Give St. Louis Rams new head coach Steve Spagnuolo credit, he says the right things:
The first quarter, I don't think I had the team ready to play. I'm going to take the onus on that. We need to start the game better, especially against a good football team.
The coaches didn't escape criticism in reactions to the game yesterday. It's all well and good to make Steven Jackson the foundation of your offense, but by all means that's not a license to predictability. 3k called this one:
Offensively, we were too predictable. The run packages were obvious, and the Falcons just loaded up the box, bringing all kinds of bodies.
And the Rams paid the price with those impressive rushing numbers, 79 yards on 30 attempts. There's a trend to call a pretty flat game in the preseason. Were they just not confident in the replacement players in the game for the starters, like Boller or Smtih and Setterstrom? I think that theory holds some water. It was obvious that Smith wasn't ready to start; the coaches had to know that. However, he'd been run blocking pretty well in practice, by all accounts, hence the runs to the right side early in the game. They had to have been surprised by how poorly he performed in run blocking. Still, he's a talented athlete and there's no reason to think he can't be coached up. THe spotlight's always brightest the first time you see it.
The plays on the other side of the ball didn't impress much either. First, the blitz seems to be MIA, unsettling considering how much we've heard and talked about the aggressive defense being installed here. Here's Taiko on the defensive scheme:
There were several plays where the entire linebacking unit was shifted over one whole position, where the Sam is basically out in no-man’s land. Occasionally, Butler would come in and fill the other spot, effectively creating a 4-4 front, but none of those LBs or safeties were in any position to apply pressure. It was a weird, weird look, and one that the Falcons took advantage of all night long — but running a cutback to the empty hole where the WLB should be, or by passing beyond the reach of the SLB, who is rushing back toward the inside.
You saw the results...and Michael Turner just rocketed up your fantasy draft depth chart.
If there's a precedent for hope here, it's the 2007 Giants. They were slashed on defense in the early goings that season. Spags went to the players and asked them stick with the program and the results would come. One Super Bowl later... More than just the Rams defense, I hope that lesson applies to the whole operation. New coaches, new players and new directions take some time to get used to. We'll know more soon.