Yes, the Rams lost another preseason game but who cares. In fact, the entire NFC West has only won three games after three weeks. The point is, win total is not important here, its the individual and team evaluation that is more important. This was the first time there were enough plays and preparation to get a good evaluation on the team portion.
Certain individuals have continued to stand out, while some got better, others are creating a concern.
- Slowly but surely I have fallen in love with Jamon Brown. It hit me like a ton a bricks when I saw him get rolled up on. From practices to the games, he has been the most consistent player I have seen on either side of the ball, save for Mr. Donald. I have yet to see him lose a battle in the trenches, and outside of a few early training camp practices, he hasn't blown any assignments. So when he went down, fear struck. Brown looks like one of the steals of the draft, and it's ironic because most felt that he went a round or two early.
- Demetrius Rhaney looked bad at center in the previous two games. However, at guard - which Jeff Fisher hinted might be a more natural fit - he looked pretty good. Less thinking is involved at guard allowing him to play and react more. He didn't look like the next All-Pro, but his effort was outstanding. He is also a cut block champion. The Rams picked up huge chunk yards in the screen game and he had a lot to do with it. His play of the night came on a screen when he got out in front of Benny Cunningham cut the defender, got up and went after the safety. While he did not get the safety, just going after him caused him to change his course enough to get Benny to the first down marker. Helluva effort all night...
- Greg Robinson had an up and down night. I saw some bright spots and some not so bright spots. He also blew an assignment, and that assignment blew right by him. From the looks of it, he's thinking too much which slows his feet and reaction. There should have been a sack early in the game because of him, but an extremely aware Jamon Brown peeled back and cut off the end after he ran around Robinson.
- Things got ugly for Rob Havenstein. He was beaten with the same dead leg move repeatedly. This was the fear for Havenstein coming out. Speed rushers or guys with quick twitch movements would be a problem for him. He did nothing to remove that fear in his first action against those kind of rushers. He was beaten like a drum in both pass and run blocking. I fully expect teams to attack both tackles this season. Greg thinks too much, and Rob is not athletic enough. They will get better with time, but as I predicted before, the first half of the season is going to be a rough one for the offensive line, which means the offense will struggle as a whole. Rodger Saffold is needed back, and needed now.
- Nick Foles played a smarter less aggressive game. Eight of his ten completions came from screens and check downs. The total yardage is reflective of the big chunks the screen game was picking up. However, when standing in a clean pocket and with his feet set, we got a sneak peek of his love for the deep ball. The throw to Givens was perfect. Another really nice throw was to Tavon Austin - which was negated for a wishy washy offensive PI - in which they showed great chemistry. That ball was out long before Austin turned around, which helps in creating separation. This play is what Rams fans have been longing for. It was drawn up perfectly for Tavon Austin (more on this in a moment). Foles played the type of game that Fisher wants out his QB. A safe ball control approach. He managed the game perfectly.
- Jared Cook continues to be an enigma. He has all this size and talent but still plays like he's Austin's size. Blocking has never been a strong suit of Cook's, and it was bad again against the Colts. So bad, that both Torry Holt and Marshall Faulk spent two minutes calling him out. By my count he either blew or gave half effort on six running plays. This theme has been non-stop. Couple in his at times half speed routes, drops, and lack of toughness, and it makes sense why Rob Boras fought so hard to get Lance Kendricks back. Kendricks has been on the field a lot in these first three preseason games, and in some instances, he has been the only tightend on the field. It can lead one to believe that the tightend coach turned asst offensive coach, has always preferred Kendricks. Lance was promised more playing time and receptions if he stayed, and that promise came from Boras who he has a very good relationship with. With his promotion and ultimately more say so in the offense, Boras might look to split time between Cook and Kendricks.
- The defense looked so much better this week. Again, this was a week when there was "some" game-planning and some scheme specific play calls. Last week I pointed out that players in the box was not filling their gaps, resulting in huge running lanes. This week was the exact opposite. The backers and box safeties filled the lanes, the D-Line penetrated, and the run game was shut down. The Rams defense held the Colts to 28 rushing yards on 15 attempts in the first half. This is the defense that people were anxious to see. A little bit of game-planning can make a world of a difference.
- Aaron Donald is in mid season form. This should come as a surprise to no one as he is one of the hardest working men in the business. The highlight of his night came on back to back series. No sacks, but down right dominant and impactful plays. He ended one series by being disruptive and rushing Luck's throw. Then he came back with the Colts backed up and made all three tackles in the backfield forcing a three and out. This is the type of mentality you want on your team. I say mentality because, it was a case of, I have this guys number and now I am going to exploit it. Some know it as, putting your foot on the oppositions throat.
- Alec Ogletree will lead us in personal fouls if he doesn't start playing smarter. I love his attitude and nastiness, but he has to learn how to control it. He got into it with Dwayne Allen, and never let it go. While he made some nice plays, he at times had boneheaded ones from getting over emotional. The very reaction that caused a huge brawl with the Giants took place again against the Colts. He pushed Odell Beckham Jr in the face, and did it again against Allen after making a tackle. Against the Giants it resulted in the ejection of a teammate and a lot of fines, this time the refs were able to get in between before it escalated. They could have just as easily flagged him for unsportsmanlike conduct. He has to control his emotions and play smarter. This also falls on the coach, if you allow it, you can't get mad when the penalties add up.
- Speaking of penalties, this team will have a hard time winning many games if they cannot nip this issue in the butt. Marshall Faulk put it perfectly, it's kind of hard to win football games when you have more penalty yards than rushing yards. If guys like Ogletree don't get their act together, we will see more Jenkins interceptions called back.
- Before the criticism of Janoris Jenkins comes full throttle, the world should know that the touchdown by Andre Johnson was not his fault. It was the fault of Gregg Williams. Williams showed a lot in this game. Which was great because it allowed for a great evaluation of where the defense is at. The defense looks good and ready to go. But at times he was doing a little too much. On the Johnson touchdown he showed man, but actually blitzed 6 and dropped five into a cover-3. The issue is the players in the middle of the field were not there because he blitzed them. Theoretically this blitz made sense, as it is likely to force either a sack or interception against an average QB. However, Luck is not average, and calmly reacted appropriately. Great read on his part.
- Frank Cignetti looks like a man of his word. He wants to run the ball and beat you deep. While the run never really got going, it did however still do it's job. It kept the defense honest enough to allow for play-action to work beautifully. Cignetti will be responsible for reviving Chris Givens' career as he will be allowed to do what he does best, and the timing is perfect for Givens as he enters a contract year. Cignetti is also using Austin the right way. As previously mentioned, this is what fans have been waiting for. I suggested in the spring that the Rams will use Austin more in the screen game, in isolation, and on go routes. So far this preseason, we have seen the screens, and after this game we have seen the isolation. Cignetti lined Austin up to the backside of the formation leaving the corner on a island. Because the receivers were heavy in trips to the front-side, the safety was rolled to the middle for help. Austin ran a choice route, which never happened before. If the corner was in zone he was supposed to keep the route going, if he was in man he was to break it off. He ran the route perfectly and Foles showed great trust and timing resulting in a catch with space to run. While the play was called back, it was another good sign that Austin could be looking at a breakout year.
This game showed a lot of promise for the Rams. There will be growing pains on the offensive line, with struggles coming from both tackle spots. The defense looks like a real force to be reckoned with. However, they are their own worst enemy. This can be the toughest habit to overcome as you are literally trying to break bad habits. That is not always the easiest thing to do. This game Revealed that the Rams will play a lot more man, not as much off coverage, run a lot of zone on offense, and look for play-action as a result. Jeff Fisher finally has the game plan he wanted all along installed...