While Rams Nation is panicking as they imagine Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III lighting up the Edward Jones Dome scoreboard Sunday, keep one thing in mind: The Saints didn’t have a book on the Redskins’ offense with Griffin at the control because they showed nothing in the preseason.
Now, there is that game tape that the Rams’ defensive coaches broke down this week. While many want to already start shaping Griffin’s bust for Canton, one game does not a career make. Yes, he has outstanding talent, but there will be potholes in his journey. The Rams’ hope one of those is this week.
Meanwhile, for an apoplectic, noisy, but small fan base that is now adamant that the Rams should have traded Bradford and drafted Griffin, remember this:
There’s no way another team would have given the Rams the package the Redskins gave for Griffin because they would have inherited Bradford’s enormous contract. Any team selecting high would just as soon draft a rookie for less money than trade for Bradford. Plus, the cap hit for trading Bradford would have been prohibitive for the Rams, and they wouldn’t have been able to make many of the moves they did to improve the team in free agency.
In addition, the moves the Rams made by trading out of the second pick got them defensive tackle Michael Brockers, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and running back Isaiah Pead. Oh, almost forgot, there are also those first-round picks from Washington to come in 2013 and 2014. This was a no-brainer.
As for Jenkins, he had a friendly rivalry in the season opener with Lions cornerback Bill Bentley because both were high-school teammates in Pahokee, Fla. They talked the night before the game and they were challenging each other with texts the morning of the game.
Jenkins told Detroit reporters, "We were just talking trash until the game. We both knew we were going to get thrown at a lot, so we were like, 'Let's see who makes the most plays.’"
Bentley had three tackles in the game, while Jenkins had six to go with an interception on a pass intended for tight end Tony Scheffler.
Said Jenkins, "I was thinking, 'He is 6-5, I'm 5-11, it most likely won't be a corner fade, it'll most likely be back shoulder.’ So I played for the back shoulder. I just made a great play for the defense. I've got to continue to execute and just stay humble. Make plays when plays are thrown my way."
Prior to the game, the Detroit media made it a point to note how the cornerback-needy Lions passed up a chance to get Jenkins with the 23rd choice in the first round. Lions coach Jim Schwartz was asked, because of Jenkins’ off-field issues, when the team would have considered selecting him.
Schwartz refused to bite, and only said, “It looks like they found themselves a good one.”
However, Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham acknowledged that when he evaluated Jenkins, “I liked him a lot. He had some problems off the field. On the field he’s a very good player. You know, I saw him play his whole junior year at Florida. I did it in the summer because he was going to come out early, and I thought he was the top corner coming out.”
Rams coach Jeff Fisher told the Detroit media in a conference call last week, “I don’t think we thought it was risky when we took him. He fell. We clearly had him rated as one of the top, if not the top, corner on the board. When there’s behavioral issues that you have to check out, then they typically fall, and we felt like he would fall.
“We did our due diligence, we did our research and, at the end of the day, we were very, very excited about having the opportunity to draft him, and he’s exceeded our expectations at this point. He’s a great young man, and he loves football, and he’s very intelligent. He’s going to have a great career.”
Third-down woes: Being consistent on third down has been a consistent problem for the Rams. Last season, on an offense that scored only 193 points all season, the Rams converted just 28.1 percent of their third-down plays.
In the season-opening loss to the Lions, they were slightly better at 33.3 percent (4-for-12), but they also had a stretch after converting the first two third downs of the game where they missed on seven consecutive third-down opportunities.
When Rams coach Jeff Fisher was asked about the performance of the offense against Detroit, the third-down failures were front and center of his critique.
Fisher said, “The 10 points in the final period was good. One of the issues we had, obviously we were facing a very good defense, a good pass rush, and we weren’t as good as we would have liked to have been on third down. We had seven or eight third downs over third-and-seven plus and those are difficult to convert. Once we had the injuries and there was a technique error here, a communication error here or there, which you would expect when you’re making three moves on your offensive line against a defense like that and that kind of affected the run game.”
There were, in fact, seven third downs of eight yards or more and another four were 11 yards or longer. Twice on third down, a third-and-3 and a third-and-8, quarterback Sam Bradford was sacked. And, the third-and-8 was created by a false start (their only of the game) on what started as third-and-3.
Fisher’s lament was one that many coaches could make when he said, “We could point to a lot of different errors where if this would’ve happened and this drive would’ve continued or we would’ve gotten off the field here, you got a chance to win the game.”
Then, with a dose of reality, he said, “So what that implies is that we’ve got a lot of room for improvement and that’s what we need to do. That’s the perspective that the players are taking as well.”
When Can Wells Return? It has been reported that Rams center Scott Wells will be able to being practicing in Week 6 and play again in Week 8. That is not accurate.
The new rule this year allows teams to designate one reserve/injured player to return, but that player must be on reserve/injured for six weeks before he can start practicing and on reserve/injured eight weeks before he can play.
With Wells going on reserve/injured this week, six weeks from now is Oct. 24, which is actually Week 8. Eight weeks would make him eligible to return for the Week 10 game in San Francisco on Nov. 11.
The Rams re-signed Quinn Ojinnaka, who started all four preseason games at left guard but was released when the Rams claimed guard Shelley Smith and tackle Ty Nsekhe on waivers two days after the initial cutdown to 53 players. The question now is who will be the backup center.
Unless Ojinnaka or Smith can be brought up to speed there as protection in case center Robert Turner goes down, the Rams might have to bring up center Tim Barnes from the practice squad and release another player.
Scoring 20 Unfamiliar Territory for Rams: Last season, the Rams scored a total of 56 points in their first six games and didn’t reach 20 until a 31-21 Week 7 win over New Orleans. The 2011 Rams scored 20 or more points only three times all season, while they scored 23 in Sunday’s loss to Detroit.