St. Louis Rams vs. Green Bay Packers: Report Card Grades for Each Rams Unit
Fortunately, NFL stars give very little effort during preseason games, so this is a crude replication of the team's actual capabilities. This was simply a chance for the low-end players to show what they can do.
Regardless, this article will go through each unit and apply a grade. The grade will primarily focus on the performance of the starters for each unit, but the play of the backup players will be taken into consideration when appropriate.
Sam Bradford was shaky at times, but that's to be expected since this was his first time facing real competition since his knee injury last October (over 300 days ago).
Bradford turned in respectable numbers, and his arm produced St. Louis' only points from the game. He went 9-of-12 (75 percent) with 101 yards and a touchdown.
The remaining Rams passers went a combined 7-of-16 (43.8 percent) with just 86 yards, so it's clear that Bradford carried the group in this game.
Even with the backup's questionable performance, Bradford's return alone is enough to warrant a solid grade for this group.
Running Back: D+
Zac Stacy averaged just one yard a pop after six carries, and backup Benny Cunningham wasn't much better until he started facing backup defenders.
Part of the issue was questionable blocking up front, but it's obvious that the backs lacked regular-season effort.
The only thing saving this grade is the performance of Trey Watts and Tre Mason in the second half. Watts had 19 yards and three carries, while Mason picked up 30 yards on 12 rushes. Nothing spectacular, but still a nice upgrade over the group's first-half play.
Even though it's the preseason, it's just not a good sign that a supposed run-first offense is completely incapable of breaking the line of scrimmage against a first-team defense. This has to change.
Wide Receiver/Tight End: B-
No one receiver truly ran away with the game and became the primary target, but a number of players were able to step up and make minor contributions.
Brian Quick likely had the best overall game from this unit. He turned in a 41-yard catch and was able to draw a pass-interference penalty on the very next play. This set up a touchdown pass to tight end Lance Kendricks.
We also saw second-year receiver Stedman Bailey contribute for a second consecutive week with two 14-yard catches.
Kenny Britt managed to get wide-open on a deep route down the sideline, but Bradford overthrew him.
There was nothing spectacular from this group, but it was hardly a disappointment.
Offensive Line: D
The offensive line turned in what was, perhaps, the most dreadful performance out of all the units.
The group kept defenders off of Bradford, at least for the most part, but that's likely the only real positive from this game.
The run game was completely stuffed for the first half of the game. In the second half, the pass protection was nonexistent, as the Packers racked up seven total sacks.
It's easy to point to Jake Long's absence as a key reason for this unit's poor performance, but that excuse is not good enough. This unit needs to do better next week—it's as simple as that.
Green Bay wisely took St. Louis' starting defensive line out of the game by utilizing runs and quick passes to avoid the fierce pass rush, but there are still plenty of positives from the game for this unit.
Michael Sam recorded his first sack in a Rams uniform. It was a key third-down sack that dropped the quarterback 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage and forced a field-goal attempt.
Rookie Ethan Westbrooks, who is Sam's primary competition when it comes to making the roster, also showed up to play. He lined up all over the field, at multiple defensive line positions, and he walked away with four tackles and a sack.
Overall, "Sack City" is still in hibernation. Once Chris Long and Robert Quinn wake up from their slumber, this will be a totally different unit. In the meantime, it's nice to see the backups making plays on their own.
Outside linebackers Ray-Ray Armstrong and Jo-Lonn Dunbar did little to stand out in this game, so it appears as though the battle for the third starting linebacker job will continue for yet another week.
With James Laurinaitis—the leader of the unit—out of the lineup for this game, the group struggled to stand out or contribute anything overly positive.
Green Bay was able to run the ball with ease throughout the game, which tells us that the linebackers have some work to do.
Let's just hope that Laurinaitis' return from injury will jump-start the group.
How can the secondary get such a solid grade after giving up 279 yards? Well, for one, the only thing we care about is the performance of the starters. And two, the group was facing Aaron Rodgers, so they deserve somewhat of a handicap.
However, the best part about the secondary's performance in this game was the play of safety T.J. McDonald.
McDonald was all over the field and in the backfield. With three red-zone tackles during Green Bay's second drive, McDonald almost single-handedly held Rodgers and the Packers out of the end zone during that series.
Furthermore, we saw safety Cody Davis make a nice play on the fumble recovery, and we saw rookie Lamarcus Joyner finally get involved with a forced fumble and a team-high six combined tackles.
It wasn't pretty, but there were plenty of positives from the secondary in this game if you care to look.
Special Teams: C
This is likely the most difficult unit to grade from the entire game.
The special teams unit did not commit any fatal errors that hindered the team's efforts, but at the same time, the unit didn't help the situation either—there were no long field goals, no trick plays and no monster returns.
This unit was basically neutral, but football is all about making plays. Even if a group doesn't do anything particularly harmful, sometimes the failure to make positive plays is harmful in its own way.