As has been customary with many of our sister blogs here as part of the SB Nation network, Turf Show Times and Revenge of the Birds got together to ask each other some questions.My answers are posted here. The rams and the Cardinals do battle tonight.
Let's get to know the enemy a little bit more.
1. Just how improved is this Rams team over 2011? The team's two wins are at home and two losses on the road. How differently do they play at home?
Well it's a pretty different team first off. For week one, the Rams included 31 players who weren't in the organization last year. That being said, things certainly look better on defense. The passing D is very, very impressive. Combining the pass rush of DEs Chris Long and Robert Quinn has freed up the interior to be more dangerous, and the cornerback unit is stacked with talent. The run defense needs work, as the safety position is one that will need some change in the next offseason. On offense, the line is devoid of talent, but last week against Seattle they held their own. Obviously I'm biased, but I see a marked improvement on defense and an offense that is still growing.
As for the home/road discrepancy, I don't see too much difference, save for the attitude in week two against the Redskins. In week one, the Rams kicked a field goal to go ahead 23-20 with 1:55 left in the game. In the Bears game, they were down 10-6 to start the fourth. So it's not as if they're out of games on the road. I think it's just small sample size. In the two home games, the Rams escaped with a win. On the road against the Lions, the win escaped them. Against the Bears, our offense escaped somewhere around kickoff. So yeah.
2. So...Sam Bradford...he is full of potential. Where is he in his development compared to expectations (realistic or otherwise)? Is he the guy fans had hoped?
I think what Sam Bradford has done for Rams fans is to force them to avoid oversimplifying things, to avoid a Skip Bayless type of surface skimming that pares down the complexity of football into more digestable ideas. The passing game is a function of QB play, WR play, O-line play and the defensive reaction on any given snap. What's made it so tough for Bradford is that the offensive lines he's played behind have been so poor, and he's been without a top WR. The Rams haven't had a Larry Fitzgerald or a Roddy White or anyone on the outside who can consistently get open 10+ yards downfield using all of the route tree. Danny Amendola's a wonderful underneath option, but that can only be used so much and only in certain situations (unless you're the Redskins and you play a soft zone scheme that leaves him open the whole first half...).
I think Bradford's on a fine trajectory. The line just needs to keep him off his back this year. I expect that unit will be a focus in the draft unless there's a marquee free agent addition prior to April.
3. What has Jeff Fisher brought to the team so far?
Willpower. Experience. Attitude. All those oversimplified terms I was just making fun of... It's true though. His command of the team is so much more evident than his predecessors. The Rams promoted three coordinators to the head coaching job before Fisher: Mike Martz, Scott Linehan and Steve Spagnuolo. Martz wasn't able to transition from the Greatest Show on Turf era, Linehan couldn't build a team from scratch, and Spagnuolo never got the team to buy in to him. Fisher played at USC, was drafted into the NFL and has nearly two decades of head coaching experience. That stuff matters and has impact. It's obvious that it has impacted this team even though we're just four weeks in.
4. What is the most promising thing fans see so far? The most disappointing?
The most promising aspect is either Fisher's presence or the pass defense. I guess long-term, I'd go with Fisher, but that pass defense has been so good it's tough not to suggest they're not going to drive this team in the remaining 12 games. Disappointing I guess would either be the offense as a whole (though the expectations weren't very high to begin with) or Isaiah Pead. The Rams spent their third second round pick on Pead, and he's been outplayed by their seventh-round selection Daryl Richardson. Last week, he was a healthy scratch, so that tells you all you need to know.
5. For years, the Rams have been synonymous with Steven Jackson and a good running game. What is different about this team? Is it still all about Jackson? Who is the offensive "man"?
The line's just not good enough to create much room in the running game consistently. Last week outside of a 23-yard scamper by Jackson, he was held to just 32 yards on 17 carries. Richardson added just 16 yards on 6 carries. It's a function of passing to open up the running game for the Rams right now, and it can be tough. I expect the Rams will spread the ball around against you guys similar to what they did on Sunday. Amendola will continue to get the majority of the first reads, but Sam uses different parts of the field very well. Last week, Amendola had 10 targets; four other receivers, and TE Lance Kendricks, were all between two and four targets. And yes, the Rams will still try to get Jackson and Richardson a decent amount of work. Even with the blocking deficiency, Jackson is still one hell of a running back.