The St. Louis Rams are on a much needed bye week. The season hasn't been good so far, but there's always hope that the ship can be turned around in time. This Rams team is better than they have played so far this season.
They shouldn't be 0-4, and this Rams team shouldn't be compared to their 2009 season. The Rams shouldn't be in the running for the number one pick of the 2012 NFL Draft. However, to say that the Rams have been a disappointment would be an understatement.
Still, it's not time to give up; it's also time to stop with excuses. Yeah, the Rams have a hard schedule, but they should have played better. There are many reasons the Rams haven't won a game yet: mistakes, bad play calling, and a lack of playmakers on both sides of the ball.
After the jump, I look at what they'll need to do to turn this ship around.
More fight out of the team: It's sad that when the Rams are down in a game you don't expect them to win. The Rams haven't had a 4th quarter comeback since Bradford has been a Ram. If this Ram team is going to win the NFC West, they have to learn to compete for four quarters.
The Rams added some vets this offseason, but this still feels like the same old Rams, a team that has settled into a losing tradition for a long time. They also don't have many players used to winning in the NFL on the team. If the Rams can get some players to become leaders, maybe that will help the team. Steven Jackson is a good leader, but who are the others? Also you don't want to hear this quote from your franchise QB.:
"You have no idea. It gets to you. It changes your whole week. You start thinking about it … don’t want to talk to people … don’t want to go out in public … don’t want to do anything. You just want to figure out a way to win a football game." - Sam Bradford
Offensive adjustments: Josh McDaniels was supposed to bring in a good offensive system...so where is it? If the Rams wanted to be 31st in points with an 11.9 average, 27th in total yards with 279.5, they could have hired a lot of offensive coordinators for less.
Okay, we can blame the lockout partially, because that was a big factor. The offensive line has been horrible, the wide receivers occasionally get open and then drop the ball, and our second year QB is getting murdered. At some point, you have to adjust with what you have whether that's running more, passing the ball underneath to Billy Bajema instead of deeper throws to Lance Kendricks, or even running shorter routes.
Defensive adjustments: The defense hasn't really played horrible most of the time. So far, they only had one truly horrible game, and that was against Torrey Smith and the Ravens. The first two games, the Rams defense played solid for three quarters and then things got bad. Maybe it's hard to play defense when you are always playing from behind?
Losing cornerbacks Jerome Murphy and Ron Bartell really hurt this team, and now Bradley Fletcher. The Rams defense looked pretty good against the Redskins, but that was against Rex Grossman. The Rams will play better QB's than Grossman. It will be interesting to see how they perform against QB's like Aaron Rodgers.
The pass rush hasn't been as good as people thought it would be, the secondary hasn't been playing well, and the linebacker play doesn't look notably better than it did last year. It will be up to players like Chris Long and Robert Quinn on the D-Line to help make the defense play better. Pass rushing is important, but the Rams will have to learn to stop the run.
The Rams are right now the 26th ranked defense; I expect them to play much better after the bye.
The dropped balls need to stop: Every team drops passes occasionally, but the way the Rams have accumulated drops has been ridiculous. All of Sam Bradford's weapons have been dropping balls at a high rate. There have been many third downs on which the Rams could have had a first down, but the receiver dropped it. This can't continue if the Rams want to be competitive.
The rookies need to play better: You shouldn't expect a lot of rookie players; however, the Rams are depending on them so they have to play better. I don't expect to see much out of Jabara Williams this season. On the other hand, I expect the other players I expect to play better coming out of the bye.
I like what I have seen out of Greg Salas and Austin Pettis. Greg Salas showed he can get open, and his drops don't concern me yet. Pettis has made some good catches. Robert Quinn and Lance Kendricks haven't played great, but you can see the potential in them. After the year out of football and the shortened offseason, it wouldn't be reasonable to expect Quinn to have a great rookie year. He has gotten some QB pressures and hits, and he is progressing nicely. Lance Kendricks had a great training camp and a pretty good preseason. However, he hasn't lived up to the hype he created for himself. He needs to get some of his "swag" back after the bye week.
Work on the penalties : This should be the easiest thing to fix for the Rams. However right now untimely peanlties have hurt the team. Bradley Fletcher penalties against the Ravens and the penalties against the offensive line against the Redskins jump out the most.
The offensive line: The biggest disappointment of the season has to be the offensive line. Rodger Saffold has allowed a league high seven sacks, two QB hits allowed and 11 pressures allowed. Jason Smith has two sacks allowed, one QB hit allowed, and nine pressures allowed. The Rams young tackles aren't the only ones on the line to play bad, but they are supposed to play better. They have went against good defensive ends though.
The thing is, the Rams offensive line has regressed this year; just ask Sam. Bringing in Harvey Dahl was supposed to help the Rams a lot in the running game (and he has), but adding him hasn't helped the passing game. Also, Jacob Bell not being in the lineup because of his injury might hurt the Rams too.
The things that are hurting the Rams as a team can be fixed. The Rams have a lot of work to do, but they should be able to rebound. Having a bye week will help the Rams in more ways than one.