Are you guys sick of pre-season Game 1 rehash yet? Hope not because I had a chance to take a longer look at the game on the DVR and have some observations to offer.There’s a lot of plays and players to review in any pre-game (which is why NFL team’s employ herds of guys dedicated solely to just the tape review) but I'll go over a couple of them for those of you that didn't get a chance to see it.
I'll probably screw something up or leave something useful out, so feel free to heckle my omissions and opinions.
Jacob Bell got his bell rung with a vicious hit on his very first play. With Mike Karney out, Bell was the first option at Bulldozer. He was pulling from the left to the right on a run play when a blitzing Bart Scott got lower than him and hammered him right off of his feet. He landed on his butt hard and got up looking a little dazed. Next play, Bell pass blocked ok but when his man was gone he sort of half way tripped over Barron and was down again. That was his entire night, so unfortunately we didn't get to see much of what he and the other new guys promise to bring our rebuilt O-line. From what I could tell it was a shoulder pad not a helmet that Scott nailed him with, so Bell should be ok, but the Rams really can't afford any more delays in getting that new O-line working together. Line play is very much a coordinated group effort, they need to play together to become good, and this minor setback put them even more on the clock.
Bell's second play was Bulger's little pass to Robinson, and good thing the ball was out of there quickly because Steven Jackson missed picking up a LB blitz that would've cost Bulger his head.
On the very next play Bulger did in fact get sacked, although it wasn't because of any mistake by Jackson. The Jets had only 3 down linemen and a couple of LB's, the rest were speed players. They overloaded the right side (Jason Smith was not in the game yet) by sending a Linebacker and a Safety after the QB, and there were simply too many rushers to pick-up.
It would be easy to say Bulger should've gotten rid of the ball sooner, and there might be some truth to that, but after seeing the game a couple of times, and seeing how the Jets dropped their non-Blitzing side into a short zone, it looked like Bulger simply didn't have time to scan the field. Credit the Jets for dialing up a great defensive call on that 3rd and 8.
I noted a couple of times during the Gameday Open Thread that Bulger got sacked because of blown RB blitz pickups. In fact, they blew the blitz pickup a couple of more times, and it didn't really cost us because Bulger got rid of the ball in time.
There could be room for debate about the timing here, whether the blockers should be giving Bulger more time or whether Bulger should be getting ball out sooner. At this point, its hard to say if one is more true than the other, but it was obvious Kellen Clemens (without 3 starters on his O-line) was getting more time than Bulger was.
On one of the 3 Bulger sacks, Kenneth Darby was supposed to seal Bulger's right side and didn't, barely providing a chip to slow down the blitzing defender. Darby's man didn't end up sacking Bulger but he left Bulger with nowhere to run when he realized someone there was penetration up the middle. If Bulger didn't get caught from the middle, Darby's man in all probablity would've gotten him anyway.
The blown blocking was the low point for our RB's, and it wasn't sharp from Jackson on down the depth chart. That said, I'm confident as the new coaching takes hold so will knowledge of assignments. You just can't have all new coaches and expect that all the nuances would be absorbed in time for the first pre-season game.
The high point for our RB’s was that we found out we’re actually pretty deep there, with Antonio Pittman and Samkon Gado showing good early season quickness and speed. Steven Jackson was Steven Jackson, but looks bigger and more brutal than before. Darby played before Chris Ogbonnaya, but Ogbonaaya had more carries and look like he ran more strongly. Both were susceptible to the blitz though, and until the O-line gets up to speed that will be a crime. Ogbonaaya was drafted by this regime and I think he passes Darby on the depth chart.
Speaking of depth charts, don't bet against Null making 3rd string QB. He looked confident and threw with zip. I'm sure we're all a little anxious to see more of what he's got. If you thought Berlin was the QB of the future, would you draft Null? Let Null play, we need to find out.
Sean Walker, really? Who called that? Well ok fine, we'll take it where we can get it, but I’m also anxious to see more Randy McMichael who showed good concentration on a ball that initially bounced off his fingertips for a nice soft-handed catch, and Laurent Robinson who looked springy and fresh and seems to me like he brings the skillset that most closely resembles Avery's. The passing game is quiet at least partially by design, so who cares about receivers? After suffering 3 sacks on various blitzes, Bulger knows he needs a couple quick outlets in front of him. They need to continue to show him they'll be open when he looks their way.
On the other side of the ball, Justin King has a long way to go. On the long Sanchez to Clowney pass, he was physically close enough that I expected him to make a play or contended for the ball. The fact that he didn't even put an arm up shows me he's not where he needs to be yet. It was well thrown ball, but King was the man on the scene and he was just plain beaten. I don't want to throw this kid overboard after a single pre-season game but it was a bad game and he'll have to play better than that. Good corners have short memories.
Howie Long was in the house to see his son play and what he saw was Chris Long being slower off the snap than all of his teammates on the D line. His reaction time was noticably and consistently a split-second slow. On one early draw play, he got to the QB a full stride behind Little. On another play when Little was causing that fumble in the backfield, Long was being handled by his man back at the line of scrimmage.
Always being last off the line is a bad sign for young player known for his motor, and while people say he's a hard worker and studies his opponent, he needs to improve his quickness immediately. This is a training thing and I hope they address it. Some people mistakenly think you can't coach quickness or speed but it can be done (ask any Olympian) and in Chris's case it needs to be done now.
I hate to give people who gave up on Long more ammunitiion, because I don't agree with them, but the replay doesn't lie -- he was one reason the Jets had more time to throw than the Rams.
One reason why you didn't hear James Laurinaitis's name more often: he came out of the game on a lot of passing downs. In fact, he only played in the 4-3 and split time with Draft when the Rams went to the Nickel (one less LB, one more DB) which was often in this game.
- When the Jets went to an empty backfield (no RB's) on only their second play of the game, the Rams countered with a Nickel package that brought in CB Jonathan Wade to cover the slot, used Witherspoon and Draft as our LB's, and sent Laurinaitis to the bench.
- Two plays later and we're in a Nickel with Wade again, this time the Jets have 4 WR's and 1 RB, Draft is out and Laurinaitis is back in.
- On the very next play we're staying in the Nickel with Wade, but with the Jets in the shotgun with 2 RB's, Laurinaitis comes out and Draft comes back in to play with Witherspoon. (This was the play where Little forced a fumble).
It's tough to find a read in that offense. Some plays seemed like more obvious passing situations and some didn't. Laurinaitis and Draft may simply be alternating one for the other in the Nickel no matter what the offense shows. But with the Jets willing to go air early, Laurinaitis found the bench early too. At some point this needs to change because as an athlete he needs to get the in the rhythm and flow of the game, and to learn the speed of the pro level competition. Having Laurinaitis and Draft alternate this frequently is not a long term solution.
I wish I had more time to hit rewind. Right now I'm just looking forward to more Laurinaitis, more Null, and a complete O-Line and FB. And maybe an occasional draw play to slow down the blitz a little.