The Rams’ first preseason game was an unqualified success, and their incoming class of rookies made contributions, top to bottom. Let’s review and highlight some performances of note.
Lance Kendricks emerges as a weapon.
In practice, we’ve seen Lance Kendricks line up all over the field, even taking carries as a fullback on occasion, a prominent demonstration of Josh McDaniels’ concepts of offensive versatility. But against the Colts’ vanilla cover-two defense, we saw little in the way of fancy fomations.
Kendricks didn’t need them; he was able to line up as a plain old tight end and flat out beat people.
Kendricks led all receivers with six targets, many on third down, and converted them into five catches for 47 yards and the game’s first score. That first reception showed off his speed, strength and sure-handedness as he lined up next to right tackle Jason Smith, but darted across the middle of the field, cutting in front of helpless middle linebacker Gary Bracket, who was stuck defending the zone and failed to follow in coverage. Bradford delivered the ball perfectly, as Kendricks began to angle around Bracket and toward the front corner of the end zone, building momentum toward the goal line that would allow him to power through two would-be tacklers and in for the score.
Bradford now has a plethora of third-down targets, with Kendricks joining perennial target Danny Amendola and fellow rookie Austin Pettis, who also got two third-down looks. When Greg Salas returns from injury, presumably he adds yet another.
Austin Pettis does everything but catch the ball.
In terms of fundamentals, Pettis had a pretty good game. He was able to beat press coverage on repeated occasions, he contributed sound blocking in the run game and on special teams, and he earned a pair of targets. Unfortunately, both were third-down drops, ending two drives short of the end zone. One resulted in a punt, the other in Josh Brown’s first of four field goals on the day.
Pettis is known for having good hands, and we’ve seen him make some nice catches in practice, even on contested balls. But so far his stage appearances — on TV here and at the Lindenwood scrimmage — have not seen him make those same plays. The first of his attempts was hotly contested by Colts cornerback Jerroud Powers, who had a hand inside Pettis’ frame. But he had hands on the pass, a perfect back-shoulder throw by Bradford, and needs to come up with the catch.
Bradford fed him again on the very next drive, but again came up empty. I imagine Pettis will keep getting these third-down opportunities, but he may have a hard time holding on to his rotation among first-teamers unless he starts making something from these plays, particularly with fellow rookie Greg Salas expected to return to practice this week.
Robert Quinn gets extensive work against a fellow rookie.
Robert Quinn is making those early worries about his knee fade into the background.
The rookie defensive end got extensive work with the 2nd-team defense, and was pitted against Colts’ first-round draft pick Anthony Costanzo. While Quinn didn’t register a sack, he did have an explosive tackle for loss in the run game, and won a good portion of his battles with Peyton’s new blindside protector to help pressure the pocket against Curtis Painter et al.
One point of note on Quinn, though: on several plays he was noticeably the last defensive lineman to get out of his stance, a full step behind his linemates. He has incredible innate speed, but too often was forced to use it to catch up. Pre-draft scouting reports called attention to his speed off the snap, so hopefully this is an issue that will resolve itself over time.
Quinn might have gotten even more snaps than he did had the Colts been effective at all on offense. I guess that’s what’s called a “nice problem to have.”
Dionte Dinkins and Jermale Hines impact the pass game.
Undrafted free agent Dionte Dinkins got into the game early and often, stepping up for an injury-depleted crew of cornerbacks, and acquitted himself well in coverage. He took a good shot in the 3rd quarter while tackling hard-running running back Chad Spann, but was able to jog off the field and return to action in the 4th quarter.
Dinkins’ physical play is a good match for the style that Spagnuolo wants from all of his defensive backs, making him a name to watch. Meanwhile, Jermale Hines may be down the depth chart at safety, but he was able to corral a horribly thrown pass by Dan Orlovsky for the Rams’ third interception of the day. It was also a nice bit of vengeance for a secondary that had just been burned by Orlovsky and Taj Smith, who flat-out beat a guy literally signed off the street that morning for a long touchdown.