ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 2: Steven Jackson #39 of the St. Louis Rams advances the ball against Josh Wilson #26 of the Washington Redskins October 2, 2011 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Whitney Curtis/Getty Images)
Losing cornerback Bradley Fletcher makes the rest of the St. Louis Rams season look pretty daunting. Already at 0-4 and plagued with sloppy play, the odds of the Rams ever turning it around this season seem, well, damn near hopeless. Upcoming games against three of the five most prolific passing offenses don't offer much relief for the Rams defense. There really is a way to get better.
I'm not usually one for optimism, at least not of the blind sort. Too much French existentialism, I guess. If the Rams are going to have any hope of competing through the rest of this season, the lion's share of the work is going to have to be done on offense. Yes, I know, naivety is an intellectual crime worse than optimism, but the Rams offense has been under-performing since Steven Jackson scored a touchdown on the first play of season. It's tall order to be sure.
The league has several teams with struggling pass defenses. The Green Bay Packers, who the Rams play next week, allow the second highest average of passing yards per game. According to Football Outsiders, the Packers have the 21st ranked DVOA against the pass. Obviously, they get it done by having a top five run defense, and an incredibly prolific offense. Green Bay isn't the only team with a defensive liability being compensated for by the offense, look at New England and even Tampa Bay.
Listen, I'm not saying that the Rams are anywhere near the same level as the Packers of those other teams, so spare me the tongue lashing in the comments. There really is no comparison because the Rams offensive struggles are just so bloody perplexing.
It's been suggested before that the Rams just get back to basics. That's exactly what Chicago did last week against the Panthers, when they desperately needed a win. Mike Martz, yes, ran Matt Forte 25 times in a narrow win. It took the pressure off Cutler, who was being sacked at a higher rate than Sam Bradford prior to week four, and set up key passes when they needed them.
Josh McDaniels would be wise to follow suit and return to an offense that flows out of the run. The Rams offensive line has done well in run blocking, more often than not, this season. That would help slow the attack on Sam Bradford. Set up the option, play action passes, dink and dunk stuff, and give them the ability to get creative a handful of times per game.
Receivers that hang on to passes would be helpful too.
It's obvious that the Rams need to simplify their offense, and it sounds like that's exactly what the coaches are planning. Now, they'll have to in order to get through the season alive.
On defense, the Rams absolutely have to get their struggles against the run sorted out in order to be at least somewhat competitive.
I'm not going to delude myself, this is the prescription for survival mode. It's not going to get the Rams a win in Green Bay or anything like that. What it will do is allow them to play competitive football and win a few games when the schedule softens up, and, perhaps more importantly, it will allow the Rams to get through the season without losing any other key players.