers. The risk of getting exposed will come against loaded receiving corps, such as the Cowboys. The front seven should help mask this with a solid pass rush and with a demonstrated ability to pressure the quarterback.
Watching this weekend's game against the Chargers might be a problem too. The league will put the blackout in effect unless the game sells out, which doesn't seem likely.
Blacking out preseason games is just ridiculous, especially when the criterion for that is selling out the stadium. It's preseason for crap's sake! Booo!