The St. Louis Rams lost their second preseason game of the year, a 21-7 thrashing at the hands of the Green Bay Packers. But it's only a preseason game. Repeat that over and over: it's only preseason.
The starting offense had a slow start, but found its groove on the second drive of the game, the last drive for Sam Bradford and the starters. It was on the other side of the ball where things got a little more frightening. Aaron Rodgers had his way with the Rams starting defense, which couldn't get a pass rush going and looked lost in the secondary. Both teams kept it pretty vanilla, but it's pretty clear there's still work to do.
Penalties were a problem, again. The Rams got flagged 10 times, 10 accepted penalties. Part of that's on the refs and the league. This new emphasis on defensive contact needs to get ironed out before the regular season gets here or teams may as well leave their defensive players in the locker room.
We'll have more analysis later, but here are a few initial thoughts.
It was a mixed bag for Bradford, but it was also his first taste of a football game in 300 days and he had a good outing overall. Take it with a grain of salt. He missed badly on a deep ball to Kenny Britt, but threw a perfect pass into a tight window for Lance Kendrick's second quarter touchdown. The good news was that he took his first hit, from Julius Peppers nonetheless, and was fine after that. More worrisome than anything from Bradford was the offense that still seemed committed to short throws, especially when it came to Tavon Austin.
The starting group was missing Jake Long and Rodger Saffold, so take this all with a grain of salt. Greg Robinson filled in for Long at left tackle. The biggest concern from this group was the run blocking. Zac Stacy had just six yards on six carries, with two tackles for a loss in a row at one point. The backup offfensive line had its ups and downs.
Robinson needs work before he takes over a tackle job. But he did do this ...
Brian Quick shook off a disappointing week against the Saints with a solid outing this time. His highlight play was a 41-yard pass from Bradford that saw him go up into the air to get the ball, using his size to his advantage, finally. His route running was nice too. Kenny Britt was solid. He ran a nice route on that overthrown ball from Bradford.
The Rams are really going to miss Stedman Bailey during his four-game suspension. He made a beautiful play in the third quarter, and just looks like a natural receiver.
It was hard for Stacy to find much running room, but there was nothing to indicate that the starting job belongs to anyone but him. Benny Cunningham was still in the second running back spot. Tre Mason started the second half of the game.
The starting unit, with some notable exceptions on the bench, had no answers for the Packers no huddle offense and Eddie Lacy. A quick pace neutralized the front four pass rush. And the Packers threw a healthy dose of Lacy into the mix for an opening drive that made the Rams look helpless.
It is preseason, but the lack of pass rush from the starters has to be a big concern. They'll face a lot of no huddle offenses this year, and need to be ready for it.
Janoris Jenkins and E.J. Gaines did not dress for this game, so Marcus Roberson got the start alongside Trumaine Johnson. Brandon McGee got time in the slot with the ones. And it was not impressive, the whole bunch. They missed tackles and didn't make plays. More worrisome than anything was the return of the comfortable cushions the secondary was giving opposing receivers. Tim Walton calling guest plays is the only excuse that makes sense here.
There are still two preseason games left to go, but Williams' defense has been highly touted coming into the season. It's going to have to get better than what we've seen so far. Taking risks is one thing, but if the back seven doesn't get better, they won't be able to take any risks at all.
More notes ...
- The backup offensive linemen ... yikes.
- The second and third team offense looked confused. Part of that was the pressure, but neither Austin Davis or Garrett Gilbert was particularly effective under center.
- Ethan Westbrooks is your longshot story of the year. He was an animal out there, and has a real shot at making the roster.
- Defensive depth looks solid, except ...
- The secondary is a real concern, from the depth to the style of play.
- Michael Sam got his first sack as a pro.