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Rams Recap: Bradford era starts slow behind weak offensive line

Sam Bradford got a very Rams-esque welcome to the NFL, getting sacked 3 times, and making the spotlight a little more uncomfortable. Fans and pundits will be anxious to see how the St. Louis Rams' first overall pick responds both physically and mentally from his opener. The coaches will be under scrutiny for a couple of their decisions as well. 

Ultimately, Bradford did nothing to disappoint, even as he underwhelmed high expectations. When he finally got on the field after Danny Amendola's touchdown followed promptly by a return fumble, Bradford showed his accuracy and didn't look lost in running a vanilla playbook. Then things got weird. Pass protection, which had been solid in the early going, failed at all spots. Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith both struggled with rushers...on the Vikings' second team. A questionable decision to start Hank Fraley at C and Jason Brown at LG reaped dividends dividends at less than expected rates. One of the first hits Bradford took came from up the middle. The Rams running backs got forced outside further than they should have been, and Vikings rushers started making contact with Bradford. 

Mercifully, the half time whistle blew. Out on to the field, stepped Sam Bradford and the same offensive line combo. Fortunately, Bradford seemed none the worse for wear; otherwise, things might have gotten ugly in a hurry in St. Louis. Expect this to be a tough week for the Rams, particularly the players vying for jobs on the offensive line. They really stunk up Bradford's debut. Bradford clearly had some rookie moments himself, but he was really let down by pass protection tonight. 

Stiff upper lip. It's only the first preseason game. Plenty of time remains to tighten up play on both sides of the ball and get players healthy. 

There were some other high notes on the evening. The first team defense looked good, particularly the front seven. A starting four of Chris Long, Fred Robbins, Clifton Ryan and James Hall, with a pinch of George Selvie, were disruptive and held the line well, keeping the running game a non-factor and putting pressure on the QB. They kept a secondary staffed entirely with second teamers or below from getting too exposed until the guys further down the depth charts started trickling into the mix. As the second teamers started getting work in, the results were a little mixed. The secondary was playing without Bartell, Fletcher, King and James Butler to start the night. Kevin Dockery and Jerome Murphy left the game injured, leaving the depth chart exposed.  

The Rams kept the play book pretty vanilla, not unusual for the preseason opener. Doubtlessly, it frustrated a lot of fans. Don't get too worried, yet. This is an offense that looked better but has work to do. With the pass protection the way it was tonight, an extra second with the ball in hand might have meant the end for the QB. The receivers need some work too. 

In the end, 7 points, a pithy amount of total yards, and too many sacks to settle for made it bad trip down memory lane for Rams fans. The team has to show some real improvement in the week ahead. 

High notes

  • Predictions of a Chris Long breakthrough make more and more sense.
  • Larry Grant looks like a man possessed. The Rams may have a gem in this guy.
  • George Selvie is one to watch. He looked really good out there again tonight, not perfect, but like he's ready to contribute.
  • Danny Amendola seemed to have the return job locked down with his TD. His fumble put Mardy Gilyard back in the picture. I thought he looked good as a receiver. 
  • If the Rams can get some pass protection Laurent Robinson looks poised to pick up where left off. 
  • Michael Hoomanawanui showed those hands and definitely has some potential at TE.
  • Chris Ogbonnaya did well for himself as a receiving threat, but not so much as regular old running back.
  • Marquis Johnson could have played a lot worse for a seventh round pick. Keep an eye on him as the preseason progresses to see what kind of progress he makes. 
  • The defensive first team clearly understands their roles and assignments. They did well in that department. 
  • Sam Bradford...we talked Bradford above, but it's worth repeating. He did nothing that should scare anyone away. The future belongs to him if he wants it...and if he can get some pass protection.
  • Brian Westbrook was winner. I can't imagine the Rams won't be itching to sign him after tonight. The vision of life without Steven Jackson, easing back into it following back surgery, is just too frightening. 

Low lights

  • A.J. Feeley was rusty, understandable since he hasn't really played much outside of practices since 2007. 
  • Saffold and Smith struggled. They'll have lots of pressure on them now.
  • Cornerback injuries. The Rams backfield was a trouble spot to begin with since they started the night without both starting corners. A healthy season from this unit is a must.
  • Hank Fraley. Why was this guy starting in place of Jason Brown, who's the one most consistent part of the Rams OL? Did they just want to see what Brown had in him as a guard? Fraley as a center? Both?
  • Donnie Avery, did anybody see Donnie Avery?
  • Bobby Carpenter we didn't notice you.
There's lots more to talk about, and we'll have you covered tomorrow with even more breakdown. Remember that the preseason's a funny thing and it's a long way between now and week 1. Remember the Rams beat the Jets in their preseason opener last year; how'd that work out for both those teams? What we saw tonight was young team that looked much better in stretches and like rookies in others. The real test comes in the response to this effort, the essence of the preseason.