COMMENTARY | One of the truly great things about competing in football, and sports in general, is that if you don't like how you performed in your last game, you can simply dust yourself off, have good practices and get back out there the next time around.
Coming off a somewhat uninspired performance in their preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns, the St. Louis Rams were looking to do just that as they came home Aug. 17 to take on the Green Bay Packers.
What ended up happening, however, is the Rams were comprehensively picked apart by the Packers for the entire game. Sure, there were little bright spots here or there (we'll get to some momentarily), but at no point could you say that the Rams were the better team Saturday night.
My takeaways from Rams vs. Packers on Saturday night:
The first-team defense is not cutting it thus far.
I'm singling out the first-team defense here because the defensive play later in the game against the Packers' second- and third-team was actually pretty decent.
But when we saw Aaron Rodgers and the Pack's starters in there against the Rams' first-team defense, it was kind of ugly. Rodgers completed 10 of 12 passes for 134 yards. Eddie Lacy gained 40 yards on eight carries. Jermichael Finley caught four passes for 78 yards.
Sure, it was nice that the Rams were able to keep the Packers out of the end zone, but, if they continue to let opposing offenses gash them repeatedly, the touchdowns will come. You can't just depend on holding them to field goals when they get down in the red zone.
They are going to have to start figuring it out quickly, as next week's preseason game is against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
The hype from the coaching staff about Ray Ray Armstrong appears warranted.
Up to this point, we have heard a lot from the coaching staff about how well Ray Ray Armstrong had been playing in practice. Sometimes it's hard to tell if the coaches are saying that because it's really the case, or because they are looking to put a positive spin on what has been a tough training camp and preseason for a player.
In the case of Ray Ray Armstrong, based on what I have seen, he is as advertised.
Against the Packers, he was everywhere. He spent a ton of time in the backfield, got his hands on the quarterback a couple of times, did a good job of tackling in the open field, and even did a reasonably good job in coverage.
There has been some worry about depth issues at linebacker with Jo-Lonn Dunbar out for the first four games of the season. I have been as guilty of this as anyone but with the way Armstrong has played so far, maybe the worry is much ado about nothing.
This offense is capable of putting up a ton of yards.
OK, so they didn't put up any points, but I think we saw the potential that this offense has.
Sam Bradford completed 8 of 12 passes for 156 yards and, maybe more important, he was able to get everyone involved early on.
Chris Givens had a 57-yard reception. Jared Cook had a nice 37-yard catch-and-run. Even though he didn't break one for big yardage, Tavon Austin hauled in four passes for 28 yards. Daryl Richardson showed that he can be a threat catching the ball, as he had a 24-yard catch of his own.
The running game was stuck in neutral (Daryl Richardson not getting any carries may have something to do with that), but receivers were getting open, Bradford did a good job of distributing the ball, and the offensive line did a good job of keeping Bradford upright.
But the little things are killing them in the preseason
So we have established that the offense is capable of moving the ball, but if they aren't able to iron out some of the little issues they are having early on, they won't be able to put points on the board -- no matter how many yards they gain.
The easiest thing to fix is penalties. Both teams in this game had their fair share of penalties. The difference is that we know the Packers are good enough to withstand penalties. It remains to be seen if the Rams are that good, but, so far, the answer is no.
Turnovers have also been an issue. Last week, it was Isaiah Pead that coughed up the football. This week, it was none other than Sam Bradford, who fumbled the ball just a couple yards shy of the goal line.
Then there's the issue of conversions. Out of their 14 chances, the Rams had just one third-down conversation. They were 0-for-3 on fourth down.
Add all of those things together, and you get a game where the Rams were nearly shutout. If these things continue into the regular season, it will be more of the same.
While great strides have been made, the Rams' depth is not quite where it needs to be.
The first-team may have been soundly beaten by the first-team of the Packers, but at least they competed well and looked like they belonged on the field with them.
When the first-team turned things over to the next group, they had no chance. The easy thing would be to blame Kellen Clemens for how poor the offense played during the third quarter, but I honestly just felt sorry for him.
On the Rams broadcast, Torry Holt said it best when he said that no quarterback, no matter how great, would have been able to succeed with the lack of protection Clemens was getting. All told, Clemens completed just a pair of his 11 passes for 27 yards. He was intercepted twice, sacked twice and spent most of his time running for his life or trying to protect himself from hits.
The defense was better, but the likes of Vince Young and B.J. Coleman were moving the ball better than one would have liked.
I will take the Rams' talent and depth now over the Rams' talent and depth of just a couple of years ago. But if they are looking to take the next step into being a perennial playoff team, some serious upgrades or improvements will need to be made.
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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