Rams vs Redskins: Notes and Analysis from Pro Football Focus

Mike Sims-Walker has a pass broken up by Deangelo Hall. Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

It isn’t news that the St Louis Rams struggled as a whole in their Week 4 game against the Redskins. But the work of folks like Pro Football Focus to break down film and grade performance on a play by play basis helps us understand where the breakdowns are happening, how the team is trending, and to identify positive performances that might be otherwise forgotten. 

Ben Stockwell at PFF wrote a synopsis of last week’s “unconvincing win” by the Washington Redkins, highlighting a few key performances along the way. I don’t know about the Washington viewpoint, but it was a pretty convincing loss by the Rams. Here are a few notes and trends that stood out to me, analyzing the raw data.

On Offense:

  • Sam Bradford was the only player to grade positively in Sunday’s atrocity, and no one from the running game provided any measurable impact on the game’s outcome at all. While we applaud Steven Jackson’s determination and leadership in playing a full game, you can’t help but wonder whether a fresher Cadillac Williams could have been effective spelling Jackson on a series or three.

  • Speaking of Bradford, he currently leads the NFL in an ignominious stat – being hit as he throws. These hits (10 of them on the year so far) are much more dangerous than the sacks Bradford is taking (18 on the year so far), where for the most part he has an opportunity to protect himself.

  • As noted by Stockwell, Rodger Saffold had his worst day as a pro trying to defend Bryan Orakpo. He had similar troubles with the Redskin pass rusher last year, giving up four pressures, but their rematch was a whole order of magnitude worse. Saffold gave up six pressures and four sacks of Bradford all by himself. It was a brutally bad performance, and you can’t help but wonder if there’s more than is being told to the “lower leg injury” listed on the Rams’ injury report. (Incidentally, Jason Smith had a quietly average day.) 

In the Receiving Game

  • Sam Bradford’s favorite targets so far on the season: Mike Sims-Walker 21, Danario 18, Gibson 18, Kendricks 18. Combined catch percentage: 53%. Combined drops from this group: 12. However, Austin Pettis seems to have earned a lot of trust in the last two weeks with his toughness and hands. He is the only Rams receiver without a drop in the passing game. (Obviously, I’m ignoring his punt return follies here.)
  • Danario Alexander has taken over from Brandon Gibson as the Rams’ primary receiver in the X spot, earning 55 snaps to Gibson’s 27. He made two very nice plays, and was the only Rams receiver to break multiple tackles on the day. However, it’s a shame that Gibson is being lost in the shuffle. Of the Rams’ receivers, he has the highest catch percentage (72%) and a healthy 13.5 yards per catch average. 

  • Lance Kendricks made a few nice catches, which is a positive sign, but the tight ends continue to struggle as downfield weapons. Kendricks and Billy Bajema caught all six passes thrown at them within ten yards of the LOS, but the TWE trio came up with 0 of 6 passes thrown any farther downfield. Hoomanawanui had a particularly unsightly drop of a perfectly thrown pass down the right seam.

  • Obviously, Mike Sims-Walker struggled mightily in this one, going 0-for-5 on passes thrown his way until finally coming up with a 6-yard grab in the fourth quarter. But despite this, he was on the field for all but four offensive snaps. This is either a telling example of the coaches’ commitment to “staying the course,” or it’s a telling example of their blindness to circumstance. Your choice, but I personally thought Sims-Walker could have benefited from sitting a few series out after his first three drops.

On Defense

  • Justin Bannan was the highest-graded defensive lineman for the day, and seems to be coming around quickly after a slow start in weeks one and two. It’s a shame, though, that Fred Robbins is completely falling apart next to him. Through four games last year, Robbins had already accumulated 11 individual QB disruptions (pressures, hits, and sacks). Through four games this year, that number has dropped to two, with no sacks for the ice cream man so far.

  • There are no Torrey Smiths in Washington: Justin King bounced back fairly well to have his best day on the season, even though he was beaten badly by Santana Moss for a touchdown. He gave up only 25 total yards passing on six targets, and came up with a huge interception to set up a Rams scoring drive.  

  • The Rams’ linebackers as a group had a terrible day, particularly in defending the run. It is going to take some serious analysis to figure out what the hell is going wrong with this group, but all three appear to be consistently out of position. One thought: the problem could be starting up front, with the Rams’ defensive linemen all oriented toward penetration, rather than occupying blocks. This allows offensive linemen to skip out to the second level and swallow up LBs. Still, though, there shouldn’t be an excuse for the kind of gaping holes that are appearing. When an opposing running back can run to the side where the Rams have called a run blitz, and skate free for a ten yard gain, something is seriously wrong.