In all honesty I tried really hard to hold off on saying this. But it needs to be said after sitting back and watching the mayhem go on here at TST the last couple of days.
Lets start with the pass defense. In my Off-season Review/Season Preview, I had this to say about the defense as a whole;
"The defense is where the real question lies. Yes its the preseason and we played mostly an off cover 3 zone. But we couldn't stop the pass worth a damn. When we complicate things I believe it will get better, but I don't know how much better and that's what scares me.
We finished the preseason 5th in rush yds allowed and 32nd in pass. Good enough for 28th overall. Again we will improve when we complicate things, but how much will we improve. If we were 15th in pass defense then one could say if we are in the middle of the pack now wait until we open the playbook. But when we are dead last and looking to be a top ten defense, will we make a jump from 32nd to 12th when it matters? Something to think about.
Nevertheless, our run defense will be pretty good. We have guys they like to fly around and get to the ball. Ogletree, McDonald, and McLeod all zip to the ball. And we already know what the other guys do. And I know McLeod is not the biggest, but he is fearless. And if he even slows the runner down until someone gets there, well that's more than enough for me to say we have improved."
The issues on defense has a lot less to do with the players and more to do with coaching. I will be the first to say it, I have never viewed Cortland Finnegan as a $50 million corner. $24 million max. To me he has never been a top 10 corner before or after joining the Rams. But I would give him top 20, somewhere in between 13-18. With that being said, he is better than the trash talk he has received the last 8 days. The corners have been taking a lot of blame. I even seen someone say that Janoris Jenkins should be traded (later clarified as a joke). But in actuality the players are not to blame as much as it may look.
Jeff Fisher and Tim Walton are sharing a peace pipe that isn't exactly keeping the peace. Instead causing chaos in the St. Louis community. They are refusing to get out of this soft zone coverage that has allowed 661 passing yards through two games.
Next lets talk about this offense. Sam Bradford has been superb. The O-Line has been marvelous. Receivers have been crisp and versatile. There are two issues though. One, the O-Line is not opening many holes in the run game. Two we have been one of the most Vanilla teams in the NFL this year in the first 3 quarters of the game. No the run game is not suffering because of Daryl Richardson. And no this check down pass game we have started off with the last two weeks is not because Sam is afraid to go down field. In fact Daryl has ran very hard and looked impressive in the receiving department, excluding the ball bouncing off his chest into the hands of Osi Umenyoira. And you would have to be a fool to think Sam isn't dying for a chance to connect with Chris Givens 50 yds down field every play. The play calling has been terrible.
Brian Schottenheimer has done absolutely nothing to dispel the notion that he is a vanilla play caller with a mediocre imagination. I said as much when I answered Brandon Bate's questions months ago, and again in my top 5 preview.
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I don't believe he is waiting until the right time to unleash the Kraken, because the season has already begun and there is no time to waste, there's only 16 games and we are two in. I think its a case of him simply not having that many creative formations/plays so he does not want to use them unless the game is on the line. Here's an example of the wrong type of play calling.
Tavon Austin has run a bunch of digs and speed outs. That's it! These are not plays that will get him in the open field or in a one on one situation with space to work his magic. Can we get a screen please? But against Atlanta, Austin Pettis ran a route that we should be running with Tavon around the 50 and watch him work. When Pettis scored against the Falcons, it was on a flat route. Pettis lined up in the slot and Givens was out wide. Givens ran a rub route and since the defense was in man, the outside corner followed him. Givens intentionally ran directly towards the nickle corner covering Pettis, causing the outside corner and nickle to "rub" and throw off the coverage. The result was Pettis wide open between the sideline and numbers. He dove in the end zone but could have walked in. If this play is ran on the 50 with Tavon as the slot man instead that's a reception with about 8 yds between him and the defender and no safety help, meaning nothing but space and opportunity.
Another problem with the offense is not playing to the strengths of the players. Clearly Sam Bradford has proven time and time again that he is an amazing no huddle QB. And he has even said he would prefer to do more of it multiple times. We have the personnel as well. All of our starters excluding Jared Cook were spread no huddle offensive guys in College. Here's what a few guys had to say about the idea on NFL.com.
"It kind of reminded me of West Virginia," rookie wide receiver Tavon Austin said
"I obviously did it a lot in college," Bradford said
"I think it's good for us," receiver Austin Pettis added. "We were able to do a little bit more offensively and throw defenses off so they can't necessarily play to our tendencies and that kind of thing."
Now Fisher's excuse for not doing more no huddle is he does not want to put the defense or the opposing offense back on the field to quickly. But then he said five min later when attempting to correct someone during his media session;
"there's a difference between the no huddle and hurry up. Typically the hurry up is at the end of the game or half when entering the two minute offense." Fisher went on to say "teams run the hurry up to get a snap off in about 10-15 seconds, in an attempt to get off another play".
Umm hello!!!! (in my Herm Edwards voice), if he knows there is a difference, why act as if there is not? Not running a no huddle has nothing to do with putting the defense on the field, but eveything to do with him being stubborn and not adjusting his style to suit his players. Also he mentioned Sam Bradford's 300 yard games, saying we have only won two of them. That bothered me considering that just because a team is going with no huddle does not mean they have to pass 60 times. You can run the football from no huddle. Fisher just prefers the traditional old fashion way. He is an old fashion guy, he hates cameras around the facilities, does not want no huddle to be a regular thing, and he still has a mullet. If that isn't old fashion I don't know what is (it's a joke, LAUGH).
So what is it exactly that no one wants to say? Simple, coaching has sucked! Jeff is still being that stubborn coach he has always been. He refuses to shake the power and use a little more finesse. And I am not someone who will say "oh but I trust Fisher, he knows what he is doing". Don't get me wrong I was happy when we signed Jeff, he is the first competent coach we have had in about 10-12 yrs. But by no means is he perfect. I don't believe being a die hard fan has anything to do with saying the coach is always right. Bill Belichick is arguably the best coach in the game but was he right to choose Danny Amendola over Wes Welker? Hell no! Just because Jeff is competent and has a "decent" NFL record does not mean he is always right and making the best decision for the team. I hated the Tim Walton hiring! The guy had a horrible pedigree coming from Detroit as the secondary coach. He coached one of the worst secondaries for two yrs, now we are going to give him an entire defense? Explicit that!!! I say give play calling duties to Dave McGinnis. As for Schotty, he has 14 weeks to show that this is not all. If we don't see some creativity by the time the season is over its time to move on.
Coaching needs to start talking more blame. Because aside from a couple of personal fouls in week one, and two blown coverages on 3rd down against Atlanta. The players have played exceptionally well.
Let's stop hounding the players so much and pay attention what it is that they are being told to do. The entire team is on a leash for some bonehead reason. But Fisher himself knows this cannot continue. Now he just needs to pass the message down to all the assistants.
No this is not a post meant to worry anyone. I have been adamant about staying patient. I have said that this team will take time to really blow up, and I am expecting its real success to come next season. In the mean time lets give the players a break, because truthfully, they are outplaying everyone's expectations at this point.