The Rams just finished mopping the turf with the Colts, so without further ado… allow me to talk about some of the things I saw from the team!
— Sam Bradford looked solid but doesn’t yet seem to be as comfortable in this offense as he may say he is. He was staring down his receivers at times and opted for safe, underneath throws and checkdowns rather than throwing downfield. His 3.75 yards per attempt average is not going to get it done, but as he gets more comfortable with the offense that will likely change and things will open up. It’s easy to forget he’s a second year player entering his first year in this system.
He showed a good rapport with rookie tight end Lance Kendricks, who looked very good in his debut and converted on a number of third downs and scored a touchdown. He looks like he’ll be a nice weapon this season for Bradford and will help open things up in the intermediate passing game.
— The receivers did not get much of an opportunity to separate themselves from one another this evening. Gibson and Amendola had three combined catches with the first unit, which were all on short routes. Austin Pettis had some balls thrown his way, but was generally well covered on the night, making it tough to complete the reception. Danario Alexander had some good and bad moments; the biggest play he may have stood out for was his failure to pull in a perfectly delivered TD pass in the back of the end zone. Mardy Gilyard looked elusive in the open field, both as a receiver and on punt returns. Mike Sims-Walker was noticeably absent from the box score, and I can’t recall seeing him on the field. It’s possible he ran with the first unit and Sam just didn’t look his way or he was well covered.
— The back-up running backs looked great tonight, and that’s partially because of the good work the Rams’ offensive line did to open holes for them. Cadillac Williams churned through defenders tonight (11 carries for 40 yards and a TD), and Jerious Norwood showed the turbo boost that made him an appealing signing. But the surprise among all of them was Keith Toston, who was still fighting hard for a roster spot. Toston ran hard and gained tough yards, leading the Rams with 64 yards and a touchdown of his own.
— The offensive line overall had a good night. To be balanced, it should be noted that the Colts were without Dwight Freeney and have been traditionally poor against the run. But having said that, Bradford was very well protected while he was on the field, and the line – first and second unit – opened up a number of holes tonight.
— Defensively, the Rams played very well. The rushing numbers are skewed a bit by the late-game heroics of Darren Evans (and the Rams’ failure to tackle him), but early in the game, there was not much running room for Colts runners. Defensive tackle Justin Bannan made his presence felt in the middle of the line, and Robert Quinn had a solid debut with some nice pressures and a great unblocked run stop. George Selvie flashed a little bit as well, but it’s a bit odd that the Rams failed to register a sack against the Colts’ back-up quarterbacks. Perhaps Spags didn’t completely unleash the hounds tonight, as he’s saving their release for a more important contest.
— I didn’t notice who got the start at WLB for the Rams; it looked like Diggs was starting at SLB. However, Poppinga made some plays later in the game that indicate he may be pushing for that job. Looked pretty solid against the run, at one point denying the Colts a first down conversion on a third down attempt. Diles saw time at OLB well into the game, so either he’s down on the depth chart or is just getting all the work he can.
— One of the concerns on the team was at defensive back, where a number of cornerbacks were injured. Justin King looked like a liability on the outside at cornerback. He missed an open field tackle to allow a first down catch and run, and was beat deep down the sideline by what was admittedly an outstanding throw to Pierre Garcon. Atchison had some nice moments, but also bit on a QB scramble and allowed a receiver to get behind him for a touchdown. Dinkins made some plays but also got dinged up twice. Both starting safeties (Quintin Mikell and Craig Dahl) were in the right place at the right time and came down with some great interceptions; Jermale Hines climbed the ladder and got one of his own as well.
— Special teams looked very strong tonight. The Rams consistently covered well on both kicks and punts, and Mardy Gilyard did a nice job weaving through traffic on returns. He had a bobble in the endzone and fell once while fielding a punt, but otherwise showed some flashes that could go a long way towards keeping him around in 2011.
Overall, I think it’s hard to ask for more in a first pre-season game coming off of a lockout. The Rams found the endzone, created turnovers, and were generally efficient. They did not make many mistakes, had some nice debuts from new players, and most importantly, came out of the game pretty healthy from the looks of it. This is obviously still a work in progress, but you have to like what you saw tonight. The line protected well, Bradford minimized mistakes while taking advantage of good field position, the depth at running back looks outstanding, the defensive line was active, and the defensive backfield made plays.
Keep in mind… these are merely preseason reactions/judgments by yours truly. Nothing major. But it was nice to see some things going after not watching the Rams play football in 7 months and 12 days.