Well, the Los Angeles Rams are 2-1. This is the first time this franchise has been able to say this since they were the St. Louis Rams in 2006...
Yup, it's been awhile.
The question is how did they get to this point? The Rams are playing some terribly inconsistent football at the moment. While others teams identities are starting to show, the Rams still don't have one. This team might be one that has a dominant defense. Or, and this one is the more interesting, this might be an offense built for big plans and wins off that. The one thing this team hasn't shown yet -- and it's ironic considering it's what they want to be -- is a team that wins on the back of it's dominant running game.
Let's get to the notes...
- For the first time in the Jeff Fisher regime, they are actually letting the top two receivers hog the targets and get into a rhythm. Fisher has been notorious for spreading the ball too much and never really allowing a chemistry to be built between quarterback and receiver. WRs Kenny Britt and Tavon Austin have been the apple of QB Case Keenum's eye. Thus far, a whopping 51 of his 91 attempts have gone to those two targets. Together, they've produced a combined, 28 rec, 344 yds, and a touchdown. TE Lance Kendricks is the clear cut third option. The issue is Britt and Austin have yet to capitalize on their targets together in the same game. Through three games, Britt has taken advantage in two, and Austin in one. If the Rams want to create running space for RB Todd Gurley consistently, that game with both capitalizing needs to come sooner than later. But for this week, the Rams coaching staff did a good job utilizing Austin in the pass game based on matchups. Bucs DB Chris Conte stood no chance, as Austin abused on him on a 43-yard TD reception.
- Gurley has had no running lanes as the line has not created any. It's actually kind of odd -- the Rams are allowing the least amount of sacks in the NFL right now. Now some will point to the fact that they aren't throwing the ball as much as the reason. But upon further review, they've actually performed quite well in this area. Two of the sacks have been Keenum's fault as he twice has run out of a clean pocket only to alert the QB spy and cause him to rush. A free rusher outside the pocket will more often than not get the sack. This was the case against the Bucs as LB Lavonte David recorded his team's lone sack. The offensive line has looked really good in pass protection. However, next week will be a true testament to whether or not this line has improved or the competition just has not been up to par. Overall, the Bucs put very little pressure on the QB. In fact it was the least amount of pressure put on the QB through three weeks.
- While the line is struggling mightily to open running lanes, Gurley is also to blame for missing holes and running with no patience. After watching all three games from the coaches' view, it's clear that he had no lanes against the 49ers. Against the Seahawks he missed two clear opportunities to bust open some huge runs. But against the Bucs, Gurley missed an insane seven beautifully opened holes. He's getting the ball and running without vision too often. He could be forcing the issue out of frustration, but it's still no excuse. Sometimes, you have to be slow getting to the hole, then blazing going through it. Actually that's most times in this league. Gurley simply isn't letting the blocks develop all the way. Often times, he's running right into his lineman's back. There's no question there could be better and more consistent run blocking, but from what I saw against the Bucs there could be better vision and patience shown by Gurley as well.
- It's not that Case Keenum has played bad. He's actually playing very similar to the efficient version of himself from the preseason. But drops -- while Britt and Austin have caught 28 of their 51 combined targets, they've also dropped a combined six (Britt 3, Austin 3) which even if tackled immediately would have translated into, 6 rec and 73 more yards -- and his weak arm have been a major issue. He simply can't throw into tight windows. Actually he can't even throw into average windows. So when he gets the ball there it needs to be caught, because those chances aren't going to come often enough. He also has shown a tendency to stare down his target. This was the issue on the interception by Bucs LB Kwon Alexander. He stared Austin down from presnap all the way through his release. There's nothing that can be done about his weak arm, it is what it is. But catching the ball and looking off defenders is correctable.
- So far through three games, the defensive line has showed up for one (the Seahawks). They were mostly held in check against Bucs QB Jameis Winston. DE Robert Quinn however is back, and with a vengeance. For those fans who were calling for him to be dumped and traded, I ask why would you say such things?Calling him a fluke is crazy. He's clearly a top five edge rusher in the NFL, and no one over the last five seasons has more forced fumbles than him. Sacks and fumbles are game changing plays and you don't get rid of that because a guy hurt his back and only played in six games (three of which he wasn't healthy). DT Aaron Donald has been regularly double teamed and he's actually struggled to beat it. It's surprising, but that surprise speaks volumes to how good he is. He's been double teamed since the second half of his rookie season but has still managed to produce sacks and a lot of tackles for loss. But thus far he's been held in check in those areas. He has had some QB hits and he touched Jameis Winston a few times but that's about it.
- The best linebacker has been Mark Barron so far. That's not a good thing, because Barron has struggled to get off blocks and it was no different against the Bucs. Alec Ogletree has been atrocious. I don't believe he knows what he is doing. He's sort of out there just reacting. His coverage has been horrid. And Jameis repeatedly attacked him in zone. Throwing the ball to where Ogletree should have been over and over. Ogletree might also be the most undisciplined player on the team. He's going to pile up the personal fouls, and I wouldn't be surprised if in the future it costs the Rams a game or two. There's zero thought process in any of his actions.
- The secondary -- as I often predicted during the offseason -- has been the weakest part of the team. Coty Sensabaugh has been benched -- also as I predicted -- he's been the absolute worst defensive back. Troy Hill is only the best of a bad situation. However, the biggest disappointment is Trumaine Johnson. He might be playing with more ego than confidence. The best defensive back has easily been Lamarcus Joyner. And while his game against Seattle looked like his best of his career, the Bucs game topped even that one. He was a true lock down corner, and played faster than I've ever seen him play before. He checked the Bucs top three targets through the game and only allowed one catch which resulted in 6 yards (if the receiver catches one in the hole of the zone that's hardly on the DB). And at the end of the game on the last play, Winston was looking for WR Adam Humphries, and he could not shake Joyner. Great game by the young man.