Late Saturday night, we gave you some quick-hitting thoughts from the Cowboys third preseason game, with some reaction and reflections. But we kinda ignored the St. Louis Rams.
So… want some Rams tidbits?
– I’ve been fairly positive this offseason on Sam Bradford, who is primed for a bounce-back year. Under new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, I’m thinking Bradford gets back to three-steps-and-out just like the West Coast QB he used to be. Saturday night, however, was not that kind of night. He was 6 of 17 for 64 yards, and he never looked comfortable. The offense didn’t move. “Of course, we want to be more productive,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “He missed a couple, and then he got hit too much.” That about sums it up. With a new OC, it’s still a work in progress. But I’m thinking it will be a serious improvement. Bradford wasn’t thrilled after the game. “I think today was probably our worst performance in the games we’ve had so far,” he said. “But we’re still pretty vanilla. We really haven’t shown much. We didn’t really game plan for Dallas, but that’s not an excuse.”
– Another reason Bradford struggled to find rhythm? The WRs weren’t open. Dallas had them on lockdown with CBs Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, and there was no escape. Bradford was able to find no receiver more than once, and of his 6 completions (in 17 attempts) only three were to receivers. That’s not a good ratio. St. Louis has depth issues all over the place, but definitely at receiver. They’ll need more from rookie Brian Quick (who they like a lot) and from Steve Smith. Otherwise, Bradford will spend his season settling for dump-offs to running backs on third-and-8.
– In Saturday’s game, veteran RB Steven Jackson had zero carries. He played on third downs, helping with pass protection, but he had no carries. As he told me in our 1-on-1 interview, “Tonight wasn’t about me, it was about the younger guys behind me.” Coaches wanted to see guys like Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson behind that first-team offensive line, likely because the second OL isn’t good enough to give them a gauge on how productive those runners can be. Richardson impressed with five yards per carry, but it looks like Pead is still a little frantic, going too fast. He’ll need to let it come to him.
– I thought DL Michael Brockers, their first-round pick, is looking good. Disruptive, strong, really good against the run. He had three tackles in this game, and it looks like he’ll be a beast in the middle. The main thing, for a guy that’s really young, is that it doesn’t look too fast for him. He doesn’t appear overwhelmed. “Slowly but surely,” Brockers said, when asked about his progress. “I’m working on my pass rush and getting up field. Getting more comfortable when I am out there, not too wide-eyed out there. I feel like I am coming along very well.”
– The Rams have an entirely new team, maybe as much turnover as anyone. Considering how terrible they were last year, that was necessary. As Jackson told me, they are close in the locker room as everyone is part of this rebuilding project. They pull pranks on each other just to keep it loose. What’s the best? LB James Laurinaitis had “2,000 crickets in his car. That was a pretty good one,” Jackson said. Yes it was.
– This work in progress isn’t finished, and the Rams could still be looking for help. Corners Janoris Jenkins and Cortland Finnegan both struggled against the Cowboys, and when that happens, this defense will be cooked. For some reason, both were off their game. Jenkins got turned around, and Finnegan was missing tackles. So much will be riding on both of them, they’ll need to constantly bring it. But a bigger issue is at safety. Quintin Mikell and Darian Stewart are fine, and Mikell can be really good. But they need depth there, and I’d be surprised if they didn’t add someone at that spot when teams begin their cuts.
– One more quick thing… While the Rams will likely lock up Laurinaitis with a long-term deal soon, don’t expect the same for Jackson. While he mentioned in an offseason interview that he’d like a contract to retire with the Rams, it doesn’t seem like that’s a priority right now. Jackson has two years left, and now isn’t the time.