More thoughts on Rams' preseason opener
August, 9, 2013
By Nick Wagoner | ESPN.com
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A few leftover thoughts from the St. Louis Rams' 27-19 loss to the Cleveland Browns in the preseason opener Thursday night.
- Quarterback Sam Bradford played the offense’s first three series and looked sharp, completing 5-of-8 for 102 yards with a touchdown. He could have completed all eight attempts with a little help from his pass catchers, as at least two of his incompletions would be counted as drops.
- Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar, who was broadcasting the game for Cleveland, offered plenty of praise for Bradford but was critical of the Rams receivers early, including the pass that rookie Tavon Austin failed to bring down. Of course, he changed his opinion moments later.
- While tight end Jared Cook and receiver Austin have been the talk of training camp, receiver Chris Givens has quietly staked his claim to the role of No. 1 receiver. His three catches were varied and while the 59-yard strike to setup his touchdown catch garnered the most oohs and aahs, the best route he ran came on a 20-yard deep out he grabbed on the opening drive. Givens has proven he can get deep and is a better catch and run player than he gets credit for but his intermediate routes have been a focus for him. The deep out was a positive sign of progress in that regard last night.
- The first-team offensive line did a nice job in pass protection; even after losing right tackle Rodger Saffold to a left shoulder injury two plays into the game. Left tackle Jake Long, in particular, looked stout. I’ll have more on Saffold after coach Jeff Fisher’s news conference today but it was noticeable how Fisher’s tone changed from “he’s OK” to “he’s going to miss some time” in the final two quarters. Injuries have been a consistent issue for Saffold in his three-plus years in the league.
- Joe Barksdale, who replaced Saffold at right tackle, was solid. He struggled a bit when he moved over to the left side, though.
- Kicker Greg Zuerlein looks every bit as strong as he did last year at this time. He converted field goals from 54 and 55 yards out and made it look easy. His biggest test will be maintaining that throughout the season.
- The first-team defense played very basic schematically but they still had trouble with some of the simple things like tackling and assignments. Rookies Alec Ogletree and T.J. McDonald looked the part of the inexperienced starters amongst a veteran defense.
- Receiver Brian Quick carried his two strong practices from Monday and Tuesday into the game and came down with a pair of nice catches plus a third that was brought back because of holding. The physical approach that former Ram Torry Holt has been drilling into Quick’s head was more apparent for Quick, who needs to keep up the consistency.
- Some off-the-radar guys who caught my eye:
Receiver Raymond Radwayhad three catches for 78 yards including a 53-yard touchdown but missed a golden opportunity to really make an impression when he couldn’t come up with a deep ball down the left sideline.
Running back Benny Cunningham showed a nice combination of burst and toughness, gaining 20 yards on five carries, but his 36-yard kickoff return was even better. In what figures to be a battle for a potential fourth running back roster spot, special teams value can be a deciding factor.
Defensive tackle Matt Conrath and end Mason Brodine flashed some potential with the backup defense. Both are tall and have the wingspan to be a nuisance for quarterbacks. They combined for seven tackles.