The feed I watched wasn’t great so I’m not going to be as detailed this time around, but here are some thoughts on the Rams’ pre-season win over the Titans:
— The first team offense was stagnant aside from the opening play. Sam Bradford had to love the sight of Brandon Gibson streaking wide open down the middle of the field. 83-yard pass plays don’t get much better than that. Unfortunately, the rest of the game wasn’t as easy. Protection broke down, and no one made adjustments to blitzing defenders. Sam’s sole interception was tipped at the line before it reached Mikes Sims-Walker, suggesting there may not have been a clear throwing window. Feeley had an impressive touchdown pass to Donnie Avery but was rather quiet the rest of the night. Thaddeus Lewis played the hero by showing good poise and mobility leading the offense at the end of the game.
— Steven Jackson made his debut, and didn’t really show much. Some tough running with little room to go, but there was a clear difference in urgency when Cadillac Williams entered the game. Caddy definitely hit the holes with more downfield quickness. Neither Norwood nor Toston did much — there just wasn’t much room to run. Even on screen passes, the blocking was not well developed enough to take advantage. Blitz pick-up looked like an issue for the whole running back unit.
— It was nice to see some other Rams receivers get involved, even though it may only be in baby steps. Gibson and Danny Amendola remained the two top targets. Mike Sims-Walker had an up and down night. A nice catch on an intermediate in route, but otherwise not much positive for him. Austin Pettis did very little in the passing game. Near the end of the game, Greg Salas made a boneheaded drop on a perfect pass by Lewis, but then came back to make some nice grabs. Lance Kendricks was quiet tonight. Mardy Gilyard showed some nice elusiveness on special teams and on a late-game crossing route. He’s trying to make this team any way he can. Danario Alexander had a solid catch and run on a quick hit adjustment route, but did nothing else. Donnie Avery had a nice body catch on his touchdown reception, and had a nice WR screen that was called back due to penalty. Slowly some guys are getting involved, but the first team offense still leaned heavily on Gibson/Amendola.
— The offensive line, simply put, did not have a good night. Pass protection started off strong, but deteriorated quickly. Sam took a beating and limped off the field at one point, though he looked to be okay. The holes in the running game were just not there, and you can’t blame it all on Jacob Bell not being in the game. The Titans were not as easy to push around as the Colts, and the Rams struggled all night to control the line of scrimmage. Hank Fraley looked lost at left guard, but the Rams weren’t able to put Adam Goldberg there due to him being needed elsewhere on the line. Renardo Foster was called for a personal foul penalty that negated DX’s catch and run.
— The defensive line seemed intent on matching the offensive line’s ineffectiveness. Tennessee had their way with all units of the defensive line, pushing them around, establishing a new line of scrimmage, creating big holes in the running game. There was little to no pressure on Matt Hasselbeck from the defensive line; the Rams’ only sack of the game came on an early James Laurinaitis blitz. So, this unit has a lot of film to watch after tonight. Robert Quinn, George Selvie, and Darell Scott had some solid plays later in the game, but nothing to drastically change the tone of the night for this crew, which was rather negative.
— With the DL getting pushed around, you would have liked to see the linebackers step up and fill the holes, preventing big gains. Well, that didn’t happen. James Laurinaitis looked pretty solid tonight, and Kehl had some good moments early, but the rest of the crew was rather spotty at best. The Titans gashed the Rams consistently with cutback runs on slant plays, and the Rams had little to no consistent backside containment. There are a lot of new bodies here, but none are really standing out. If anything, Poppinga is hustling so there’s that. Diles had a nice hit late in the game. To be continued on this unit, as there’s still some work to do.
— The defensive backs, what can you say. Hasselbeck was 7 for 9 before leaving the game, so he wasn’t having much trouble completing passes. The Rams struggled to cover the tight end tonight. There weren’t many positives that stood out. The defense tightened up once Tennessee got into the red zone, but the defensive backfield shared the front seven’s inconsistency. Quintin Mikell, Justin King, and Darian Stewart all whiffed on notable open field tackle opportunities. King later had some solid moments in run support, but he makes me nervous as a third corner. Dinkins was inconsistent as well. Jonathan Nelson had a few stand out moments towards the end and may earn himself a spot.
— Not much to say about the kicking game. The Rams’ special teams were solid all night long. Donnie Jones punted the ball well, the Rams covered fairly well, and the return game showed some flashes. Mardy Gilyard had some nice moments both in coverage and on returns. Josh Brown was Mr. Dependable on the game-winning field goal, even after being iced (preseason!).
If we’ve learned one thing, it’s probably that installing a new offense with limited offseason practices is going to take some time. They’re not always going to come as easy as Gibson being wide open by 20-yards in all directions. The Rams still looked hesitant to challenge the intermediate part of the field. They need to continue to work on their screen game, as those plays largely failed every time they were drawn up. The lines were challenged more tonight than against the Colts, and didn’t really come through. The run defense tonight was concerning to say the least.
But the Rams squeaked out a win because 1.) Their red zone defense kept forcing Tennessee to kick field goals and 2.) Thaddeus Lewis marched the third stringers down the field in order to secure a winning field goal. This wasn’t the shellacking performance so many were excited about last week, but the feedback from this contest may be more valuable in helping the Rams prepare for the regular season, and that’s what matters.