1) Give the offense a chance. The Rams are last in the league in average starting field position, which is their own 23.8 yard line. With THIS offense, it’s almost impossible to consistently score points without field position. In their game against Tampa Bay, as the Stat Doctor Rick Weiner tells us, when Trumaine Johnson picked off a pass and returned it to the Buccaneer 30 yard line, it was the fourth time in ten games that the Rams had started a drive in opponents territory. This offense has had to travel too far to score. By the way, the highest scoring team in the league, New England, is 12th in average starting field position. The Giants are first, the 49ers second, Cincinnati third and Arizona fourth. That gives us an indication of how bad the Cardinal offense is.
2) Cut down on penalties. The Rams are second in the NFL at 7.7 penalties per game. Jeff Fisher teams traditionally have been heavily flagged. The 2010 Titans had the third most penalties, in ’09 they had the 13th most, in ’08 the second most, and the three years before that they were 10th, 22nd and 11th most penalized. The penalties this year have not only been numerous, but they’ve been killers. They wiped out a Chris Givens kickoff return for a touchdown against the Jets, two long plays by Danny Amendola against San Francisco, an Amendola punt return against Minnesota and negated the winning field goal at Candlestick. That has to be an off-season priority for Fisher and his staff.
3) Find a deep threat that can get separation. That guy may be here in Brian Quick, whom the Rams compare to NFL YPC leader Vincent Jackson of Tampa Bay. Rams coaches know more than we do about what they have in Quick. Either way, the Rams need a player skilled in the art of separation. Givens and Amendola have the ability to do it, but need to show that ability more consistently. Mike Martz has mentioned it on each Rams telecast he’s done-the Rams don’t have receivers that get separation on the field, and they need to find one.
4) Fix right tackle. Barry Richardson has actually been a pleasant surprise for me this season. However, only two right tackles in the NFL have allowed more combined sacks/QB hits that Richardson (Bobbie Massie of Arizona and Austin Howard of the Jets). Paul Boudreau and the offensive staff have spent the year nurturing and developing practice squad offensive linemen Ty Nsekhe and Brandon Washington, plus roster spot holders Joe Barksdale and Chris Williams. And Wayne Hunter is still around. The Rams need a strong, stout right tackle, and that guy very well could be on the roster.
5) Make sure Sam Bradford is right. Bradford’s numbers are close to being fine, under the circumstances. I’d like to see another 3.5% on that completion percentage, but…as coach Dick Vermeil used to say…his other numbers fit a playoff quarterback’s profile. Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub, Andrew Luck, Eli Manning, Jay Cutler and Robert Griffin III all head into the weekend with touchdown and interception numbers similar to Bradford. He needs to complete more passes, and get some more yards after the catch. It’s not elite…3,500 yards, 20 touchdowns to twelve interceptions, an 83.5 passer rating. He needs to be more consistent within games. There were games where he barely completed a pass in the middle two quarters. No QB is going to be perfect, but if Bradford develops just a little more consistency, he’ll be fine.
There are other tweaks. There needs to be better pass coverage from the safety position, and more production from the second tight end and second running back. But those are items that are easily fixable. If the Rams can stick to those resolutions, the playoffs await in 2013.