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St. Louis Rams vs. Cleveland Browns: Takeaways From Preseason Opener

Rams Lose, but Offer Reasons for Optimism

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Ultimately, outcomes in preseason games don't really mean anything. After the St. Louis Rams' preseason opener Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns, fans should be thankful that's the case.

The Rams got down early and fought their way back into the game, only after the teams had gone deep into the rosters past the starters, past the second-string, and into the undrafted free agents and training-camp bodies just hoping for a few snaps in the game.

But that's not to say that the game gave Rams fans nothing to be excited about. A few players the Rams are looking to have step into big roles showed signs of breaking out, and some players trying to fight their way on the roster made plays.

In the end, it was pretty much your typical preseason opener. It was ugly at times, a few players looked a step or two slow coming out of the offseason, and a handful of players shined bright.

Let's get to my takeaways from the preseason opener against the Browns:

- Daryl Richardson continues to distance himself from the field at running back. Even though the numbers (4 carries, 24 yards) weren't eye-popping, they were better than the competition.

Zac Stacy managed just 23 yards on seven carries and while Isaiah Pead had 18 yards on three carries with one gain of 11 yards, he also had a fumble and didn't look confident in the return game.

On the Rams' broadcast, Marshall Faulk probably said it best: When Richardson is carrying the ball, the offense just seems to move at a better pace.

- Chris Givens is the leader in the clubhouse to be the top receiver on the roster this season. Sure, Tavon Austin might have something to say about that before the season is over, but based on what we saw on Thursday night, Givens is likely to equal or better his solid rookie season.

Givens caught all three passes that came his way, for 83 yards and a touchdown. His 59-yard reception continues to hint at the big-play ability that he showed in his rookie season.

Givens will have to continue to develop and prove that he can be more than a burner capable of big plays, but with what he has shown so far, I'm not betting against him.

- The defense still needs work. Granted, the defense was pretty vanilla and rounding into form is what the preseason is for, but Brandon Weeden and company marched down the field far too easily in the first couple of series.

Holding the Browns to a field goal after a long drive in the opening series was a small, moral victory, but the way they moved the ball was disconcerting.

All three of the the Browns' quarterbacks completed more than 70 percent of their passes, and the Rams' defense didn't turn them over a single time.

One positive was the rush defense, though. The Browns averaged just 2.8 yards per carry.

- Greg Zuerlein is still a beast. I know this is not all that noteworthy, but I'm just impressed by the guy. Sure, it's easier for a kicker to get into midseason form than it is a running back or quarterback, but to come in and kick a 55-yard field goal right off the bat is no small feat.

Even though I love to watch him nail long field goals, here's to hoping that we don't see that much of Young GZ this year, except on extra points.

Joseph Healy lives in the St. Louis area. His work has been featured at BleacherReport.com, TheFanManifesto.com and Scout.com.

You can follow Joseph on Twitter @Joe_On_Sports.

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