Hey everyone, this is smileyman from over at Niners Nation. I'm doing a series of articles next week about the NFC West teams-basically a review of their pre-seasons, some players to keep an eye on and projected records. I watched all 4 of the Rams preseason games and have some initial thoughts--please tell me if I'm blowing smoke. Also if you have any other things to add please do so since you know your team better than I do.
Sam Bradford started out a bit rough (it didn't help that he had no protection the first game and had to throw the ball away three or four times to avoid a sack), but by the third game against the Pats he was on fire. Extremely poised in the pocket, doing an excellent job of seeing the entire field and going through his checkdowns. He wasn't locking in on any one receiver.
His accuracy and touch have been talked about ad nauseum but I think one aspect of his QB skills that is overlooked is his strength. He fired some rockets out there that really surprised me.
I felt that your offense struggled in the redzone. Several times you were inside the 10 and had to settle for field goals. It's nice to drive the length of the field but it's disheartening to not finish it.
Jackson is a stud of course, but I think Bradford desperately needs a #1 WR. Avery was probably going to be that guy but he's out. Can Amendola step up into that role? The pass protection was rough at times, but it did improve significantly, especially in blitz pick ups (Ravens and Patriots were throwing blitzes at Bradford all day--none of which fazed him in the least).
I think you'll have a very exciting offense this year, and I think Sam Bradford's gonna be a star.
I thought your defensive line has been vastly improved. Moving Chris Long to the left end spot was a great decision--he was making plays all over the field (I recall a particular play against the Browns where he chased down a receiver on the other side of the field). I thought Larry Grant also did a spectacular job--against the Browns he had one (or was it two?) forced fumbles on kick offs.
Your secondary seems weak to me though. The first game you were being eaten alive in pass coverage--both in the flats and the deep ball. By the third game the underneath stuff seemed to have gotten fixed (indicating to me that it was probably mostly mental stuff and not talent), but the deep stuff is a major concern. Lots of wide open receivers down the field.
I also noticed that the tackling was very sloppy throughout the pre-season. Lots of players who managed to brak away from the first tackler and gaining extra yards. Perhaps the most egregious example is James Laurinaitis grabbing Rob Gronkowski at about the six yard line and Gronkowski still managing to hop into the endzone. Definitely something that needs work on.
Your run defense is impressive and the pass rush has improved week to week (though it's still inconsistent).
Your return units are great. Gilyard and Amendola are both exciting returners. I thought your coverage units didn't do so well--mostly because of that sloppy tackling I mentioned earlier. Fix that and it'll be much better for you.
Week 1 AZ @ Stl--I think the Rams can win this one. Still have momentum from the pre-season and the Cardinals are a team in turmoil riht now
Week 2 Rams @ Raiders--This is an interesting one. I think that the Raiders can bring the pressure--if your offensive line can handle it than this could be an exciting and close game. I think your offense is better than their offense, but overall their defense is better. I'll give it to them but narrowly
Week 3 Redskins @ Rams--I think that the Redskins offense will be too tough to stop. This is a Skins victory
Week 4 Seahawks @ Rams--I think you can win this one too. I don't think that the Seahawks have the offense to put up good numbers and I don't think that their secondary can stop Bradford (especially with them trading their best CB away).
Week 5 Rams @ Lions--This will be an interesting matchup. I love what the Lions did in the off-season and Stafford is the real deal. I think this will be a high scoring affair and the last team with the ball wins. Special teams may be the difference maker here and you have better ST than the Lions. Win for the Rams
Week 6 Chargers @ Rams--Chargers offense is too high-powered for the Rams secondary. Loss.
Week 7 Rams @ Bucs--I think that the Bucs offense isn't good enough to carry the day and their defense (especially secondary) won't stop the Rams. Win
Week 8 Panthers @ Rams--Panthers should win this one but I'm predicting upset for the Rams.
Week 9 Bye
Week 10 Rams @ 49ers--Sorry, I have to give this one to my team. You're playing at Candelstick, and we have an extremely tough defense and an offense that could be scary.
Week 11 Falcons @ Rams--Have to give this one to the Falcons with their high-powered passing offense.
Week 12 Rams @ Broncos--I'd love to say that you'll win, but it's at Denver. However I don't think Orton's the answer there at QB and I think their offense will struggle. It'll be a close game but the Broncos will win.
Week 13 Rams @ Cardinals--Cardinals win this one. By this point in the season I'm predicting Max Hall as the starter (I think he'll be better for the Cardinals than Derek Anderson). They're at home too, which will give them an added edge
Week 14 Rams @ Saints--Have to give this one to the Saints because of their passing offense. However they tend to play down to the level of their competition (Redskins and Bucs last year), so this one could be closer than people will think.
Week 15 49ers @ Rams--Calling this for my team again, though it won't be the smackdown that it was last year. Bradford's too smart to make the kind of mental errors that killed you then. Loss
Week 16 Rams @ Seahawks--Twice in a row? It's possible. Like I said I think the Seahawks secondary is very suspect as is their offense with no true #1 WR and aging QB who's a bit frail. Win
So that's a 6-10 record with the possibility of going as high as 8-8 if some of the close ones fall your way. What do you think? Am I way off the mark with this stuff?
I'd value your input before I write up my story for Niners Nation. I'll have the story going up Tuesday morning. If you want to comment in that thread you'll want to register ahead of time as there's a 24 hr wait between registering and being able to vote. Once the story is up I'll swing by here and post a fanshot with the link.