Things I liked, things I didn’t like about Friday’s pre-season opener for the Rams…
Balance: Once the Rams start the regular season, they’ll want to have an even run-pass ratio. Against New Orleans, they ran it 32 times and passed it 34. Jeff Fisher said before the game that he’d like to get six carries for each of his backs. Of the healthy guys, Tre Mason carried it 15, picking up carries from the injured Isaiah Pead, and Chase Reynolds ran six times, Bennie Cunningham five, and Zac Stacy four, so they got what they wanted there.
In the passing game, Shaun Hill was solid in going five of seven for 84 yards and a pair of touchdowns for a near perfect 151.2 rating. Austin Davis appeared decisive and made some strong throws, going 10 for 16 for 134 and a touchdown. Garrett Gilbert, playing in his first NFL game, was six of 11 for 53 yards. At times, he looked confused and overmatched. He’ll have a chance to progress during the remaining three preseason games, and he’ll need to.
Bottom line: The offense piled up 388 yards and 24 points without 60 percent of its offensive line and its starting quarterback in sweats on the sidelines.
Somewhat clean: Zero turnovers, four sacks allowed. We’ll get to the penalties later, but none of the quarterbacks threw an interception while the Rams defense took the ball away twice. The only sack allowed by a member of the starting offensive line was a communication mistake and teaching moment by Greg Robinson. Gilbert was sacked twice and Davis once. Among the guys who have a chance to play on Sept. 7 vs. Minnesota, the play aside from penalties was pretty clean.
The Mizzou guys: Michael Sam and E.J. Gaines both turned in strong NFL debuts. Sam had a tackle for loss and several other pressures in playing more than half the game. For the most part, Jeff Fisher liked what he saw.
“Mike played pretty well, got tired. But, he was in the 35 to 39 play range. Played with effort, made some mistakes… I would expect him to play much better this week after he gets whatever it is behind him like the rest of the rookie class, first-year guys. First preseason game is a little nerve racking but I think he’ll settle down.”
Gaines got the start and had six tackles. “It went real well for me, just trying to get back into the feel of things. Actually playing an actual game. It’s been awhile,” he said.
Both have a chance, based on their first games, to make the team.
The 14 penalties: Fisher said at the end of last season that he wanted to cut down on the number of penalties the Rams committed. “(An) area that we have to get better is penalties. We’ll address that and we’ll correct that – we’ll get it fixed.”
The first preseason game showed it isn’t fixed yet, with 14 penalties for 118 yards. Fisher noted that “we had eight on offense, three on defense and three on special teams. I think all but two you can make the case were legit and we have to learn from them.” They have three games to learn from the game one infractions.
First-half run defense: New Orleans rushed for 7.1 yards per carry, 14 for 99 yards. There were some notable missed tackles by the Rams. Fisher saw the problems as schematic. “Usually, when the runs were popping there was either nine guys doing their job, one guy behind a block where the defense got cut or we just weren’t setting the edge. A couple tackles to the hole that we missed but some guys doing some things that they hadn’t done before in the scheme. But not a big concern. We really didn’t load up, stop the run or pressure to do things.”
The chances afforded the young receivers: Chris Givens, Brian Quick, Austin Franklin and T.J. Moe were all targeted only once, with Moe and Franklin making grabs, Franklin for a touchdown. We know what Tavon Austin, Austin Pettis, Jared Cook and Lance Kendricks are.
Hopefully the other kids will get a chance to make the team in games. There’s plenty of time left.