Those shocked by the St. Louis Rams' slow start on offense should have adjusted their expectations downward as the team adjusted to a new system coming out of the lockout.
That was the word Thursday from Rams running back Steven Jackson, who pointed to offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur's offseason departure as a setback for a young offense.
"I'm not making any excuses, but we’re all still learning," Jackson told reporters. "It would be different if we were still in the West Coast offense and you still had Pat calling the plays. I think you could be a little bit harsher on the performance of the offense, but when you have a bunch of young guys, you have some free agents and really only six weeks to try to jell this thing together, it’s hard."
2011 NFC West Yards Per Game
Other teams with young offenses and new coordinators are faring better. The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks come to mind. Those teams also have strong defenses, however. The Rams were supposed to have one, but they've struggled keeping games close, putting the offense in worse situations. It's become a cycle.
Seattle and San Francisco failed to generate much offense in the first few games. Each team averaged about 214 yards per game through Week 3. The 49ers have averaged 430 yards per game since then. The Seahawks' average has been 398 yards over the same period. The Rams' totals have fallen over their last three games, as the chart above shows.
"We're not asking for any pity parties, but what you’re seeing is some guys resorting back to things they've used in the past that's just not matching up with the scheme," Jackson said.
Injuries to Jackson and top receiver Danny Amendola have also hurt. Jackson said he's now 100 percent, but Amendola, the one receiver the Rams could count on, is out for the season.
Jackson's comments about the Rams' youth invite scrutiny.
With the Rams 0-4 and the 49ers 4-1, I've put together a chart comparing ages for each team's starters on offense. The Rams' offensive starters are only slightly younger on average, and the gap would nearly disappear if Chilo Rachal, 25, were still starting for the 49ers at right guard, where Adam Snyder, 29, has taken over recently.
The 49ers, like the Rams, have had issues at receiver, losing Braylon Edwards, who has yet to return, and more recently Josh Morgan, who landed on injured reserve. Running back Frank Gore also suffered an ankle injury that limited him for one game.
Even though the 49ers' offensive line struggled early in the season, quarterback Alex Smith has outproduced the Rams' Sam Bradford. Smith gets some credit for that, obviously, but so do the 49ers, who have put him in better position, whether by scheme, a resurgent ground game or through strong defense and special teams.