I’ll be writing something more in-depth after further review, but here were my quick thoughts from the first team portion of the Rams’ game against the Bengals:
Chris Long looked energized rushing from the LDE spot. We’ve often called Leonard Little our “best” pass rusher, but it’s worth noting that he is never lined up against Left Tackle, the premier position of protection. Long showed a lot of burst last night, while going up against the weaker half of the Bengals’ line.
Kyle Boller’s feet are the key to his game. He may not be an ankle-breaker like Mike Vick, but Boller clearly gets his feel for the game after he gets the chance to move a bit. The Rams try to take advantage of this with designed rollouts (which are relatively easily defended, as it dramatically narrows his passing window), but his scrambling ability seems to be the key to unlock better play. Not only did he steal three first downs with his feet, he also made up the last eight yards to get the Rams to the outside of Josh Brown’s field goal range at the end of their two-minute drill. (But why didn’t he or the Rams call timeout at that point?) His 8-yard scramble in the red zone on the Rams’ third drive, where he slid late and got his helmet knocked off by Keith Rivers, was a turning point for him. He threw only two incompletions the rest of the half, and generally appeared to be managing the game more smoothly. It was like getting tagged hit his “on” switch. And it’s also good to know that, unlike Trent Green, he can still take a hit and get up and play.
Laurent Robinson is filling the Torry Holt gap. While Donnie Avery doesn’t really have a comparable in recent Rams history, with his pure speed and big play ability, the lanky and smooth Robinson is making plays on Torry Holt’s signature routes. Notably, the 7-8 yard slant that is nearly uncoverable — but depends on precise timing and placement by the receiver and QB — and the 10-15 yard post. Devaney robbed his former team’s roster when he picked up the oft-injured and underused receiver. He may be the most impactful new player on the Rams roster this season — though James Butler will give him a run for the money.
James Butler and OJ Atogwe are perfect complements. Butler’s ability to play close to the box, as profiled in our last conversation with ProFootballFocus, frees Atogwe to play a more reactive role, giving him rein to be as disruptive as possible. The two tag-teamed on Butler’s 73-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Atogwe flew to the ball carrier a yard past the line of scrimmage and tore the ball out. And while Butler will not be known for his long-distance running, he had just enough in the tank (and enough downfield blocking from Atogwe and a heads-up Rams defense) to pick it up and take it to the house.