Rams Struggle to Improve in Second Game
by Rams Nation's Don Ackerman
As you know, pre-season is the NFL's version of make-believe. Even though tickets
are regularly priced, what you see means nothing. Players will be evaluated
but it'll be tough because either they are going through the motion to get their
reps or they are facing 2nd- or 3rd-string backups on the other team. In either
case, the Rams primarily looking to fill some spots and evaluate their backups.
Friday's pre-season game showed me a team that is struggling to improve. On
of the low-lights was that right tackle John St. Clair (#70) is not quite ready
to protect the franchise, Kurt Warner. It also showed us that fumble-itis is
still lingering on the Rams squad. The wish was that fumble-itis would leave
with it's host, Az-Zahir Hakim who over the last couple years suffered from
the ailment. It was bad to see the ball loose even though the Rams took some
solid hits that should have knocked the ball loose.
Another bad sign I noticed were wasted timeouts in the first half. Last year,
the Rams often ran out of timeouts long before the half was over. What this
costs the Rams is a potential official review (there are plenty of opportunities
there!) or valuable stoppage of time. In this pre-season game, Warner burned
two timeouts in one drive in the 1st quarter. Timeouts have their purpose and
you don't want to use all of them too early in a game. You never know when you
might need the.
Don't think I make this "wasting timeouts" judgment lightly. There's
a fine line between making a mistake, a misread, or a wasted opportunity and
using a timeout wisely. If things go back, hindsight would say "you shoulda
took the timeout." However, I don't like seeing the quarterback calling
timeout for no obvious reason. Hopefully, this is simply dealing with the new
personnel on the field and not a continuation of last year's problems.
But it wasn't all bad. On a good note, the Rams in the second half saved their
timeouts. They took their 2nd timeout with 17 seconds left in the game. There
was not wasting later in the game.
Also, on another good note, Mitch Berger (#17), the free-agent punter, looked
great! Though he only averaged 40.4 yards on seven kicks, Berger boomed kicks
of 51, 61 (which was called back), 54, and two for 45 years. That's great! He
average was killed by two kicks under 30 yards (27 and 26 yards) and one 35-yarder.
He showed great promise and though we hope not to need him, it'll be great to
have that weapon ready!
In the improving department, running backs Trung Candidate (#24) and Lamar
Gordon (#34) both showed great speed as did Terrence Wilkins (#82). The Rams
continue to show great speed and should cause fits for any team trying to defend
Overall, game 2 was a mixed bag of good and bad. The Rams have high expectations
for 2002 too but I know Mike Martz wants to see a lot of improvement in game
3 of the pre-season. I'll be watching that game carefully to see if the Rams
can iron out the wrinkles I've seen thus far.