It's been a slow start for the St. Louis Rams offense. Through three games, they're averaging just 8 points per game, having yet to top 20 points scored, and 276 yards of offense per game. Only three teams are averaging fewer yards per game, but nobody has matched their futility in finding the end zone.
Unfortunately, we should be used to this. Slow starts have been a trend with the Rams over the last two seasons. Check out the numbers below.
|2008||Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4|
That's an average of 10.75 PPG and 246 yard per game...pretty much the same as 2009.
|2007||Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4|
The 2007 Rams started the season averaging 9.75 PPG and 265.5 yards per game. Kind of creepy isn't it?
Just looking at the numbers, it's hard to tell which season it is. That's particularly troubling for a team that's had as much turnover as the Rams have between 2009 and the last two seasons. There are a random assortment of factors you can point to for each season. This year, we seem to be fixed on the lack of playmakers and WR and the overly conservative play calling. Last year, Steven Jackson's hold out and injuries along the offensive line hurt the Rams. Injuries got some blame in 2007 as well. Of course, coaching received quite a bit of the criticism in 2007 and 2008, and the slow start last year got Scott Linehan fired.
They were getting long in the tooth, but the Rams had Holt and Bruce in 2007 and Holt headlined the receivers last season. Now, the playmakers are gone, but the results are the same.
Marc Bulger critics can point to the QB as the common thread in each of those seasons. That argument is getting hard to ignore, too. The situation around Bulger for the last three (or more) seasons has been terrible. He's playing better this year, or at least making fewer mistakes, but the results are the same. Again, the circumstances surrounding Bulger are not to his favor.
I'm still inclined to think that there's more at play here than just Bulger, though I think the QB represents the larger problem. The Rams are a team in transition, moving from the Martz offense of precise routes and timed throws. That system passed its prime right about the time Linehan took over, but there was enough left between Bulger, Holt and Bruce in that 2006 season to squeeze 8 wins out of the team. Those eight wins might have been the worst thing to happen to the Rams, deceiving the already poot decision-makers running the franchise into thinking they had enough for a competitive football team. Bad draft and after bad draft left the team bereft of talent. On top of that, a new coaching regime tried to implement changes and a new identity that Linehan et al were never really sure of to begin with. Add to that the fact that Linehan wasn't head coach material, and it's no surprise that the last two years were a disaster.
Enter Spagnuolo, Devaney, etc. They inherited the wreckage of a franchise in a deep state of decline...think Afghanistan after the US ran the Taliban out. The Rams team they took over had too many holes to fill in just one season. The result on the field has looked a lot like the last couple seasons because the team is still digging out of the wreckage while at the same time installing a new identity. The results are already starting to show on defense, though rebuilding that unit can't be considered complete either. On offense, they did the right thing and focused on rebuilding the offensive line first. Yes, the results this year are and probably will be much like last year, but as they start to address other needs on that side of the ball - quarterback, receiver, etc. - things should pick up quickly with a solid line in place. (That doesn't excuse what I still consider some awful play calling this season though).
So, things are at least headed in the right direction, but that doesn't make it any easier to watch frustrating loss after frustrating loss. If anything, it's harder this season because our defense has played so much better than the units that were constantly gashed for 30+ points week after week.
That's my big picture reasoning behind the slow start, but there's still more to it on the ground level to discuss.