Preseason is a time for ironing out the kinks, evaluating the players on the roster and sewing the various pieces together into a whole. The scoreboard is secondary, which is fine considering the St. Louis Rams lost by a final score of 20-19.
The first half of the game, with the starting offense and defense, revealed a team with its work cut out for it in the weeks leading up to the start of the regular season, or even a Thursday showdown with the Baltimore Ravens to conclude the preseason.
Sam Bradford started off well enough, finding Brandon Gibson on the left side for 14 yards. After that, things looked all too familiar. Incomplete to Lance Kendricks, short run from Pead, Barry Richardson allows a sack ... punt.
You know the rest. Going through this thing play-by-play is pointless, because this was a much different version of the team that will be on the field in Week 1. Think about it. How often do you think the Rams offense is going to be on the field not running Steven Jackson?
Fisher instead gave Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson reps in Jackson's place, leaning on Pead early. It showed. Dallas' secondary, a unit built to contend with the likes of Hakeem Nicks and Jeremy Maclin, shut down the Rams receivers, leaving Bradford little to work with since none of the defensive backs had to concern themselves with Jackson.
That shouldn't excuse the offensive performance. Bradford looked tentative, but that was partly due to his receivers being locked up in single coverage. His protection could have been better, but it could have been much worse considering the line was without Harvey Dahl and Scott Wells was seeing his first action of the preseason.
Bradford and the offense did not respond well to the challenge, but they have more time to work on things. We'll get into the specific performances more tomorrow and the next day, but I'll stay firmly in the middle of the road on Bradford. He did little to inspire confidence, but it could have been much worse. The offense looked better on their last drive with the starters, when Richardson added that other dimension to it.
I really liked what I saw from Richardson. Pead will be fine, but he is going to take some time for adjustment.
The defense has plenty of work to do. Watching them give up so many big plays really gave the game a sickening, familiar feeling. Because it's still the preseason, we can still attribute that to the learning curve.
Janoris Jenkins' rise through camp and the preseason has been fantastic, but also a bit unrealistic. Rookie corners never slide into the NFL as if they've already been there. Natural talent and an understanding of the game is only going to take you so far; a player still needs to adjust.
The defense was clearly out of sync, and the cover-2 was a problem. Regardless, those are the kind of things that can still be worked out with practice. Tackling, or lack thereof, was the most troubling thing to see from the Rams defense.
Now comes a big challenge for Fisher. His team has its work cut out for it. They bounced back well after an ugly loss against the Colts to start the season with a win against the Chiefs before regressing again this week. Fisher and his staff have to double down in practice this week, get the various parts moving in unison.
Joe Flacco and the Ravens come to town on Thursday, one final tune up before a trip to Detroit on Sep. 9.