NOTE: This article is meant to focus on the 1st string players, and is meant to anticipate the regular season. So some of the good and bad plays by no-name players are not mentioned.
The St.Louis Rams entered the game with swagger, taking a 13-0 lead in the first quarter. But as the game progressed, and the 1st team players began to exit the game, the Rams slipped and lost their momentum. It is clear that the Rams need some improvements, but nothing from this game is worth panicking over. Despite the slacking by some units, it is clear that this team (especially the defense) still has that intensity they had last season; the intensity that caused them to play hard late in the season, despite only having one win.
The Good: Steven Jackson looked very dominate during his first action of the season. He had 20 yards on 4 carries. Despite what I might say about the offense later in this article, it is true that Jackson is an element that can change everything; such as play calling, receiver separation (due to one-on-one coverage), and the overall pressure on QB Sam Bradford.
The Rams' defense looked very solid the first three drives. But just like last week, poor pass defense resulted in drop off of overall defensive performance later in the game. The run defense remained solid, keeping Browns' primary RB Jerome Harrison in check, but the bruising FB Peyton Hillis gave them some trouble. But after Hillis' first several carries, the Rams defense seemed to figure him out and keep him under control. And also, it was nice to finely see new DT Fred Robbins play; he had a big night, recording a fumble recovery and a sack.
QB AJ Feeley had a very good night, before getting pulled due to a thumb injury. He was 5 for 6 with 45 yards and a TD. The offense was really clicking on their first drive of the night. It was also nice to see the offensive line play better this week (though they still have some work to do).
The Bad: The WR's were not effective. All night they failed to get separation, and there were numerous drops. I don't care if it was raining, a professional WR needs to catch the ball when it hits him in the hands. The WR's were also over powered on a few plays; Donnie Avery lost the ball on two plays due to a lack of physicality, and Laurent Robinson was over powered in the end-zone on a deep pass that hit him in the hands. Bradford didn't do a lot to help them out. He had a ball tipped at the line, and he missed a few throws. But four or five of Bradford's incompletions were due to drops.
The defensive backfield was very poor tonight. They allowed the Browns' QB Jake Delhomme to complete all of his first 9 pass attempts. I also noticed some poor tackling in the secondary. They were not helped out by the pass rush, for the most part. The pass rush showed some flashes, but overall they were not able to get consistent pressure.
Rams RB Chris Ogbannaya was absolutely brutal, again. He averaged less than a yard per carry (6 yards on 7 carries). I know it wasn't all his fault, because he didn't have a lot of room on some plays, but it is clear that he has no speed or power, and he can't find holes. NFL RB's have to be able to do at least one of those three things. And I'm not buying any of the excuses for him, because Jackson, RB Kenneth Darby, and RB Keith Toston were able to move the ball and gain some yards.
The Ugly: Offensive play calling. Coordinator Pat Shurmur called a run play to Ogbannaya on a 3rd and long, knowing Ogbannaya at the time had only -1 yards on 6 carries. The pass plays were very mild, with multiple one and two yard routes. During the so-called "hurry-up offense" at the end of the 2nd half, the focus was on receivers running routes in the middle of the field, leaving the clock ticking after the tackle. I understand that Shurmur might be limiting deep plays because of a lack of talent. But that doesn't mean you can't take a few chances on deep balls with a new QB, especially since it is only the preseason.
Overall: The Rams definitely made some improvements over last week. I'm not too worried that they looked bad at times during this game, because a lot of starters were used sparingly, and back-up players were mixed with the starters. But when all the first stringers were on the field, both the offense and defense looked very sharp and confident. This team was frustrating at times tonight, but it is easy to forget that it is only the preseason.