After each game, its already a TST tradition that ram_rod or one of the writer offers a who's up/who's down chart per many of the other big name sports writers in the world of sport's media. It's fun, its informational, and people love to receive their information in quick, easy-to-digest blurbs. The who's up and who's down also bypasses complex evaluations to give a simple measure of good and bad.
In writing my own personal up/down chart, I don't mean to challenge or even debate any of the points already made in the frontpage article. These are, as the title states, a supplement - additional players that I feel deserve some recognition, good and bad, for their performance. I'm no sports writer and was not even at the game (sadly), these are just my thoughts from what I saw from watching the game on TV and a little post-game analysis based on stat-lines. Also, it should be noted, that the Colts are NOT a good preseason team. In the past 7 seasons they have won just 5 preseason games. Whether this is due to the coaching philosophy or to really conserve their starters, this means that Rams' dominating performance should be taken with a grain of salt. However, as much as the accepted standard is to not derive expectations from preseason games, it's hard not to be optimistic about the play of the Rams' depth. I personally feel regular season games are a measure of the team, whereas preseason games are a measure of overall talent + depth. Match up to match up, I'd say the Rams definitely came away with a morale boosting win last night. I digress. Here is my supplement to the up/down chart:
UP - The Unheralded Offensive Line
Yes, there was already a mention of the OL in the front page article, but the article only mentioned three names specifically: Rodger Saffold, Harvey Dahl, and Jacob Bell. Beyond the individual performances of those 3 players, the entire unit was solid across the board, even later in the game when play got sloppier and sloppier. Mainly, I want to mention three additional names for consideration: Jason Smith, Renardo Foster, and Adam Goldberg (I see those looks). While the trio mentioned in ram_rod's post are players expected to shine, these are definitely three guys who had everything to prove coming into this game and came away with some solid answers.
- Jason Smith looked like a dominating starter. Much of our success of our run game on the right side is credited to the FA additions of Dahl and running back depth, but Smith also looked much improved in this game. I've heard varying reports out of camp of Smith "throwing guys around" or "struggling", so I did not know what to expect from him. His pass protection was solid as it usually has been. Dwight Freeney did not play, so Smith battled former 1st round pick Jerry Hughes. Although Hughes is widely considered a bust by Colts fans, Smith was able to absolutely shut him down in this game. Essentially, Hughes was a non-factor on passing downs. Smith's biggest improvement, however, was in the run game, where he was projected to be a star coming out of college. Until now, he's received criticism, but last night I saw him maintaining his blocks and removing defenders from the play. His defining play was a Cadillac Williams sweep to the right in which he was quick off the line and kept his block 4 yards off of the scrimmage, allowing space for the entire unit to open holes.
- Renardo Foster is a guy that the Rams are counting on to be a serviceable back up option at tackle. He looked the part last night. Keith Toston looked like a runner with determination to stay on the team, but he got a lot of help from Foster. I remember hearing his name on almost every down of Toston's TD drive. Finally, on the goal line touchdown, he fought in the scrum to open the lane for Toston to push through.
- Adam Goldberg is not a starter on any team. We've known this for a while, and sadly, we weren't able to act on this thought last semester due to depth issues. This season, Goldberg is finally back in the depth chart where he should be. His veteran presence has been praised in the locker room and he is the Rams representative to the player's union. Against the Colt's second and third stringers, I noticed Goldberg's name and decided to watch him in pass protection, where he held up surprisingly well. Hopefully, this is an indication that he's finally found a place on the field deep within the depth chart.
UP - Quinn-tessential
Robert Quinn has caused worry so far from his limited reps in camp due to nursing a minor injury from the offseason. After not playing an entire year in college, and then missing an entire NFL offseason due to a lockout, Quinn is in a really bad position to adjust to the NFL. He should be a star talent, but I expected him to be rusty coming into the game. Even though I have him as an up, he was not excellent, mostly due to the reasons stated. However, he did play after the starters sat and did pretty well considering his troubling situation. Notably, Quinn looked REALLY good in run pursuit, he has a high motor and locates the ball well. Due to a missed block by a Colts lineman or Quinn's heralded quickness, Quinn was able to blow up one running play on the left side of the line for a monstrous TFL. If that's not impressive enough, Quinn played right end, meaning he pursued all the way across the backfield.
Unfortunately, I don't think that Quinn performed very well in the pass rush. Overall, the Rams defense did not get any sacks surprisingly. Perhaps its due to a year of missing football, but Quinn looked awfully slow in his first step when rushing. A Colts tackle would often be able to set up in the pass blocking pocket before Quinn even got out of his stance. I felt that he relied more on his quickness after the snap and athleticism to get pressure than his reaction time. However, Quinn was the only Rams player with a QB hit.
UP - Big Hits
The Rams are unfortunately known as a pretty soft team around the league. We've made some moves to add hot heads to the roster such as Harvey Dahl and Brady Poppinga, and just based on the game last night, I'd say the Rams are definitely getting scarier. Our linebackers did not do very well in coverage and allowed to many plays along the edge and in the flats in coverage. Poppinga only had one tackle for the night but made it count. I remember the hit being quite a thwack.
On the open thread last night, commenters started whispering about #51, who I believe is UDFA tight end Ben Guidugli. His gained the spotlight on a massive crack block on a Colts defensive end that absolutely laid the defender out. Howie Long and the broadcasting booth even stopped to look back at the block. It was nasty. Overall, Guidugli had a good night and made good catches, finishing with 2 receptions for 18 yards. Unfortunately, with all of the traffic at tight end, it will be a long shot for him to make the team. Lastly, anyone who watched the game should remember Chris Chamberlain's massive hit along the sidelines. It won the trivial [NFL Sponsor]'s Hit of the Night award and was shown on replay a few times. This was after his pass interference penalty and could've been Chamberlain taking out his frustration on a poor Colts victim. Chamberlain played well last night and continued to be a reliable special teams player who can back up the outside linebacker position.
DOWN - Who will step up in the secondary?
Currently, our cornerbacks are being hit the hardest by the injury bug. Bartell, Harris, and Murphy are all out with injuries; Murphy is out for the season. TST and Spagnoulo put in a good word for Justin King to step up to be the Rams' nickle corner this year. The Penn State product got a lot of playing time last night and started at cornerback across from Bradley Fletcher. He played decently, but certainly did not explode onto the scene like we need him to. The pass to Pierre Garcon that made King look bad was not his fault at all; it was simply a great catch by Garcon. On that play, King ran step for step with Garcon, who is generally considered a speedster. In run support, King had difficulty finishing his tackles on the outside because he would not wrap up. With outside run defense already being a weakness of the team, King needs to make open-field tackles when put in 1-on-1 situations with the runner.
Behind King, nobody stood out in the secondary. Dionte Dinkins was mentioned a few times and left the game with an apparent injury only to come back later. He had a pass defense, but that was in garbage time against a feeble Colts offense. Tim Atchinson, another UDFA from who-knows-where university was burned by no-name receiver Taj Smith for the Colts' only touchdown of the game. He finished without a tackle or a pass defense. Hopefully, in the next few weeks of preseason, a Rams cornerback will be able to fill the void left by Jerome Murphy at the nickle position. Personally, I really liked the game film of Jonathan Nelson from his time at Oklahoma and would like to see him featured more in the preseason at cornerback. He had 2 tackles and one pass defense in last night's game.
DOWN - Our Backup QBs
Last year, Sam Bradford played for every snap of the regular season, leaving the Rams backups with little game time experience. Some teams in the NFL rely on their backup QB's more than others (I'm looking at you Detroit). Even if we won't use them very much this year, its still discomforting if we don't have any talent at the position. AJ Feeley has not looked good in camp but put up a nice stat line last night by completing 10-14 for 100 yards. His arm still is penne held together by elbow macaroni, but he made good decisions and relied on Kendricks to make some good 3rd down catches. However, Feeley's spotty playing was exposed near the end of the first half when he could not run a hurry up offense. Josh McDaniels looked displeased on the sidelines and Feeley was unable to convert rushed throws to Jerious Norwood. His failure did set up Josh Brown's magnificent 60-yarder though.
Thad Lewis, a Ram of many years, also did not look sharp last night. His down field accuracy was weak and like many other backup QB's gifted with good athleticism, he took off running more often than he should have. I think that his height is a problem when standing back in the pocket and limits his ability to find open receivers. This year may be the end of the road for Lewis.
Taylor Potts, the rookie out of Texas Tech, came into the game late in the 4th quarter. I did not catch much of his game and would like to see more out of him.