Got up. Logged on. Double checked it. Yep, it's still a win. The St. Louis Rams opened their preseason and a whole new day of Rams football, complete with new coaches, younger players and a front office makeover with a win over a Jets team that humiliated them last year. Let's take a look at what the press is saying about the game today. Here's our recap from last night, and we'll have more reaction to come today.
First of all, if you had any question about the national media's priorities, look no further than this headline from NFL.com. It reads,
Rams spoil Sanchez's debut
Yeah, Sanchez was the only story last night. Someone should tell them that talking about Sanchez takes away valuable air time that could be used to report the 647th angle on the Michael Vick story.
Closer to home, here's Jim Thomas from the PD with his key stat:
Key stat: Playing against a Jets team that ranked among the NFL’s top 10 in run defense and rushing offense, the Rams outgained the New Yorkers 193 yards to 102 on the ground.
They may have been without NT Kris Jenkins, but they still had their impressive group of linebackers, including Calvin Pace who won't even be playing the first four games of the season. On the other side of the ball, we're all hugely relieved by how the run defense looked. Still, don't get too comfortable because the Jets were without three of their starting offensive linemen (who probably would have played just a quarter), including power run blockers C Nick Mangold and LG Alan Faneca. They'll get a good test against the Falcons this coming Friday.
The big plays that the Rams surrendered resulted from mental mistakes and poor tackling by some of the guys down the depth chart. Some of those kinks, like missing that end around in the first quarter, can get ironed out with more practice. And perhaps we were too quick to blame CB Justin King for Sanchez's deep completion to David Clowney. From the Thomas' game report:
Justin King had tight coverage on the play, but it was an excellent throw and catch.
Still, I have to see more from our cornerbacks to breathe easier once the season starts.
The blitz pickup was the most disappointing part of the game, but that's about learning the Xs and Os. The worst was Bulger getting sacked on 3rd and 6 on the Rams first drive of the game. Here's ESPN's Mike Sando on the blitz pickup:
Neither team appeared prepared for the other's blitzes. That's no surprise during preseason. Still, the Rams' Kenneth Darby should have fared better in blitz pickup. He gave up a couple of sacks, preventing Marc Bulger from enjoying a better night. Bulger completed all four attempts, but he took three sacks, all when running backs couldn't make plays in blitz pickup.
There was one sack that looked like maybe Bulger cooked the ball too long, but on further review that could have been avoided with better blitz pickup.
Looking at the tape of Bulger, I like what I see. He was making quick and accurate throws. On his first completion to McMichael, he had two Jets defenders in his face. Bulger explained part of the problem with the Rams not picking up blitzes:
Rams QB Marc Bulger said the Jets were using "mid-season blitzes" that they didn't game plan for.
One highlight was the performance of the Rams second overall pick OT Jason Smith, who played RT with the second team last night. Here's Sando on Smith:
The Rams' first-round draft choice is playing extensively at right tackle. I have not seen any obvious errors. Early in the game, Smith stood quite upright before some pass plays and once when he had to pull across the formation. He cleared out Vernon Gholston and nearly lifted him off the ground on one play, only to hold Gholston (without getting flagged) when Gholston recovered and tried to chase the play. The Rams successfully ran behind Smith for a short-yardage conversion late in the third quarter.
We'll see what happens in practice, when he has to face Leonard Little a few more times, but I like the idea of giving him the start next week.
Last year's first round pick, DE Chris Long, has officially placed himself under a magnifying glass. People are wondering if he can ever become a consistent sack threat. Back to Sando's notes from the game (be sure to read all of his notes):
Long didn't get around the corner or bother the quarterback, even against the Jets' backups...I thought Long had a chance to get pressure with an inside rush after lining up at left end, but he didn't get there. Mark Sanchez completed a 48-yard pass on the play.
Watch for Long to step it up in the weeks ahead. He has to.
Watch for more reax throughout the day.