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The Truth About The Rams? You Can't Handle The Truth!!

Well, as we enter the bye, one thing is for sure, no one can say they saw this coming. The St. Louis Rams offense, is by far more productive than the off/pre-season hyped up defense. What's more disturbing; its not entirely the players fault...

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Simply put, Brian Schottenheimer has - so far - out-coached Gregg Williams, and its not even close....

No question about it. The game plans that Schotty brings to the table, are boring and mediocre - as RVB points out - and players are even being rumored to be annoyed with him. But he has still produced a offense ranked in the top 10, through the first three games. While he hasn't come up with ultra creative plays for Tavon Austin, and for whatever reason ran an end around with Jared Cook, he has definitely opened the playbook up more and is pushing the ball down field.

I have taken the time to watch each and every play - offense, defense, and special teams - from the first three games at least four-five times each (I like studying film, don't ask why). Before diving into the specifics, here's who I have noticed playing really well and who needs to step up.

So Far, So Good

  1. Janoris Jenkins- Jenkins has been scary good in run support, and very solid in pass defense. He is looking like the player he was drafted to be. He has had a lot of plays where he has been in the hip pocket of the receiver so well, that the quarterback refuses to throw the ball. In other words, he is eliminating receivers from the game plan. LOCK DOWN!!! (and no the Dez Bryant touchdown was not his fault)
  2. Brian Quick- Talking about being the player he was drafted to be, almost no one on the team has improved more than Brian Quick. From route running, to understanding, to playing physical. Still a few bumps here and there, but the once believed to be a bust Quick, is quickly - no pun intended - becoming a force on the outside.
  3. Michael Brockers- He is quietly stuffing the middle at a scary high rate. The vast majority of the time he is on the field he has been immoveable. The rushing yards surrendered have not happened by running at "Big Brock". His level of play doesn't always show up in the stat sheet, but he has been very effective.
  4. The McBrothers- Both T.J. McDonald and Rodney McLeod have played very well this year. Their tackling has been amazing. The one glaring mistake for McLeod was the Dez Bryant touchdown. But outside of that he has been very good, and his improved play is obvious compared to last year. T.J. had the worst tackling percentage on the team last year. And he also was torched more times than not in coverage. He has played at another level this year. Both players are very vocal, and its clear they are the future leaders of this defense.
  5. Austin Davis- Davis "has" to start the rest of the season. Fisher would be insane to revert back to Shaun Hill (but I will have more on that another day). Davis has been beyond good. His 93.1 rating and 8 yards an attempt screams, "LET ME START!!!". He is actually the one player on the team that is more improved than Brian Quick. One thing that shows this the most: he was known as a guy with scrambling ability and makes a lot of plays outside of the pocket. Yet, after 104 drop backs this year he has ran only four times. He has managed to stay in the pocket on plays designed from the pocket almost every time. In other words, he is a scrambler that is developing into a pocket passer. This is the scariest kind of QB in today's in NFL (again, more on this another day).

Not Doing So Well

  1. Lamarcus Joyner- This one pains me. As most will remember, I was very high on him during draft season. I remain high on him, but like most I expected an immediate impact. He seems to be thinking too much, and it shows. Too many mental lapses. Things like blown coverages. Then he follows that up with things like pass interference penalties with perfect coverage. At that point all you have to do is turn around and see the ball. The good news is, he's young and his mistakes are mental not physical.
  2. Rodger Saffold- I have to say it, he has looked pretty bad so far. From missed blocks, to whiffs, and just flat out being blown off the ball. Not sure what's going on with him, but hopefully this bye week gives him a chance to reel it in and regroup. He is better than this.
  3. Scott Wells- Unlike Joyner, his issue isn't mental - save for that fumbled snap - it's all physical. Those are the worst kind of issues to have. He just can't play in this league anymore. He lacks the quickness to switch blocks and move to the next level. There is no strength in his punch, and in the run game he is being destroyed. Tim Barnes needs to be inserted and Barrett Jones needs to get well soon.
  4. Alec Ogletree- this is one of those instances where the stats will fool you. By my count, he has four missed tackles through 3 games. That is not okay! He needs to get this corrected and in a hurry. He also had a terribly blown coverage against the Buccaneers, but lucky for him Josh McKown missed it.
  5. Chris Givens and Jared Cook- They tied on this one. Givens looks lost. He clearly has no chemistry with any quarterback not named Sam Bradford. Three times he has run the wrong route. He looks like Brian Quick his rookie season. And he has a drop. He doesn't play enough to have a drop and three wrong routes through three weeks. As for Cook, he would have made the list even if he caught that pass against the Cowboys. Frankly, I am just sick and tired of watching his lazy ass play. He plays like he doesn't give a damn, and gets mad when it shows. The reason he dropped that pass, is because he gave half effort. Every route, every block, every step, is half effort. Every other receiver is running full speed except for him. On the drop in the end zone, he ran at about a quarter speed - and you can't half ass part of the play and kick it into gear the other, football is too fast paced for that - and his hands went up at about the same speed. He dropped the ball from playing lazy. The ball got there quick and he was not moving fast enough to catch it.

Now back to Schotty....

In a nutshell, the offense has been more efficient than what meets the eye. Right now they are moving the ball at will, evident by their 6th best in the NFL mark of 5.7 yards per play and 7th best average time of possession of 32:13. Their meager 18.7 PPG can be chalked up to fumbles (seven, 2nd most in the NFL) and drive killing penalties. The offense has the 5th most penalties in the NFL with 26 - for 305 yards, 2nd most in the NFL - and they seem to occur most frequently when the Rams are at or pass mid-field.

Brian Schottenheimer has this offense clicking on all cylinders. Considering I have been one of his biggest critics, and I remain "THE" Schotty hater, I have to give credit when credit is due. The mistakes on offense is more player, than coach. Even with those mistakes, the offense is playing at a top ten level. Clean up the mistakes, and the possibilities are endless.

As for that other guy...

Not sure what the Mad Scientist has been up to, but he needs to get down to something else. Gregg Williams has made some terrible calls so far. When you look at the players listed above, the players playing the best ball are mostly defenders, while the players who need to step up are on offense. Yet the overall results favor the offense. When you see things like that it comes down to coaching.

To further backup the good overall play from the defensive players are their numbers. While it may seem like teams are converting third downs at will, the Rams are actually ranked 12th in the league with 40% for third downs allowed to be converted. The bulk of conversions that have taken place just so happen to be of the head scratching variety?? Teams are converting third and long. This is where Gregg Williams comes into play. For some odd reason, he tends to lean more on an off-zone coverage - with a three man rush - on third downs of eight or more yards. This has been a frequent call.

Yes, the sacks have not been there this year - in fact "Sack City" can't even be found on the map - but this one play call has a lot to do with it. Third and long is the time for a defense to pin its ears back and get after the quarterback. If the play caller is only sending a three man rush, everyone is going to be double teamed. Also the off coverage allows for quicker passes. These two things combined makes for a very hard day at the office for a pass rusher.

This play was called the most against the Cowboys, but by my count he has called the same play 9/13 times through three games. The offense has converted seven times. Williams has also shown his hand far too much. It appears he has the approach of "if everyone does their job, it won't matter if they know the play". This is a common belief in the coaching ranks. But even the most stubborn coach knows that you can't show everything. Far too many times his blitz has been easy to recognize.

This zone approach has also allowed for some easy catches. The middle of the Rams defense is being eaten alive by it. The reason? Receivers are doing what they have been taught since high school: Find the hole, and sit in it. When you see zone, you don't keep running, you stop and turn for the ball. Williams needs to start mixing it up more. It's becoming painfully obvious what he's doing in these situations, and teams are taking full advantage.

The Rams defense - believe it or not - isn't even close to being the most penalized in the NFL. In fact, they have only had 14 penalties, which is the second least in the NFL. Those penalties have gone for 105 yards, which is also the second least in the NFL. Two areas the players could use an improvement: Playing disciplined on the backside - to stop these gashing cutback runs - and creating turnovers. I have counted 4 missed interceptions. They just aren't creating any splash plays.

The truth about the Rams...

This team is actually playing really good football. Penalties and a few bad calls have killed them. It's not so much the quantity of these issues, but the quality overall. The timing continues to be the worst. Not all of the penalties have been warranted, but a lot were justified. And they continue to happen in the worst situations for the Rams, and the best for the opponent. Overall, there remains reason to be very optimistic moving forward....