And so the first game of the Spagnuolo Era of St. Louis Rams football is a win. That's right a Rams win.
In way, this was the perfect game to usher in the new era for St. Louis Rams football. Not the most well-played game, but a scrabbly effort that got results.
Some of the big stories we saw tonight:
- The first game of the Spagnuolo Era is a win! Come on, preseason or not, it's enjoyable to see that.
- Marc Bulger and the West Coast Offense: so far, so good.
- The run blocking is solid. Four running backs had runs of 10 yards or more.
- I don't know that they get an "A" for this game, but the linebackers look much better than last year. Still have some work to do though. They missed that end around that got the Jets downfield for a FG.
- The veterans played much better than the rookies. Stating the obvious, but looking at the notes the young guys got burned for the most glaring stuff, e.g. Darby and Ogbonnaya in pass pro and Justin King. That's about what you'd expect for the first game of the preseason. That's not to say the rookies look bad.
- Maybe it's overselling two passes, but I think Keith Null is going to be exciting to watch in the preseason. Could he play his way ahead of Boller?
- The run defense is much better this year. Remember how we got gashed against the Titans to open the preseason last year?
- Um, did anyone notice Steven Jackson out there with the defense? He picked up a tackle in the 3rd quarter. Is there anything the guy can't do? Yes, pass protection.
- Randy McMichael was the only starter to get flagged for a penalty.
I'd be lying if I said that the first quarter, the one with the starters, wasn't a little disappointing. Too see Bulger get sacked three times damn near gave me a coronary. But seeing those plays you can see that it had more to do with the offense being unprepared for the full frontal assault from the Jets starters - think if Jenkins had been playing - much more than it had to do with a faulty offensive line. In fact, the breakdowns in pass protection happened behind the line of scrimmage, though the Goldberg looked a little overwhelmed a couple of times. Bulger was looking good, and I was anxious to see them get some momentum...and then came that sack on 2nd and 6th on the second drive of the game. Add to that McMichael's false start penalty that put the Rams at 3rd and 18...
In fact, that was the worst stretch of the game for the Rams. Donnie Jones, to quote shostag from the comments, looked like he was in midseason form on the punt to end that drive, and the gods gave the Rams a break with a Jets penalty on that punt. Unfortunately, right after that, Justin King for burned for 48 yards, making the rookie Sanchez look good and precipitating a flood of message board posts at the PD's Rams Talk tomorrow about why we should have drafted him. The Jets ulimately scored on that drive, using another play of 20+ yards to get there. The combination of a foiled offensive drive and a couple defensive miscues made it a close game, closer than it needed to be.
The sync between our front seven and defensive backfield looks to be the weakest link right now. Did any of the cornerbacks impress? Quincy Butler seemed overly concerned with playing the ball more than the receiver, giving my theory of camp hero some credibility. Justin King is in the same boat right now.
The veterans dominated the front seven, leaving the rookies in the dust as far as looking comfortable on the field and making plays. Little got a sack right off the bat, and James Hall recovered the fumble on the same play. Those two will be really important in the Rams defense this year. What's the deal with our young draft picks on defense? Adam Carriker is at risk of being a perpetual injury. Chris Long had a rough night; however, I think Long's the kind of guy who'll have the game tape on his iPod for the flight home. I'll be more concerned with Long if he continues to struggle in the preseason. Tye Hill wasn't horrible.
The run defense did well, though they didn't face three of the Jets starting o-linemen. The Jets averaged just 3.6 yards on 28 running plays. They got burned for more than 10 yards just once, on Shonn Greene's 34 breakaway in the 3rd quarter. A better run defense means better games this season. Unless...
I think Marc Bulger and the receivers might be okay in this offense. If they can get pass protection ironed out in the backfield, this could be a good offense.
Players who made an impression, good or bad:
Starting with the first team...
Marc Bulger - He didn't pass much, but his 4-for-4 night for 77 yards was refreshing. I'll be anxious to see more in the games ahead.
Steven Jackson - I'm not worried about him, but I would like to see more than two carries next time.
Laurent Robinson - He had a great 50-yarder from Bulger.
Randy McMichael - 25 yards on 2 catches, yeah, he's going to like the West Coast Offense.
Keenan Burton - Where was Burton tonight?
Kenneth Darby - Not a good night, when compared to the impression he made with the Rams late last season and in practice this year. Decent night returning a kick though.
Alex Barron - Looked fine on the left side. No penalties, and no sacks because of him.
Samkon Gado - You can make fun of his name all you want, but the guy played a nice game on special teams and in the second half. I caution against reading too much into his night; this is a player who has experienced regular season success playing in the second half of a preseason game. Of course, the half-full version starts with the fact that he's a player who has had regular season success.
Jason Smith - Granted, he wasn't playing against the starters, but he looked good tonight. The Baylor product opened running lanes and popped Vernon Gholston in pass protection. If Gholston has been as good as the Jets are saying he has in camp so far, this is particularly encouraging. To me, Smith earned his shot with the first team when practice starts again.
Chris Chamberlain - Led the team with four tackles and looked ferocious.
Larry Grant - played a good game too.
Justin King - That's not the camp player I remember.
Quincy Butler - Has to prove in the next game that he's more than just a camp success story.
Tye Hill - Has to do more than that to eek out a spot, much less a starting gig.
Bradley Fletcher - Had a nice pass breakup. I'll be watching him closely in practice and the next game.
Derek Stanley - Has a a long way to go before he's given the punt return job.
Alright, who are we missing?
Keith Null - Threw rockets, twice. He now has more preseason TD passes than any other Rams QB. I think this guy could play himself into the number two role, and based on what I saw tonight from Boller, the number two job isn't all that secure either.
We'll have more on the game tomorrow. For now, rest easy, the first game of a new era of Rams football is a win! A win!