Hard not to be pleased with last night's results. While Baltimore's offense didn't pose the biggest challenge, their defense still earns plenty of respect, with a front seven synonymous with elite defenders. (The Ravens were without starting nose tackle Kelley Gregg and starting d-backs Ed Reed and Chris McAlister).
The first team offense, sans LT Orlando Pace, scored, twice. Players looked sharp, and gave fans exactly what they wanted to see, what they needed to see. Last game's ought to help ticket sales at least a little. You wonder what might have been possible with Steven Jackson in there. I wouldn't start booking Super Bowl travel plans just yet, but finally we saw a competitive team, with the precision parts working like their supposed to. After watching the Rams struggle through their recent past, it finally feels like a new era.
Some positive notes:
- Bulger executed. We all knew he could, but the last two games doubts about what happens to man after he's sacked 6,546 times (or whatever ungodly number it really is), thinking, wondering if he still had it in him.
- Rookie WRs Donnie Avery, playing his first preseason game, and Keenan Burton looked good playing with the first team. It's still preseason, but these guys look like they can contribute. Be patient. Rookies will make mistakes, but Avery and Burton are looking like solid draft picks.
- Antonio Pittman has the speed to be an adequate backup and change of pace guy.
- The o-line allowed NO sacks. Hell might be frozen. Adam Goldberg had a good night starting in his place. Baltimore smothered the run game to some extent, but this game was all about getting the pass going anyway.
- The defense. It's almost getting to the point where you take the defense for granted. After the first loss to the Titans, they've been sharp. Little had another sack, but not seeing Long or Carriker's name in the box score with a tackle or two next to them doesn't sit well.
- You saw the note about Long and Carriker above. We need to see those guys producing. I realize they're contributing when they're out there; if they weren't the rest of the D wouldn't be able to work well. Both are dedicated and committed to improving their game and are smart players, so I think it's just a matter of time.
- I've been reluctant to jump on the Drew Bennett is not good enough band wagon, but I'm beginning to wonder after last night. I never warmed to the idea of Dante Hall as the third WR either; my point being that we needed him more on special teams. Doesn't matter now. No word on how long the injuries to Hall and Bennett will sideline them yet, but having seen Avery and Burton work I'm not as concerned.
- The o-line did their job blocking, but four false start penalties, from four different starters, was not acceptable. Barron and Leckey's back-to-back false starts on 3rd down of the Rams first drive of the second quarter put them at 3rd and 17, effectively ending the scoring chance. I suspect some of this has to do with learning the new playbook and the new counts it relies on. Better get this tightened up in the preseason though, because with the schedule the Rams have this year, a penalty here or there will come with a high cost. The Rams fifth penalty - they only had 5 - came from the o-line too, a personal foul on Mark LeVoir at the end of the game.
- Special teams had looked good, but last night they tailed off some. Avery had decent returns and Brandon Williams' return for 23 yards was acceptable. What really hurt was Baltimore's Yamon Figurs averaging 30 yards per return on 3 kick returns, add to that two Ravens punt returns of 20 and 42(!) yards. Not good. Again, with our schedule this season, special teams can't get burned.