Many lamented the Rams didn’t start the 2016 NFL season out well in front of a record preseason crowd of over 90,000 fans at the L.A. Coliseum. The LA Special Teams unit gave up an opening 101 yard kick off return for a touchdown to the visiting Dallas Cowboys so I can see that point of view. But the club came from behind to win the game late in the fourth with a strike from QB Sean Mannion to RB Aaron Green for a nine yard score and THAT’s how you start a year. At the end of every NFL season they tab up which club won the most games, not which team had the biggest plays.
Special Teams coach John Fassel certainly has some explaining to do but the team is just fine thank you.
QB Case Keenum started out under center for the Rams and immediately went to work on the Cowboys linebackers who were without All Pro Sean Lee. A false start penalty on the center (a focus of Refs this offseason) put the club in third and long where the QB was flushed from the pocket and tackled for a short gain after the middle of the pocket collapsed. This was an instant reminder of the jail break scenarios from last season. Pass protection is still an issue.
The defense was missing some key players. Still it was surprising they had such trouble stopping rookie QB Dak Prescott who admittedly turned in a poised, if unexpected performance. It was not surprising they had issues trying to contain All-World WR Dez Bryant who surprisingly started for Dallas and scored their first offensive touchdown of the night.
WR Tavon Austin is fast. Quick toss end-a-rounds are gold with him. WR Brian Quick is also fast and showed better hands (who doesn’t) along with nice route running.
Cunningham powered the ball in from the 15 yard line breaking four tackles along the way before splitting two Cowboys defenders at the goal line. With Todd Gurley in street clothes this was a very good sight to see.
Offensive line pass protection woes continue to plague the team this year. The running game is the balm that will soothe the pain. Though the Rams offensive line is woeful at pass protection it shines when a running back is on the loose. Once the running game gets going the hammer can begin to fall. Remember, Gurley is on the bench right now.
The Rams defensive front, sans two of it’s starters was unable to penetrate the Cowboys offensive line (sans one of it’s starters) to generate much pressure on the Cowboys QB. This in turn put tremendous pressure on the Rams back seven which was playing a vanilla defense. It gave up yards and it gave up points. Once the Cowboys began substituting their offensive line it all changed however.
When playing with a partial selection of talent, not generating pressure versus the Cowboys group of All-Pro, first round draft pick OLinemen is nothing to worry about at this juncture of the preseason. The Rams hobbled defense gave up yardage and points in the first half. Move on, nothing to see here.
Rookie TE Tyler Higbee got on the stats sheet early. He looks the part and should be a fine addition to the attack.
WR Pharoh Cooper had an exciting return showing off his start/stop skills. The dude has serious wheels.
Jared Goff came in the game and had the rookie WR Cooper drop his first pass attempt which was thrown into tight coverage. Goff then promptly threw his first NFL interception. Glad he got that out of the way. Goff got tanked on a blitz by Cowboys LB Derek Akunne from the strong side just as he was delivering the throw. The ball shot skyward dropping into the waiting hands of Cowboys LB Mark Nzeocha. Welcome to the NFL rook. It’s a fast game. Goff handled it well.
As the Cowboys begin subbing out their plethora of first round picks along the offensive line Rams defensive pressure begins to make a difference. On a first and 25 Rams DL Cam Thomas unleashes a speed rush and brings down rookie QB Dak Prescott. An athletic QB Prescott was unable to escape the quickly closing Thomas.
The Rams pressure put the Cowboys into a second a 34 from just inside the 50 at one point. The Boys settled for a field goal with a little over three minutes before the half and you could see the change defensive pressure creates begin to take hold.
WR Thomas dropped a Goff pass that hit him in the hands on first down. He came right back and threw a strike to TE Tyler Higbee for seven. On third and three Goff stood tall and calmly hit Higbee for a big first down on a nice eight yard pickup.
The Rams then turned to the run blasting right up the middle for a nice gain. Goff then dumped off for a short pass underneath for a first with just over a minute on the clock before hitting TE Higbee (again) in the left flat who broke an arm tackle by J.J. Wilcox before sprinting upfield and out of bounds.
At this point Goff threw a VERY impressive incomplete pass down the right sideline. It went barely out of bounds just over the shoulder of WR Brian Quick who was being trailed by one defender and had a safety quickly closing over the top. The pass had air under it and dropped where ONLY his guy had a shot at the ball. Goff had the eyes to see the play, the huevos to make the attempt and the skill to make the throw. It didn’t make the positive side of the stat sheet but regardless it was an impressive play that is only made by a QB who has NFL skills.
Rookie WR Pharoh Cooper got hammered by big hitting Cowboys safety J.J. Wilcox as he tired to haul in a throw at the four yard line. It was a good effort but it’s fully understandable he wasn’t able to hang on. Ouch.
The scoring threat ended with Goff getting sacked via a stunt on the weak side. It was a rough debut but I saw enough. Goff has what it takes to succeed in the NFL. It’s a matter of when, not if.
It was the first preseason game. The second half was a lot more fun for the Rams as they came back and beat the Cowboys. That’s almost a different game as it was played by different players ergo we will cover that another time. Bottom line the Rams are in L.A. It’s official. It’s not a dream and they are looking like a team that could win some games. That’s exciting and it’s only week one of the 2016 NFL Preseason.
Did I mention RB Todd Gurley didn’t play? Just checking.
What say you Sports Nation?
Another Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over