The return of football always sparks a significant amount of optimism among the fans, but the Rams didn't live up to the hype in their preseason opener.
The new Jeff Fisher-era Rams are thought of as the beginning of the end to a disastrous five-year stretch that brought 65 total losses and countless humiliating memories.
The new regime had a busy offseason that included well over $100 million in free-agency contracts and six draft picks in the top 100. So needless to say, there's new hope heading into the 2012 season despite the fact the Rams won just two games a year ago.
The fans may be anxious for the Rams to compete once again, but the first preseason game had a sobering effect regardless of how meaningless and insignificant the game actually was.
The Rams fell behind early, and the game got out of control once the backups took over. The final score was 38-3.
Here are some observations from the game.
For some reason, there has been some criticism of quarterback Sam Bradford and his performance against the Colts, but we can only laugh at such absurd observations. Anyone who actually witnessed the game firsthand should know that Bradford was the least of their worries.
Bradford went 7-for-9 for 57 yards and had zero touchdowns and interceptions. The numbers aren't spectacular, but a 77.0 percent completion rate and a 93.1 rating is not worth complaining about.
Bradford had two incompletions, which included missing a wide-open Danny Amendola on fourth down, but there were also instances where he stood in the pocket against pressure while making the completion.
He didn't achieve perfection by any means, but the assertion that he was "inaccurate" or displayed "troubling signs" is beyond laughable.
The rest of this piece will clearly demonstrate that I have no problem calling out players on their performances, but Bradford simply wasn't deserving of criticism.
Steven Jackson ran the ball very well on his four carries. He hardly saw playing time, but his brief presence gave us an idea of what the Rams' run game will actually look like during the regular season.
Lance Kendricks has been receiving mixed reviews at training camp, but he was able to come up with two key catches for 18 total yards with the first-team offense. He was a star during the 2011 preseason and leveled out once the season began, so it's obviously too early to get excited, but it was nice to see nonetheless.
After struggling the last two seasons while recovering from a knee injury, wide receiver Steve Smith seems to be completely healthy once again, which could be huge given his past production. Smith had two catches for 14 yards and nearly scored a touchdown on an overthrown deep ball by Bradford.
Receiver Austin Pettis also had a solid appearance with three catches and 25 yards, though he played primarily against backups.
Quarterback Austin Davis looked sharp in a third-string role. He was 12-for-18 and racked up 84 yards, but he also threw the only interception of the game. He's someone to keep an eye on in the upcoming weeks.
On the defensive side, rookies Michael Brockers and Janoris Jenkins both had solid outings and flashed potential. Jenkins nearly had a pick six, but the ball managed to get through his hands.
Defensive end Robert Quinn was able to consistently apply pressure when given the opportunity. It's beginning to look as though he's ready for a breakout year as a pass-rusher.
This could take a while...
Running back Isaiah Pead had a nice 11-yard carry, but outside of that run, he was barely able to exceed one yard each carry. He wasn't exactly benefiting from great blocking, but he was doing too much dancing in the backfield.
And to make matters worse, he was responsible for two fumbles.
Fortunately, Pead was able to show some skills as a receiver out of the backfield, but his three catches for nine yards are hardly worth bragging over.
The offensive line was incapable of providing consistent protection. Sam Bradford received just enough time to move the ball, and things will surely improve when center Scott Wells returns to action, but there was undoubtedly plenty of room for improvement.
The second- and third-string linemen in particular struggled with pass protection, which isn't reassuring since the the unit has struggled with depth and injuries in recent years.
Rookie wide receiver Chris Givens displayed dangerous speed on the field, but he has to consistently get open and come up with the big catch if he wants to truly scare an opposing defense, which is something he somewhat struggled with in his preseason debut.
Receiver Greg Salas was a complete non-factor in the game, which is certainly disappointing since he's supposed to be a sleeper this season.
Rookie receiver Brian Quick also struggled to make his presence known. He had a nine-yard catch while playing with the backups, but it would be nice to see what the second-round pick can do with the first-team offense.
On defense, they allowed Donald Brown to score a 63-yard touchdown on the very first play, which is just unacceptable since it shouldn't have been more than a measly 10-yard gain.
The linebackers were nowhere to be found on the play, and the unit struggled to defend both the run and the pass throughout the entire game.
The first-team defensive line looked promising at times, but the backups were completely incapable of applying consistent pressure and finished with just one sack.
The secondary was not very tight on their coverage, and they allowed the opposing quarterbacks to get into a rhythm too easily.
Craig Dahl in particular was completely lost in pass coverage, as many expected, and he was burned by Austin Collie for a 23-yard touchdown.
It's also worth noting that the team appeared undisciplined. There were multiple delay-of-game penalties, and right tackle Barry Richardson committed a false start during a critical situation as the offense was nearing the red zone.
Given that Jeff Fisher is a veteran head coach, hopefully, he'll be able to easily correct some of the discipline problems. Although, the poor play on the field has to be the primary concern.
I've been hard on offensive tackle Jason Smith in the past, and I'm personally hoping that he revives his career and become an asset to the team.
It's hard to put much stock in one preseason game, but Smith was awful.
It's bad enough that he was beat out for the starting right tackle job by journeyman Barry Richardson (at least for the time being), but Smith was getting killed by second-string defensive linemen.
As a former No. 2 overall pick, you would think his raw talent and athleticism would allow him to hold his ground against backups, but he failed to deliver.
For the sake of the offense, lets hope he steps up his game.
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