Jeff Fisher abandoned the philosophy that he had previously subscribed to by letting many of his "star" players sit this game out. The game actually lacked star-power all the way around, as neither team played their starting QB, RB, or LT's on offense, and avoided using star pass-rushers Chris Long, Elvis Dumervil, Terrell Suggs, and Robert Quinn on defense. Previously it had been the ideology of Jeff Fisher to use the 4th preseason as a continued ramp-up period to the regular season, and was known for playing his starters more than other NFL teams traditionally do.
The game looked exactly like what you would expect a game filled with back-up players to look like. The game started off with a bevy of turnovers, largely from Rams players that will likely make the roster. Isaiah Pead, Brian Quick, and Tavon Austin all were a part of the first quarter fumble woes. However, the team was able to settle down and all of the players were able to come back and play well in-spite of the early troubles.
The Rams also did a very good job of overcoming what ended up being a 16 penalty performance. Fans will certainly hold their breath and pray that Week 1 will not have even half as many costly mistakes. That in-of-it-self makes this victory by the backups that much more impressive. The Rams looked like a faster, stronger, and more physical team on both offense and defense this evening, and it's likely several of these Rams cuts will find roster spots elsewhere pretty quickly.
Sam Bradford had the day off, so Kellen Clemens got the nod for the start. Clemens showcased a savvy for the quarterback position, but also showed why he will never ever start in the NFL. Clemens is a wild thrower at times, but was able to hit Brian Quick on several occasions to move the chains, and drive the ball down the field. Austin Davis took over for the second half of the game. Unfortunately for the Rams, Davis didn't look like any improvement over Clemens. This will truly be tough decision if it comes down to keeping one over the other.
Isaiah Pead certainly started off the game on the wrong note, fumbling another valuable opportunity on the first play of the game. However, he bounced back with several good runs and plays in space throughout the game. He looked to be building confidence and actually looked pretty sharp running the ball. Zac Stacey also got a large bulk of the carries in the first half, but was unable to break very much loose. Stacey had several decent gains, and was even able to pound in a goal line TD, but wasn't able to distinguish himself much behind that point.
Ben Cunningham was the running-back that truly stole the show. It would be a crime at this point for him to not only make the team, but he should be firmly placed in the #2 spot based on his output this preseason. Cunningham showcased excellent burst and explosiveness, and was able to break off a handful of long explosive runs that contributed to the win.
As for the wide receivers, as mentioned above, Austin and Quick both had costly fumbles in the first quarter. However, Austin bounced back with several solid catches for first downs, and Brian Quick put on a highlight of spectacular catches - one of which should have been a touchdown, but was spotted just shy of the end zone. Quick certainly looks like a player that needs to be on the field during the regular season.
Unfortunately for many of the other Rams wide receivers vying for a 6th spot, little was done to separate themselves from the pack. Nick Johnson caught a late TD pass on a short route, but very few other plays stuck out from a depth perspective at WR.
The Rams offensive line was without star acquisition Jake Long, but performed admirably in his absence. The team struggled to run at times, but was able to provide adequate protection to Clemens to deliver some strong passes down the field. There were several major hiccups in protection, but it's tough to say what the final product will look like once all players are on the field in the best protections and schemes. Week 1 will be the day fans can truly begin to evaluate the effectiveness of this line. Time to start holding your breath.
The Rams defense, largely filled with hungry players fighting hard for a backend roster spot performed very well. Undrafted rookies like Gerald Rivers, Ray Ray Armstrong, and Cody Davis all showcased the ability to play with the big boys on Sundays. Furthermore, second year play Matt Daniel's certainly made his presence known in the first half. Daniels was flying around the field and even picked up an interception for his effort.
The Rams defense was without most of it's beef on the defensive line tonight, but performed in a dominant fashion anyways. Mason Brodine and Matt Conrath both proved that they possess the ability to stop the run and penetrate deep into the back field. Both players probably deserve to make the team.
The linebacking corp was filled with first and second year players this evening, but all were able to perform up to par. Ogletree seemed to be flying around and playing faster than he had in many of the first preseason games. Ogletree had began to collect criticism for his run defense, but was able to lower his head and get down to make several big plays in the first quarter. As mentioned before, Ray Ray Armstrong also continued to impress tonight - minus a taunting penalty that Jeff Fisher seemed none too pleased about.
The defensive backs had an up and down evening, but several players flashed the ability to play at a high level. No player stood out more on defense than Matt Daniels, but players like Darren Woodard and Cody Davis also were spotted flying around the ball and making tackles in space.
Ultimately, there were a lot of spots up for grabs on the backend of the defensive roster tonight, and several players gave it their all and will likely make the team because of it.
The only real significant kick return of the night included Isaiah Pead's fumble. Pead has done absolutely nothing to earn that job during the regular season. In the punt return game Veltung was able to secure a few returns but was unable to do anything overly impressive with them.
The coverage teams all looked strong and physical. Coach Fossil has done a great job scheming a violent and powerful special team coverage corp. Ray Ray Armstrong and Matt Daniels both made strong hits that made their presence known once again on these units.
Finally, Johnny Hekker and Greg Zuerlien both performed as well as expected. With that in mind, Greg Zuerlien did miss a 53 yard field goal by a hair. He is a human, so it's expected that he will miss from time to time, but if there is anything fans can be concerned about it's his accuracy. Let's hope he is getting all the misses out of his system in the preseason.
Final Wrap Up:
The Rams were able to accomplish a win heading into week 1. This may be one of the most important objectives earned from the evening. The young players on this team can carryover this success and enthusiasm over into Arizona next week. Unfortunately, many of those that contributed to tonight's win will not be with the team when that happens.
The other big takeaway from this evening is the amount of penalty film the team will be able to review this week. This is a young Rams team that still must improve every week, and to beat Arizona week 1 that's exactly what this team will have to do over the next 10 days.
That's a wrap Rams fans. From this point on all the games count!