Rams First Preseason Game: The Good, Bad and Ugly

John MartinContributor IAugust 17, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 14:  Marc Bulger #10 of the St. Louis Rams is sacked against the New York Jets during their preseason game at Giants Stadium on August 14, 2009  in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The preseason is not about wins and losses but instead about evaluating the first and second units and examining those players on the fringe under game conditions.


In reviewing the Rams first preseason game against the Jets, several items stood out. 


Let’s break them down into the good, the bad, and the ugly.


The Ugly


The pass protection against the blitz was ugly. The offensive lineman did a decent job in blocking, The backs (including Jackson and Darby) looked lost or confused today the very least. This will have to change prior to the start of the season, Bulger has been beaten up over the past few years enough as it is. 


If opposing teams see this confusion on the preseason tapes, the Rams will need to start thinking about next year’s draft now.


Derek Stanley entered the game as the leading candidate for returning punts for the Rams. On a Jets punt late in the second quarter, Stanley misjudged the ball and it hit off his leg. He did manage to recover it to prevent a turnover, but watching the play scares any fan.  Stanley did have a 26 yard return nullified by a penalty in the 3rd quarter. 


Overall, he could still be the Rams punt return man, but he is going to have to ensure he doesn’t make any mistakes in judging the ball or handling the punt. After all, it was a muffed punt by the Jets that led to Rams go ahead touchdown. 


Don't get me wrong, I like Stanley going from Division III Wisconsin Whitewater he is in his third camp and still working to prove himself.   


The Bad


The first and second defensive units gave up some big plays. Granted, on Mark Sanchez's first pass for a long completion to David Clowney, Justin King had him covered but it was a perfectly thrown ball. 


In the 4th quarter Erik Ainge’s 50 yard pass to David Clowney looked like a classic playbook diagram of how the defense bites hard on a fake handoff and then pays dearly. The Rams also had trouble covering TE Dustin Keller who did a nice job of helping Sanchez sustain the Jets touchdown drive in the 2nd quarter.


The Good


Randy McMichael was utilized well as Marc Bulger connected with him two times.  Getting the TE’s involved in the game, especially McMichael, will help take the pressure off the young receivers.


Kenneth Darby did not look great as the No. 2 back behind Jackson. However, Antonio Pittman, Samkon Gado, and Chris Ogbonnaya did look good keeping the competition interesting in the backfield. Bonus points to Pittman for stripping the ball during a special teams tackle on a punt return. Good hustle on his part.


Leonard Little looked sharp, stripping Jets quarterback Kellen Clemens of the football.  Gary Gibson showed up as well.  He had some good reps with the first unit in substituting for Adam Carriker at defensive tackle.  From his play you can see why the coaching staff his giving him high marks during camp. 


Eric Moore showed up at DE too with a late strip of Jets quarterback Erik Ainge. The Rams did not recover the ball, but it took the Jets out of field good range and prevented them from tying the game.


Chris Draft showed some good speed chasing down a end around by the Jets in the first quarter. The play still resulted in big yards, but Draft showed he still has what it takes to play.


Keith Null had an excellent pass to Sean Walker for a touchdown. Granted, Null only threw two passes, but he did look sharper than Brock Berlin in the battle for the 3rd quarterback spot.


Overall, the Rams did not yield any turnovers while creating several on defense, and defensively showed some hard hitting. They don’t look ready for prime time by any means, but it was a good showing by the entire team. 


Although I started by saying winning in preseason is not important, well for the Rams maybe a few wins during preseason will set a positive attitude as they head into the season.