St. Louis Rams fans are still waiting to see the high-octane offense they were hoping for after offseason editions seemed promising. St. Louis brought in Jared Cook, Tavon Austin, and Stedman Bailey this year, with most of the attention going to Cook and Austin as QB Sam Bradford‘s go-to guys.
They knew what they had in speedy WR Chris Givens before the season began, but he has yet to connect on the deep ball with Bradford this year. Part of the problem there is that teams now know who he is and what he can do. Givens is still putting together a nice year with 15 catches.
Cook was supposed to be the Rams’ first real threat at the tight end position in ages. In his first game as a Ram, Cook made heads turn, gaining 140 yards on seven catches. Another bright spot for him was that 70 of his yards came after the catch. That is exactly why he was brought to St. Louis. Besides an early fumble against the Arizona Cardinals, it was a career day for the Rams tight end.
Since opening day, the results have been mediocre for Cook, as he has failed to break 50 total yards in a game.
Austin was supposed to be the true centerpiece of the offensive this year. In West Virginia, he averaged 11.2 yards per play as an explosive player that played anywhere and everywhere for the offense. The Rams seem set on him being strictly a pass catcher/punt returner for them, failing to come up with anything creative to give him space.
Does it make sense to get him the ball so quickly on plays? Yes, you want the ball in this guy’s hand, but isn’t the ultimate goal to get him the ball in space, where he can use his 4.34 speed to make something happen?
So far, almost every ball he catches is within the first yards of the line of scrimmage. He has been surround by defenders on every catch, lacking any type of space required for his explosiveness to make an impact. It has shown in his overall yards per catch at 6.2 yards, and his YAC sitting at a lowly 3.1.
For a dynamic playmaker, that number is pitiful. A lot of people are questioning OC Brian Schottenheimer‘s lack of creativity. I’d say those second guesses are pretty accurate when looking at the results.
Through five weeks of the season, Bradford has only attempted 16 passes over 20 yards, completing four of them for 133 yards. He is 0-for-3 on passes over 40 yards this year. His confidence doesn’t seem to be there on deeper passes. Whether its a lack of confidence in his ability to make the pass or the receivers to come down with it, I do not know.
The play-calling could be deterring shots down the field, or Bradford just might not believe in his deep threats. On passes between 11-20 yards, Bradford has only completed 17-of-40 attempts (42.5 percent completion). However, this is where the his longest completion (47 yards) to Cook for a touchdown came from.
Bradford excels in the 1-10 yard passes, which is what the Rams have utilized the most this year. Coincidence? Probably not, considering Schottenheimer’s lack of creativity to develop plays that force the ball downfield or into a receiver’s hands in space. On passes that travel between 1-10 yards, Bradford has completed 70-of-116 attempts (62% completion).
The longest result from this type of pass is 20 yards. The Rams’ tendency to abandon the run in the red zone is the likely cause for Bradford’s nine touchdowns on these passes.
St. Louis really needs to focus on stretching the field with deep and intermediate passes. Bradford must make these types of throws with confidence and believe that his receivers will make a play, even if they won’t. The lack of shots downfield allow the defense to set up for the run and the typical five-yard pass we see.
There is a reason besides talent that Bradford loved Danny Amendola so much. He operated in what seems to be Bradford’s “safe zone.” Shots downfield will make the defense respect the deep threat and cause the underneath to open up more for Austin, allowing more yards after the catch to be available.