We start the preseason discounting preseason games as all but worthless in gauging a team's true ability. We're right too, but only to a point. The Rams-Cowboys game doesn't count toward any win/loss standing for the regular season. Yet, I can't help get the feeling we're seeing a more accurate view of the Rams as a whole. Yes, problems in this latest debacle can easily be laid a the feet of the more than a few rookies crowding the Rams roster right now. While the only player guaranteed to be cut by his performance in the game is kicker Garrett Lindholm (missing an extra point while Zuerlien crushes two 50+ yard field goals tells me you're a big bye-bye), there are glaring problems that I really thought had been ironed out.
I'm a huge fan of James Laurinaitis, but even he was missing tackles in a "rookie-ish" fashion. Chris Long played well, but for the most part he was a non-entity against the Cowboys' offensive line. Robert Quinn is quick and powerful - there's no denying this - yet he will be game planned each week during the regular season based on his almost uncontrolled outside move that's opening his side of the defensive line to counter-flow rushes. The outside linebacker corps was either way too deep in pass coverage, or pinched inside to far. In truth, if there was a part of the defense that failed thoroughly against the Cowboys, I'd have to say it was the Rams linebackers. All of them.
Yes, Janoris Jenkins was completely shredded by Tony Romo in the first quarter. He didn't fare all that well against Kyle Orton either, but he gets a rookie pass, right? Michael Brockers did an exceptional job in my opinion, but he still needs to add penetrating the line and learn to push the pocket back. Trumaine Johnson was beat several times by Dallas tight ends. On offense, Isaiah Pead showed he's not only agile, but fails to see more than a small slice of the field on each play. I counted three different instances where, after initial contact, gaping run lanes opened to his right that he never saw; instead just plowing straight ahead for little or no gain.
The one offensive bright spot was UDFA Daryl Richardson. Though he need to learn to pick up blitzes, he really impressed me last night. But we've seen preseason warriors before, haven't we?
My greatest disappointment was Sam Bradford. After the quick slant pass to Brandon Gibson, his night went downhill is a rush. I guarantee the "deer in the headlights" metaphors will rain down on him this week from every NFL sports writer in America. They'll be right too. After he was sacked for the first time, he became visibly rattled in the pocket. I could see him struggling with his fight or flight response, though he did hang in the pocket for the most part. But after the first sack, his concentration was visibly split. There are those that'll say his receivers weren't open, and that Dallas' secondary did a remarkable job. I'm only buying that to a point. If Sam has one glaring problem, it's the speed he runs through his check downs. A great quarterback checks his receivers down in two or three seconds. While his protection last night wasn't great, he had time - You know it, and so do I...
This preseason has been as interesting as it has been disturbing for me. I can see players are actually be coached this season, but the amount of missed tackles last night was beyond frightening. Please forgive me for saying this Craig Dahl, but outside of one great tackle, you looked terrible. No really, I'm talking Justin King awful. Quintin Mikell, you had your worst night as a Ram. These two players weren't alone though, and even my favorite player - JL55 - looked like a Pop Warner player against an NFL team. You know I'm right James, and you'll be having DeMarco Murray nightmares for weeks.
Sometimes little rants like this are cathartic. Vent, vent, vent - then all the world is set right. Somehow I don't feel satiated though. Right now, I feel like reaching for the Tums or a bottle of Blanton's. When the most promising part of this Rams team - the defense - makes Dwayne Harris look like the Baltimore Ravens Torrey Smith, and Tony Romo look like Aaron Rodgers - in a single quarter of play... Color me concerned... When Sam Bradford and the offensive line are playing "let's have a 2011 season game tonight" - paint me frickin' worried. When I add my concerns to the fact Dallas wasn't playing some of their best players? Where's the Blanton's!