It’s early, but this team is young and promising. Here is what caught my eye Sunday afternoon…
Thoughts on Offense.
The Rams' improved firepower in the red zone.
One of the most frustrating things about this team last year was the Red Zone offense. Under Shurmur last season in the red zone, it seemed as though we ran more 2 and 3 yard crossing and pivot routes than any team in the league. It some points it looked like amateur hour down there. We couldn’t run the ball in and we couldn’t throw.
At first I thought perhaps I’m cherry-picking a few lasting frustrating moments from last year, but then I looked at the stats and it turns out, my memory serves me well. Only the Carolina Panthers were worst than the Rams in Red Zone scoring last season. This is alarming stat considering the success of Bradford, the amount of money/drafts picks spent on this offensive line and the power of SJ39. This perhaps is why Billy Devaney added 6’2 - Austin Pettis, 6’1-Greg Salas, 6’2 Mike Sims Walker, 6’3-Lance Kendricks, 6’7-Schuyler Oordt.
Sunday’s scrimmage showed a very different offense in the Red Zone. The Red Zone drill started with Billy Bajema making a leaping grab over Josh Hull in the back of the endzone. It was followed up with touchdowns by Amendola and Gibson (which may have received a red flag challenge in the regular season). Later, Lance Kendricks was found wide-open off of a play action fake for a four-yard touchdown. This was a very successful couple of series for the Rams’ offense.
The Offensive Line looks stronger
It’s tough to fully evaluate an offensive line in this scrimmage, but the addition of Dahl and the growth and progression of the two young tackles have improved this group thus far. Dahl is a bully, he’s tough and physical. (Think Richie Incognito but better and with his head screwed on right.) There were some noticeable mental mistake but those should be worked out during the preseason. It’s early, but this could be a significant change in the 2011 team.
Competition at Tight End
While, the competition at wide receiver has garnered a lot of attention (and rightfully so – it’s very crowded there) the competition at tight end looks to be an exciting one as well. The rookie, Lance Kendricks, is very athletic and with his size and speed he is going to be trouble for linebackers and safeties all year.
It was noticeable during the 2-minute drill towards the end of the scrimmage. Kendricks was running down the seam (even outrunning safeties on some places) with Amendola in the slot running underneath picking his spots. Kendricks also had a 3-yard run from the H-position. In addition, Bajema had a touchdown and another catch that may have been the best catch of the entire scrimmage.
I think Schulyar Oordt definitely passes the eye-ball test. At 6’7, 260 he is a huge target. These three along with Fendi and Illinois Mike will make for a fun competition throughout the preseason. Considering the important roles the tight ends will play in this offense, this competition is definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Thoughts On Defense
Al Harris impresses.
I was only mildly excited about the Al Harris signing. Although I was excited about the veteran leadership qualities he would bring, I thought perhaps we just got the Eagles’ scrap. It seems Al Harris is out to prove me and others wrong. He looks fresh and has a spring in his step. He looked sharp all day. He did, however, drop what was a sure pick-6 late in the scrimmage while shutting down Mardy Gilyard on a comeback route.
Jabara Williams continues to do good work on the 3rd string.
The 228th overall pick in the draft had a pick-6 and a diving pass defended during the 2-minute drill. He looks very athletic and seemed to cover well. It should be also noted that he looked heavy than the 210 pounds he is listed at.
Bradley Fletcher holds up as the #1 corner
While Ron Bartell was sidelined, Bradley Fletcher really stood out. Rarely gave up anything, and smothered multiple routes by pressing receivers -- even bigger guys like Sims-Walker -- up against the sideline or out of the red zone. Playing with really smart contact, nothing that can obviousy draw a whistle but obviously disruptive to receivers.
Individual standouts, good and bad
Typically, a wide receiver begins to blossom in his third full season. Gibson, who is entering his third year, is showing that this could be his year. Earlier in camp, Mike Sims-Walker tweeted that Gibson was the best receiver in camp. He continued to look sharp on Sunday, with a couple of nice catches, one nice run after the catch and a touchdown grab. Despite the crowd that has assembled at receiver, I would not be surprised if Gibson has a breakout season.
I tweeted earlier today that Danny Amendola looks to be in midseason form already. He remains to be Bradford’s favorite target. He is fun to watch. I’ve come to appreciate the small things that players do. It’s refreshing to see Amendola, even in a scrimmage, give 110%. It’s refreshing to see him continue to return punts another 40 to 50 yards after the whistles have been blown.
Welcome. All early signs appear to indicate this guy is healthy and returning to his early form. For some time now Rams fans have wanted a complementary back to SJ39 and well Norwood is just that. He caught the ball well. He made a couple of nice runs including a nice cut back on a zone run in the Red Zone where he froze two defenders while picking up 10 or so yards.
The third round pick did not have a good day, despite getting 1st team reps. He short-armed a pass on a 3rd and 7 on an otherwise nice 15-yard post, seemingly hearing footsteps, and had a false start in the red zone called against him. He dropped on a quick in route but that may be chalked up to Bradford who throw the ball a little behind him.
A number of players sat our for various precautionary reasons: DX, Avery, Salas and Bartell most notable.
It was a blazing hot day, humidity and temps in the 90s and the scrimmage starting at 11am = no shade, no relief for anyone, fans and players alike. That said, it seemed to be well attended by fans, with the official count reported at nearly 10,000 attendees.
All in all it was a good day.