Tavon Austin must be featured more prominently in Week 5.
The Rams have shown flashes at times, but—over a five-day span in late September—allowed an obscene 412 rushing yards on 74 carries: an average of 5.6 yards per tote. DeMarco Murray (Week 3) and Frank Gore (Week 4) combined for 328 yards on 46 attempts.
That’s 7.1 yards per carry. It’s also evidence that the gaping holes through which Murray ran on Sunday of Week 3 were still open and accepting visitors four days later. It’s reasonable to expect that such glaring defensive deficiencies would not be fully rectified on a short week with no personnel changes.
But the Rams got worse.
Rodney McLeod’s pursuit angles were no good. T.J. McDonald has become a headless hunter, losing his helmet at least twice on Thursday night alone before he fractured his leg and left the game. He's now on the injured reserve/designated to return list.
Finnegan was looking for a free one when he undercut that route. Never a good idea.— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) September 27, 2013
The good news is that the Rams’ Week 5 opponent has struggled even more than they have. The Jacksonville Jaguars have allowed 32.25 points per game in 2013, which is more than their total points scored thus far: 31.
They also just traded away their starting left tackle, Eugene Monroe, which sounds even more like a play for the No. 1 overall pick than when the Cleveland Browns sent Trent Richardson to Indianapolis—if only because Jacksonville is already 0-4.
If St. Louis plays just well enough to not look like a disaster, it should run away with this game early. Again, the Rams defensive line has a favorable matchup with a now-depleted Jacksonville line that has already allowed a league-high 18 sacks.
As good as that front four is, it has been getting gashed in the running game. The Rams need to condense the line so that it isn’t parted like the Red Sea every time their opponent runs the Power O.
Dunbar should be thrown back into the mix at starting “Sam” linebacker immediately. He spent all preseason in Rams training camp; he knows the defense.
On the back end, injuries and ineffective play also necessitate some changes. Now would be a good time to test Finnegan out at “strong safety”—McDonald was classified as a free safety, despite frequenting the line of scrimmage—and starting Trumaine Johnson at cornerback.
The magic number for the Rams is 30 points scored: a figure that they have not reached all year. Against Jacksonville, there’s a pretty good chance that the defense contributes at least seven. If Brian Schottenheimer’s playbook is, in fact, already opened up, he needs to add some patterns and route combinations to it.
The wheel route was quite successful in the NFL last week. Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson—who both get flexed out wide—can execute that one from the backfield. St. Louis’ running game should be able to gain some traction against a Jaguars defense that is allowing five yards per carry to running backs this season.
After catching 69.2 percent of the passes thrown his way in his first three games, Tavon Austin caught just 2-of-8 targets in Week 4. St. Louis needs to scheme for easier completions and let him do work after the catch.
The Rams should be calling at least three or four screens for Tavon every week. Period.
Sam Bradford also has to play better. Jacksonville is allowing a completion rate of 64 percent, but when guys are getting open and Bradford chucks an uncatchable duck—or delivers the ball to the defense—the Rams are not going to score a lot of points.
Oh, No. He. Didn't. Deion Sanders just compared Sam Bradford to Mark Sanchez, with Brian Schottenheimer as the common denominator. #Boom— Jesse Reed (@JesseReed78) September 27, 2013
Sam has also frequently been presented with opportunities to put pressure on the defense by scrambling and take the real estate that it gives him. His running may not directly result in a ton of first downs, but as long as he protects himself, it will put the Rams in more favorable situations in later downs.
Jamal Collier graduated from Washington University in St. Louis and is now a law student who covers the St. Louis Rams in his spare time. His work also appears on Yahoo. Follow him on Twitter:Follow @JCollierD