St. Louis Rams vs. Atlanta Falcons: Full Roster Report Card Grades for St. Louis

Jamal Collier@@JCollierDAnalyst IIISeptember 15, 2013

St. Louis Rams vs. Atlanta Falcons: Full Roster Report Card Grades for St. Louis

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    Anybody who predicted that a veteran Atlanta Falcons squad would smoke the young St. Louis Rams in Week 2 was feeling pretty good about his or her prognostication in the second quarter.

    Atlanta put up 21 points before St. Louis made the scoreboard operator work at all.

    The Rams managed to turn things around but not enough to actually pull off the win, losing 31-24.

    St. Louis' inactives included Barrett Jones, Quinton Pointer, Shelley Smith, Zac Stacy, Darian Stewart and Brandon Washington.

    After the game kicked off, Matt Daniels fractured his ankle, as reported by ESPN.com’s Nick Wagoner, and Rodger Saffold limped away from the field with assistance due to a knee injury.

Quarterback

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    Once the hurry-up was instituted, Sam Bradford looked pretty good on Sunday. His pick-six was—unlike a toss straight into the mitt of an Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman in Week 1—ultimately not his fault, as a dart intended for Daryl Richardson popped straight up off the running back.

    Osi Umenyiora ran it back 68 yards for a touchdown.

    Bradford completed 32 of 55 balls for 352 yards, three touchdowns and the pick. He also ran three times for 25 yards.

    There was still some creativity missing from the play-calling. Once St. Louis’ offense opens up for an entire game, expect Bradford to look even more efficient. His passer rating in Week 2 was 87.8: a sharp downturn from his 100.7 rating in Week 1.

    That’s still better than his (pre-Week 2) career figure of 77.9.

    Bradford threw for 18 first downs but averaged just 6.4 yards per attempt.

    Grade: B

Running Back

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    The St. Louis Rams running game still didn’t take off against the Atlanta Falcons. It wasn’t really expected to going into the contest since the Falcons offense promised to be enough for St. Louis to have to chase.

    Daryl Richardson’s workload was reduced to just 10 carries and six targets. The sophomore responded with 80 total yards (35 rushing, 45 receiving), including a 4th-and-inches conversion. His lone missed target resulted in the Rams’ only turnover of the day: Osi Umenyiora’s pick-six.

    Isaiah Pead got a carry, four targets and two catches. The result was 19 total yards.

    Each back averaged nine yards per catch, but Richardson took home the advantage in yards per carry (3.5 to 1.0).

    Benny Cunningham saw a couple of carries and a target, since Zac Stacy was a scratch. No yards came from any of those, but the rookie did return a kick for 25 yards.

    Grade: C

Wide Receiver

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    Sam Bradford finally showed some love to his wide receivers in Week 2. Chris Givens paced the St. Louis Rams with 105 yards. He was targeted eight times: third-most on the team.

    Tavon Austin showed up big with two touchdowns. He led the team in targets (12), catching six passes (50 percent catch rate) for 47 yards (7.8 yards per catch).

    The modest, running back-like YPC total is to be expected of Austin until the Rams figure out how to let him get loose. The Atlanta Falcons ran a number of looks for Julio Jones to rack up yards after the catch in a similar way that Tavon could do damage.

    Austin Pettis led the Rams with eight catches, placed second with 78 yards and 11 targets and contributed a touchdown of his own. His performance figures to keep Brian Quick—who caught his only target for 15 yards—at bay.

    There was a Stedman Bailey sighting in Atlanta, but Sam didn’t throw to him.

    As a group, the wideouts did the heavy lifting for the passing game: They caught 20 of 32 (62.5 percent) targets for 235 yards and all three Rams touchdowns.

    Grade: B

Tight End

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    Jared Cook didn’t catch Sam Bradford’s eye as much as he did in Week 1. Cory Harkey and Mike McNeill had the same amount of catches as he did.

    Lance Kendricks had more.

    That’s because Cook caught one ball—on six targets.

    For the second consecutive week, the Turf Monster inexplicably claimed Cook’s legs, as the tight end tripped and fell over seemingly nothing. In Week 1, it happened right after Tyrann Mathieu took his lunch money before Cook could cash in for his first score with St. Louis.

    In Week 2, it was on a deep ball from Sam Bradford where he had the defender beat.

    The most memorable play by a St. Louis Rams tight end wasn’t a fond one for the position group: Atlanta Falcons safety William Moore legally slammed an airborne McNeill on McNeill’s lone catch.

    The Rams tight ends combined to catch five passes for 44 yards on 11 targets. The only thing saving them from a “D” is the fact that Bradford only threw at them on 20 percent of his attempts.

    Grade: C

Offensive Line

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    The St. Louis Rams offensive line has long been a concern. Jake Long’s free-agent addition was supposed to upgrade the group to at least a serviceable status.

    Instead, the Rams’ big boys have put in major work protecting Sam Bradford.

    Through two games—even without Rodger Saffold and even though Bradford has thrown 93 times this season—they still have yet to allow a sack.

    That’s very impressive considering how their Week 2 matchup went. The Rams were in a hostile environment, facing a playoff team that had built a sizeable lead on them early. A situation like that would normally require that Bradford distinguish the taste between the turf with paint on it and the turf without.

    St. Louis' team rushing average of 3.8 yards per carry can be forgiven; the big boys are balling.

    Grade: A

Defensive Line

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    The St. Louis Rams defense gave up 14 first-quarter points to the Atlanta Falcons, but it settled in as the game wore on.

    The defensive line made things uncomfortable for Matt Ryan, hitting him eight times. Robert Quinn was responsible for four of those hits. He finished with four tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss. Eugene Sims had the same line with two QB hits.

    Chris Long added two solo tackles (one for loss) and another hit.

    Michael Brockers accounted for the eighth hit, and William Hayes contributed a pass deflection.

    It’s a good thing that they could get pressure on Matt Ryan despite playing from behind all afternoon.

    Grade: A

Linebackers

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    Alec Ogletree again found himself as the St. Louis Rams’ leader in solo tackles. The rookie finished Week 2 with eight (one for loss) and two pass deflections. James Laurinaitis and Will Witherspoon chipped in five and four respectively.

    Aside from an 11-yard score by Jason Snelling, the Rams linebackers brilliantly bottled up the run. Steven Jackson left the game early due to injury—before getting net-positive on the ground but after schooling Ogletree for a receiving touchdown—leaving the rushing duties to Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers.

    The Atlanta Falcons running backs averaged 1.7 yards per carry on all runs other than Snelling’s score. They averaged 2.3 yards per tote overall.

    Grade: B

Defensive Backs

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    Julio Jones is a special player, and the Atlanta Falcons use him in ways creative enough to make opposing defensive backs look really bad on Sundays.

    That’s what happened against the St. Louis Rams.

    Janoris Jenkins was tasked with covering Jones for most of the afternoon and did a fine job on some plays. But the Falcons were determined to get Jones the ball in space, and Matt Ryan targeted him 14 times—six more than anyone else on the team.

    Jones caught 11 for 182 yards and a touchdown, including a long reception of 81 yards.

    Nobody else topped 50 yards receiving. Jones’ yards per catch average dips to 10.1 without that gargantuan gain—but that’s precisely the type of play that DBs are supposed to prevent.

    Grade: C

Special Teams

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    The St. Louis Rams started three drives—including both of their first two—inside of their own 10-yard line. Unsurprisingly, all three drives resulted in punts.

    Two other starts, at the 11 and the 13, also ended in a boot to the other team.

    To make matters worse, the Rams suffered four special-teams penalties. Perfect kicking from Greg Zuerlein and a 49.7-yard average punt distance—with no touchbacks—from Johnny Hekker won’t be enough to overcome that.

    Tavon Austin returned four punts for a total of six yards, and Benny Cunningham added 25 yards on a kickoff return.

    Grade: D

    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: 

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