The St Louis Rams kicked off their 2011 preseason schedule with a 33-10 win over the Indianapolis Colts, who were without quarterback Peyton Manning and defensive end Dwight Freeney. The Rams jumped out to a big lead following a touchdown pass from Sam Bradford to Lance Kendricks, a touchdown run by Cadillac Williams, and a barrage of field goals from Josh Brown, and then proceeded to never look back.
Now, I love preseason games. There is something about them that makes me overcome with so many emotions that I can’t even begin to describe. Maybe it is because it signals the beginning of the NFL season, a time where any male will have trouble not getting excited over. Maybe it is the fact that you get to see all these college stars and free agents in new uniforms for the first time. One of the reasons I know for certain as to why the preseason is enjoyable, is watching how players/coaches/friends/family/anyone reacts to the results of the game.
If your friend’s team proves victorious, they carry themselves like their team has just advanced to the playoffs, saying, “Did you see how sharp our starters looked?!? We’re doing big things this year.” When their team loses however, similar to how my friend the Colts fan’s team lost, they vehemently defend their team to the death, taking every route possible to defend their team. “Peyton wasn’t playing.” “Dwight Freeney would’ve demolished Bradford.” “We aren’t going to give away any of our real playbook yet, dude.” I respond to all of this with the simple, “mhmm.” I know preseason doesn’t matter much. If the St Louis Rams, not the 90 players they trotted out yesterday, but the actual 53-man St Louis Rams, meet the actual Indianapolis Colts in say, the Super Bowl, the game will not play out in a manner similar to this one. Curtis Painter would not be under center, and Cadillac Williams would not be the starting running back, it’d be a little different.
Still, you can’t help but smile at the 33-10 outcome at least a little bit. Anyways, let’s review.
-Let me start out by saying tight-end Lance Kendricks, the Rams’ second-round selection out of Wisconsin, is an absolute playmaker. The Rams drafted Kendricks to be a force in the passing game so far, so good. The rookie hauled in five catches for 47 yards and a touchdown, most of the catches being crucial plays. Its early, but Kendricks is already beginning to emerge as the favorite for the starting tight end position. He did drop an easy pass late in the second quarter, but I won’t hold it against him.
-The offensive line played above and beyond expectations. They kept Sam Bradford upright for long amounts of times on virtually every snap, creating a comfortable backup that allowed Bradford to step-up and make big throws. If the pass-blocking can be this effective all season, then McDaniels’ spread offense will be that much more effective.
-The running backs all looked solid. Starting back Steven Jackson never saw the field, but the combined performances of Cadillac Williams, Jerious Norwood, and Keith Toston made you hardly miss him. Williams ran 11 times for 40 yards and a touchdown, Norwood ran 8 times for 37 yards, and Toston ran 11 times for 64 yards and a touchdown. The trio created a nice blend of talents, wreaking havoc on the Indianapolis Colts the entire game.
-What is there to say about kicker Josh Brown? The veteran booted four field goals, one of which was a sixty-yarder that likely would have been good from as far as sixty-four yards. Brown racked up 15 points total, and I’m totally drafting him for a second-straight season in fantasy.
-Mardy Gilyard. I’ve mentioned numerous times in the past when discussing Gilyard that he might be somewhat reborn with the insertion of the spread offense and, while it was only one game, Gilyard looked like one of the most comfortable receivers on the field. At one point he took a short pass and cut up field to pick up a big first down towards the end of the first half. He also added another ten-yard catch and although his stats were by no means spectacular, he looked far better than he did at any point last season. The sophomore receiver also was very effective on special teams, returning a punt 15 yards to put the Rams in good field position and having an equally impressive kick return.
-Safety play. All three of the interceptions by the Rams’ safeties were completely the Colts’ fault, two being the result of horrible throws and the other being a dropped pass, but they’re still showing play-making ability that the Rams feared they’d be missing when they lost safety OJ Atogwe. It should be interesting to see how this group holds up when they face better quarterback-play.
-Robert Quinn, the Rams’ first-round draft choice out of North Carolina, was an absolute beast in his first organized game in about 18 months. He used his speed effectively and seemed to be having his way against Indianapolis’s second-team offensive line.
-Bradford threw a touchdown pass on the first drive. YAY!
-Receiver Mike-Sims Walker and safety Quintin Mikell both left the game with injuries. Sims-Walker suffered a sore groin and will be doubtful for the next game, but it isn’t anything serious. Mikell suffered an elbow injury, but Spagnuolo said he would be fine and that the injury wasn’t serious.
-The receivers struggled to make an impact on numerous occasions. The biggest problem was gaining separation and catching the ball, which really should be the two things you want in your receivers. Danario Alexander and Mardy Gilyard had to have been the bright spots, with Brandon Gibson making a couple nice plays as well. For the record, Donnie Avery and 4th-round pick Greg Salas didn’t dress for the game.
-Austin Pettis, the team’s third-round selection, really stuck out in a bad way. He didn’t have a single catch despite receiving two nearly perfect passes from Bradford early in the game. I’m chalking it up to first game jitters and just bad luck, don’t expect that kind of performance again.
-At one point late in the game, QB Taylor Potts came in and proceeded to not throw a single pass. Coming out of Texas Tech, Potts had to have been confused when McDaniels instructed the rookie to “take the ball from the center and hand it to the running back.”
Potts: Coach, don’t you mean you want me to take three steps back then toss the ball to the running back?
McDaniels: No Taylor, I want you to take the ball from the center, jog over to the running back, and put the ball into his chest.
Potts: I don’t know about this coach.
-At one point in the game, Danny Amendola was absolutely clocked by a linebacker when going over the middle. Every Rams fan’s heart stopped for a split second, but then Amendola popped up asking for someone to fix his helmet (which broke during the hit) and trotted over to the sideline. Seriously, do players feel strong launching themselves at undersized receivers?
-The San Francisco 49ers are considering signing QB Daunte Culpepper. The NFC West is going to be so interesting this season!