Making the Grade: Rams vs Jaguars

Danario Alexander extends for a pass from AJ Feeley
Danario Alexander extends for a deep pass from AJ Feeley in the first half of the Rams-Jaguars game.

The Rams completed a perfect 4-0 run through the preseason with a 24-17 win over Jacksonville on the road that started strong and finished well. Here’s how the units graded out, position by position:

On Offense

Quarterbacks: A-

Sam Bradford looked a little rough in the first series but settled down quickly.  The play action fake has quickly become Sam’s best weapon.  It is the third game in a row he has thrown a touchdown pass off of play action.  Tonight, it was a 44–yarder to Lance Kendricks, who once again would prove to be Sam’s go-to-guy.

I’m not sure if AJ Feeley played as bad as I think he did tonight, or if his poor play is amplified in my head by Thad Lewis’s performance.  In reality, Feely played okay.  On his interception in the second quarter, he looked bad.  AJ stared down Salas, which prevented him from sliding in the pocket to avoid the rush and then he forced it for the easy pick.

What’s there to say about Thad Lewis that Derek hasn’t already written below?  I thought early in preseason he earned the right to be on this team.  Now, I agree with Derek.  I think if it came down to it, I’d go with Thad at number two.

Running Backs: B

There was nothing doing in the run game tonight.  Soon to be a roster casualty, Chase Reynolds led all Rams rushers in carries (8) and yards (16).    But when the rushing game was bogged down, the Rams were able to see a new side of Josh McDaniels’ offense – the screen game.  SJ39, Cadillac, Reynolds, Totson and Norwood combined for 100 yards on 9 catches.  Add on two rushing touchdowns to those numbers and it was a decent night.

Offensive Line: B-

As mentioned above, there wasn’t much of a run game tonight.  To me the clear cut goal for tonight for the first group wasto prevent injuries to Sam Bradford tonight and they did that. They also did a great job in the screen game getting out in front and opening up the alley.

Receivers: B-

The first unit – Danny A, MSW, Gibson, all but got the night off.  As for the rest, I thought Avery did a good job keeping himself on the roster. He continues to show that he’s worked his way back and is healthy.   His speed is an asset to this team. His ability to make plays after the catch will be much needed.  I also think Greg Salas has continued to progress, adding 2 catches tonight.

DX ripped off a 42-yard gain on a nice ball from Thad.  Gilyard added 33 yards on 2 catches.  Rookie Austin Pettis went through the night without being targeted .  This, I’d imagine doesn’t bode well for him.  It’s going be a tough decision for Devaney.

Lance Kendricks has to be a name all fantasy football owners are talking about.  The kid seems to be a favorite target for Bradford.  Even on a night where the run game wasn’t dominating, Kendricks managed to find himself wide open for a 44-yard touchdown.  The Onobun project continued tonight.  He had 20 yards on 2 catches (had a drop unfortunately).  I do wonder where he stands come Saturday.

Defensive grades after the break…

On Defense

Defensive Line: A-

The first unit – wow.  The pressure was coming hard and fast in the first quarter.  The group knocked Jags’ starter David Garrard out of the game.  Chris Long had a sack and a few hurries.  James Hall made an early exit, but before he went out he made his presence felt. Sims and Selvie did well in his absence. First-round pick Robert Quinn applied some pressure tonight but had some issues with containing the quarterback in the pocket.   It also looked like he had some trouble breaking down.  He’ll have to clean it up with Mike Vick comes tonight in 10 days.

Linebackers: B

The first unit shut down the run well.  Josh Hull played well in JL55’s absence.  Leber played well in coverage. Poppinga had a few bad angles tonight, but played okay.  The group held Maurice Jones-Drew to 17 yards on 5 carries (14 of those yards coming on 1 carry). 

Outside the competition at WR, the competition at OLB will be the toughest.  Jabara Williams, Zac Diles and Bryan Kehl have all done their best to make a case from themselves.  I’d like to see them hold on to Jabara and try to develop him.  His athleticism is very impressive.

Secondary: B-

Justin King stood out early.   With exception to a questionable pass inference call on the Jags’ first drive, I thought he played with some aggressiveness.  However, later he gave up a touchdown to Cecil Shorts.  With the rumors that the Rams are looking to add depth at corner, you have to wonder if King did enough to deter the Rams from that idea.  I’ll credit the fellas up front for the lack of success Garrard and McCown had in completing passes.

The second and third groups were faced with the task of shutting down 10th overall pick Blaine Gabbert.  They didn’t fare so well. I tweeted early tonight that the backup corners are making the first 3-4 cuts pretty easy for Devaney.  It is true.  They were picked on again this week.

On Special Teams

Returners: D

Mardy Gilyard put the ball on the ground twice, once on a fair catch (and once after the whistle had blown). The Rams were fortunate that neither turned into a turnover. It wasn’t a pretty night for Gilyard, whose primary avenue for making the team is by proving his worth as a returner and saving Amendola from some punishment. Nobody else stood out in the return game.

Coverage: B-

A few times the first man down the field was able to get hands on a Jaguars’ returner but failed to bring him down. Fortunately, though, there was someone else there to make a play. On the game’s opening kickoff, a fantastic hands tackle in traffic by Darian Stewart saved what might have been a touchdown, or at least a very long return, by Jamar Newsome.

Kickers: A

Donnie Jones’ per-punt average wasn’t impressive, but he was kicking into a short field most of the night, and put three of his four punts inside the 20, including two “coffin kicks” inside the ten. Josh Brown appears to be in midseason form.

Closing Thoughts

  • I really liked the way McDaniels incorporated the backs into the passing game tonight.  Between the success in the screen game and with play action fakes, he will keep defensive coordinators on their toes.

  • In high school, I played football in the Suburban West Conference.  Since I started, the Suburban West has produced 3 professional football players.  Dan Connolly (Marquette) – the guard for the Patriots who nearly returned a kick for a touchdown last year.  Jeremy Maclin (Kirkwood) – We’ll see him in 10 days when the Eagles come to town.  And now Blaine Gabbert (Parkway West). I wish these guys luck – except of course if they are playing the Rams.  It is nice to see that West St. Louis is producing pro football players who play at high levels.

  • My fantasy draft is Tuesday night.  I’ll be taking a chance on Lance Kendricks.

  • I’m on the fence about cutting DX.  A part of me says he’s too much of a risk.  Another parts knows he can be a deep threat in this offense.  Something this group lacked last year

  • Let the fun begin.  Bring it on “dream team.”

Go Rams.