Saturday, October 18, 2008
Closer look at Rams' offense
By Mike Sando
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Rams were a different team under Jim Haslett in Week 6, no question. Some of those differences merely coincided with the coaching change, notably personnel issues that reflected Randy McMichael's season-ending injury.
I also saw a team playing with an edge. This was refreshing to watch after seeing the Rams' previous efforts this season.
Here are a few things I noticed when breaking down the Rams' offensive personnel use against the Redskins in Week 6:
I'm taking those observations with me to St. Louis on a flight that arrives Saturday night. In the meantime, here's an Excel file with two sheets: one showing the Rams' production by personnel group, the other featuring a play-by-play log sortable by drive, down, distance, personnel, play type, yards gained/lost and more.
- McMichael's injury means the Rams no longer have the personnel to run the two- and three-tight-end groupings offensive coordinator Al Saunders wanted to run. Receiver Torry Holt didn't even start the season opener because Saunders opened with multiple tight ends and Dane Looker as part of an unconventional grouping.
- The Rams used three receivers on nearly 55 percent of offensive snaps (not counting quarterback kneeldowns and quarterback spikes). I counted more than one tight end on the field 10 times, or 18.9 percent of snaps. Those 10 plays produced only one first down. The two-back, two-tight-end grouping produced four carries averaging minus-0.8 yards with no first downs, plus one incomplete pass and one sack. Bad, bad, bad.
- The Rams ran 24 of the 53 snaps I charted with Steven Jackson, three receivers and one tight end. These groupings produced 10 carries and a 5-yard rushing average, but only one first down. Jackson picked up yards running in longer-yardage situations, when the Redskins might have been playing the pass. The 14 pass plays from this group averaged 7 yards per attempt with four first downs. This included the 43-yard pass to Donnie Avery on third-and-13 late in the game.
- Saunders is making significant efforts to get Avery involved in the offense. The Rams threw five passes to Avery and ran him once. These plays netted 68 yards.
- Holt was more effective in the game than his stats indicated. This still would not qualify as a good game by his standards, but he did make key short-yardage receptions to convert on third and fourth downs. Overall, the Rams threw to him 11 times. These plays netted 23 yards, one reason the Rams had only eight first downs.
- The Redskins had success getting pressure through the right side of the Rams' line. I didn't necessarily see the Rams losing one-on-one pass-rush battles, but the Redskins were able to free up blitzers for free shots at Marc Bulger. Right tackle Alex Barron might commit outside, only to have a blitzer come free inside. Either the quarterback needs to account for this blitzer of the Rams need to have a back help out.
- Bulger showed more obvious signs of toughness than we have seen in the past. He took a hard shot on a scramble and fought through it. His offensive teammates rallied around the display. This must continue.
- Center Nick Leckey had problems with shotgun snaps. He put a few low and risked throwing Bulger off his rhythm.