The St. Louis Rams concluded their home preseason schedule on Saturday afternoon with a 21-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers. It wasn’t the Rams’ greatest effort, as the offense was shaky for the entire day, the starting defense was disturbingly bad (albeit with a bland gameplan), and the team combined for 10 penalties for 76 yards. There’s no need to get worried in the early part of the preseason, but clearly the team has some things they still need to work on before they kick off the regular season next month against the Minnesota Vikings. Here are a few key observations from Saturday’s loss:
- Quarterback Sam Bradford predictably had some rust to shake off as he saw his first game action in 300 days, but he looked pretty solid overall. Bradford went 9 for 12 for 101 passing yards and a touchdown pass to Lance Kendricks, and his only bad mistake was a deep throw intended for Kenny Britt that ended up a couple yards right of the sideline. If Bradford can keep achieving that same level of success, he should be perfectly fine for the opener next month.
- Though he was the Rams’ leading rusher, it’s clear that rookie Tre Mason still has a long way to go before he can be relied on to contribute effectively. The 21-year-old ran 12 times for 30 yards (2.5 yards per carry), and that was including an 11-yard run near the end of his time on the field Saturday. He struggled to get through holes, frequently getting caught by defenders at or behind the line of scrimmage. If Mason doesn’t win the job as the Rams’ top kick returner, don’t be surprised if he’s left as a gameday inactive at the beginning of the season.
- It was once again clear on Saturday why the Rams aren’t quite ready to let Greg Robinson play at his college position of left tackle. Protecting Sam Bradford’s blind side while filling in for Jake Long, Robinson had some rough moments, and there were a few occasions where he had absolutely no chance with Clay Matthews firing out against him off the edge. Robinson had some highlight blocks in the run game, but with the way he’s performed as a pass blocker both in practice and in the first two preseason games, Robinson might be behind projected right guard Rodger Saffold on the tackle depth chart.
- You really hate to see this from a guy that works so hard, which second-year offensive tackle Sean Hooey certainly is. Next to tight end Cory Harkey, Hooey might be the hardest-working guy on the team. He really put a lot of effort into building up his body this year, and any time he’s not involved in the action you’ll see him working on firing out of his stance on the sidelines. But Hooey really struggled mightily on Saturday, whiffing on more than a few blocks and letting guys blow right past him off the edge. If the 6-foot-9, 315-pounder could just refine his technique a bit and figure out how to get lower while keeping his feet under him, he might be a really good player. But with the Rams having drafted both Robinson, who they see as their left tackle of the future, and Michell Van Dyk, who is a nice developmental project, time might be running out for Hooey to prove himself as a guy worth keeping.
- Backup offensive lineman Mike Person seems to have won a spot on the 53-man roster for himself because of his incredible versatility, which was on full display Saturday. Person started for the second straight game, though he started at left guard after starting at left tackle last week. Later on, he flipped positions with Greg Robinson so the rookie could get reps at his projected regular position of left guard, and as a result Person moved back to left tackle. Later on, Person moved to center, a position that he just started working at this week due to injuries to backups Barrett Jones and Demetrius Rhaney. If he can be effective, Person could end up carving out a long career as a handy backup because of that versatility.
- This battle between defensive ends Ethan Westbrooks and Michael Sam continues to be really intriguing, as both of them had sacks on Saturday and each contributed some key tackles. Their performances made me wonder if the Rams might think about some alternate avenues to go down in order to have both of them on the 53-man roster. Maybe they could carry 10 defensive lineman, as former Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo used to do, or perhaps the Rams will end up valuing the two rookies more than they do defensive tackle Alex Carrington. After all, they usually only dress seven defensive linemen on regular season game days anyway, and the top three defensive tackles will be Michael Brockers, Kendall Langford, and Aaron Donald, so it might be more practical to try to develop Sam and Westbrooks than it would be to have Carrington, a four-year veteran, as a consistent gameday inactive. If they need an extra tackle, veteran Eugene Sims and Westbrooks both seem to be adept enough at the position to contribute on the interior.
- I’m not sure if it will help his cause at all because he’s competing against so many more established guys, but wide receiver Jordan Harris continues to distinguish himself as a special teamer. He really stood out as a gunner on the punt team Saturday, just as he has done during practices and the preseason opener last week. Perhaps with wideout Stedman Bailey suspended for the season’s first four games, Harris could find his way onto the team, filling the ultra-important gunner role that Bailey filled for much of last year. For what it’s worth, Harris also made a big play from scrimmage Saturday, catching a 26-yard pass from Austin Davis in the fourth quarter.