Sometimes you have to learn lessons the hard way. This is a concept the St. Louis Rams have come to know all to well. The Rams forgot how to win nearly a decade ago, and it seems to be a slow process as they attempt to return to their turn of the century form. Let's try to sort out parts of week 11 that may be telling us a little bit more about the future of this Rams football team.
We had a chance to watch the St. Louis Rams deliver one of the team's worst performances of the year against the Jets. This Rams team would be smart to evaluate their performance with deep scrutiny this week to understand exactly where they failed. Let's face it, there were a lot of things that went wrong on Sunday against the Jets. The game plan didn't stop the run, create turnovers, or put the Rams in position to run the ball.
This is a green Rams team with mostly young players, and as a part of this youth movement we can see changes each week. So what lessons can we learn from last week's game that may tell us more about the future of this growing team?
- The Rams are going young, and aren't looking back. Trial by fire if you will. The Rams know that for this team to grow up quickly they have to play these young draft picks, and that means missed assignments, stupid penalties, and some lost football games. Trumaine Johnson replaced Bradley Fletcher as the 3rd corner. This staff feels he can be starting corner in this league, and have decided it's time for him to play his way through these early bumps and bruises. Brit Miller was also scrapped form yesterdays plans, in part, to make room for rookie Cory Harkey. These rookies will be the foundation of a better football team in the future. As frustrating as some of the missed opportunities may be this year, we will all be thankful in the coming years when this team is much improved. This staff is smart enough to know that our current stable of players is not good enough to be a great football team, so they are in search of great players. That means examining and developing young talent. This is something that the Rams organization has not done in years and years. Bravo to this coaching staff for making the tough call to do this.
- This team is inconsistent on defense, and it starts at the top. One story present throughout training camp this year was who would be the Rams defensive coordinator? The answer was basically no one... kind of. Blake Williams was dubbed by the fans and media as the "the guy" because he was calling the plays from the sideline. The story we got from Rams Park is that it was going to be a collective effort between Coach Cecil, Coach McGinnis, and Coach Williams. With all due respect to all 3 very qualified gentlemen, this group lacks efficient leadership. The defensive gameplans - even in wins - appear to lack cohesion. This team goes the way of the defense, and as of right now the defense is getting worse. I wasn't sure before the season that Gregg Williams would come back to be a Rams coordinator after the scandal, but now I am convinced this group needs his help and leadership. We can't put all the defensive follies on the coaching staff, but this defensive unit has played below it's ability level in four consecutive games now. I would expect this team to have a real defensive coordinator at the start of the 2013 training camp.
- The 2012 draft was a good one. If there is one thing Rams fans are already excited about - it's the 2013 draft, and for good cause. The new Rams staff did a great job with the 2012 draft, by securing multiple draft picks for the future and acquiring a stable of young players that are already making good on their potential. Micheal Brockers is still learning. He has a fair share of development ahead of him, but he plays like a starting defensive tackle already. His physical skills are apparent on the field. The game is not too big for him, and you can only assume he will get better. The exact same thing could be said for Janoris Jenkins. If Jenks can stay out of trouble, he already shows flashes of pro-bowl ability. Also, let's not forget our special teams ace Greg Zuerlien. I think that was a sixth-round pick well spent, don't you?
As for the rookie skilled players, it appears Givens, Richardson, and Pead all have real play-making ability that can help this team. Richardson in the seventh round was a great value. He is not ever going to be a feature back, but he is great change of pace guy that has proven he can make explosive plays for this team. In fact, he has more runs of 20+ yards in 2012 than Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, and Trent Richardson - how about that! Givens is the defense-stretching receiving threat this team has been searching for. He will have to add other elements to his arsenal. Just like Mike Wallace in Pittsburgh, he can be the guy that burns the defense and sets the offense up for a score a few times each game. That leaves us with an underachieving Isiah Pead. I don't know how Pead will turn out, he has flashed his ability on the field, which is good. The first thing you look for in a draft bust is his ability to showcase his talent on the field. Pead has given us a hint of this, hopefully we can expect a lot more. This team can build around this young 2012 draft class talent. It's hard to imagine many other teams in the NFL that have already gotten more out of their rookies than this team.
All in all, there were a few things that we learned about the future this week beyond what went wrong on the field. There are a lot of things to be excited about with this team. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of uncertainty. Ultimately, to be excited about this teams future you have to buy into what Jeff Fisher and Les Snead are doing. You have to trust that more times than not they will make the right decision. I personally believe this. What say you?