The St. Louis Rams entered this season with a clear vision for how they would play offense.
They would line up with Steven Jackson in the backfield, Michael Hoomanawanui and Lance Kendricks at tight end, and with receiver Danny Amendola using his quickness to create separation on shorter routes.
"Defenses have to choose sometimes," offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said during training camp. "Do they want to bring a safety down and wind up with a linebacker in coverage on one of those [tight ends] that can get open and maybe stretch the field down the seam? And if they don’t, we still have two tight ends on the field at the same time that can really do a good job at the point of attack with a big back that can run the ball."
That vision is badly blurred as the team heads into its bye week with an 0-4 record.
The group McDaniels envisioned growing together has played exactly zero snaps together during the regular season. With Billy Bajema subbing for an injured Hoomanawanui in the opener, the Rams came close to fielding this preferred grouping, and the results were quite promising. Jackson broke runs covering 47 and nine yards on the first two plays of the season, only to injure a quadriceps that sidelined him until Week 3.
Amendola, also injured during the opener, has run into complications with his dislocated elbow. He has undergone additional tests to see if surgery is necessary.
Hoomanawanui, already injury prone as a rookie in 2010, missed the season opener with a calf injury, then suffered his second concussion of the season against Washington in Week 4. His status for the immediate term remains unknown.
The coaching staff is using the bye to scout itself, with special emphasis on pass protection, third-down offense and defense, and the running game. Coach Steve Spagnuolo indicated the team could incorporate more three-step drops, potentially helping quarterback Sam Bradford get rid of the ball more quickly. Bradford took seven sacks Sunday and emerged from the game with a hip contusion.
"I’m kind of glad the bye week is here," Spagnuolo told reporters Monday. "I think we all need this to kind of hunker down, work on some things that we need to get better at, get a little bit of time away and then come back ready to go and concentrate on one game."