Yo, just some quick talking points that I'd like to throw out there. I know with the way the Rams are playing this year that there are a lot of opinions floating around out there because everyone loves to play the blame game when things go bad. These are just some thoughts and reactions that were delayed by the numbness of another gruesome loss:
- Are we the worst team in the NFL?
In terms of playoff hopes and overall record, this loss to the Redskins puts us in really bad shape for the rest of the season. Even with a "soft" schedule to look forward to near the end of the season, the Rams needed to grab a few winds beforehand, but they couldn't start or close the deal on the Redskins, one of the last opportunities for this team.
More worrisome, the team looked flat-out bad in two back-to-back home games. Once upon a time, the relatively inspiring play of the team against the Giants gave me hope that we could right the ship as long as we corrected little mistakes and focused on good football. However, the last two weeks have convinced me that we simply lack talent, coaching, and other things that cannot be immediately corrected. Looking around the league, all of the other 0-3 teams looked more competent than us. Miami's offense can move, the Vikings are consistently smashing opponents in the first half, and the Chiefs just grabbed their first win of the year. No QB is getting pressured more than Sam Bradford; no team is giving up more rushing yardage than the Rams; and no team is getting penalized more than this Rams team. People can blame difficult opponents, but at this moment, we've only faced two teams better than .500 (and the Ravens haven't even played this week). I'm going to say it. People can blame injuries, but Danny Amendola and Ron Bartell are the only starters that are still out, and they certainly aren't the fix for this team. Thus, I'm going to call it. At this time, the Rams are the worst team in the NFL.
- Offense Line Woes
I've heard of 3-tech, 5-tech defensive linemen, but it looks like the Rams are starting a 2-tech offensive lineman. Jason Smith has two moves in his arsenal: give up a sack or commit a penalty, depending on what effort he gives to holding a guy that's inevitably already beat him. Our prized possession, Sam Bradford is getting smacked around on every single play. Even on completions, I'm amazed that his release was quick enough to prevent another sack. Though the receivers aren't giving the passing team much help, the true source of the Rams offensive problems is this offensive line. We need to cut ties with Jason Smith somehow. He might barely yield us a 3-5 round draft pick, but his price tag is inflating the salary of the worst unit on the team. Also, it should not go unnoticed that Rodger Saffold is certainly experiencing a sophomore slump. He's not playing nearly as poorly as Smith, but he is giving up penalty yards.
Our tackles are giving up way too much pressure on the sides and, sadly, all of that time we put into rounding out the middle of the line has not payed its dividends. Steven Jackson carried for an average of 2.6 yards/carry. Our offensive line is simply inept.
- What is our strategy on offense?
At the beginning of the season, the "amoeba" of Josh McDaniels' offense seemed like a good idea, but right now the Rams are a team with no identity. The Rams tried to set up a hard running game early with Steven Jackson back, but the inability to open lanes or push the pile prevented much from happening. Even when running, the only plays seemed to pound up the middle when Jackson would get stood up. The Rams rarely seem to stretch it to the outside or incorporate any misdirection. The team attempted a few screens today, but the OL failed to shoot to the linebackers who often sniffed out and blew up any attempts.
The most success the Rams offense has enjoyed has been in the hurry-up offense. It is bewildering to me why the Rams do not employ it more often in the game plan. The first sighting of any kind of rhythm was on the touchdown drive in the 4th quarter. However, the only reason that drive wasn't also stopped was because of a dumb personal foul by the Redskins defense. One of the most shocking statistics to me is that Brandon Gibson received a total of one target today. I'm a fan of Gibson, but I still feel justified saying that he needs to be a bigger part of this Rams offense since the Mike Sims-Walker gamble has not returned profits (1 catch in 6 targets for 6 yards). On the bright side, Danario Alexander looks GOOD. Alexander is currently our most targeted receiver and his knees seem to be holding up through the season. Multiple times, an open Alexander (open receiver, what a wonderful phrase) missed a touchdown opportunity only because of a poor throw by Sam (caused by the OL). I now believe that DX possesses weekly starting potential.
Lastly, can someone please put out an amber alert on the Rams' "2-TE" passing attack?
- Austin Pettis: The Enigma
While his staplers-for-hands rookie teammate Greg Salas sat on the bench today, Austin Pettis experienced plenty of playing time today. Today can only be described as up-and-down for the Boise State prospect. On punt return duty, Pettis seemed to have no awareness of the opponent. Repeatedly, Pettis abstained from the fair catch even when there was a defender right in his face. As a result, the Rams got 15 yard penalties and Pettis received a couple good licks that I thought could've ended his career. I doubt the Rams drew up the penalties in the game-plan, but whatever the case, Pettis' play is simply too dangerous. He's going to injure himself and he nearly 'pulled a Salas' (aka. muffing a punt).
On offense, however, Pettis showed potential today. Drafted for his hands, Pettis displayed a little bit of that catching ability by putting up the best catch % by a Rams receiver with more than 2 targets. Pettis never went deep, but he played as an adequate spot filler for the injured Danny Amendola. Given a few more weeks, I believe that Pettis can develop into a quality possession receiver over the middle.
- Coaching Complaints
I've defended Spags and the coaching staff in the past, but I absolutely will not today. Currently we have two options: 1. Delve into Rams Park with some hard-journalism and discover why our coaches are not putting out a team that is ready to play on Sunday 2. Accept that the Rams' talent is severely lacking across the board. I don't believe that the players are truly as untalented as the statistics suggest. Something has gone horribly wrong in the Rams organization because the team simply is not preparing for an NFL game in practice each week. We look horrible.
- 2012 draft?
Perhaps it is a bit premature to be considering the next draft, but the way things stand now, the Rams are serious contenders for Andrew Luck. If we do, sadly, end up with the 1st overall pick, I'd say the best option is to trade it to a team that needs Luck for 2nd and 3rd round picks and possible early round draft picks in future years. I do not trust the Rams' scouting abilities to not waste the first overall draft pick. Regardless, I see the Rams' draft needs as follows: 1. Offensive Tackle 2. Cornerback 3. Wide Receiver 4. Defensive Tackle 5. Running Back