Wednesday, November 23, 2011

St. Louis Rams: 10 Trends That Will Surely Continue Next Week Against Arizona

Despite winning two out of the last four, making it the most successful four game stretch of the season, the St. Louis Rams (2-8) are still showing some disturbing trends. 

Obviously, any team with a .200 winning percentage is not going to be a fundamentally sound group, which is certainly the case for the Rams. Consistency, or a lack thereof, has been detrimental to their 2011 season.

Fans are witnessing the same mistakes week-in-and-week-out from a team that was widely thought to be talented enough for a run at the NFC West title. The way the talent is under performing can certainly be pinned on a coaching staff that hasn't been able to develop the players or get the most out the roster. 

And there is no end in sight. 

Other than poor football, here are some trends that will continue against the Arizona Cardinals. They are not all bad, but regardless, this it what we can expect out of the team this Sunday...

10. Robert Quinn Will Continue To Grow

Despite being inactive in the Rams' opening day game against Philadelphia and receiving very little playing time in the first few weeks of the season, defensive end Robert Quinn is still putting together a quietly magnificent rookie campaign. 

Quinn was the No. 14 overall pick in last April's draft and has been flashing some of the monster potential he possesses. 

He has three sacks and two blocked punts in the last four games. He has four total sacks on the year and he also had a blocked field goal against the Kansas City Chiefs during the preseason. 

Expect Quinn to continue his rampage against Arizona this Sunday, especially since the Cardinals have a poor offensive line. 

9. Sam Bradford Will Continue To Be Inefficient

Sam Bradford is due for a breakout game at some point this season, he's too talented to continue his downward spiral. 

Bradford was just starting to click with the offense against Green Bay (29-for-45, 328 yards), but his sprained ankle at the end of that game kept him sidelined for two games and he has been unable to continue his growth ever since. 

At some point this season the offensive line will gel for a game or two and Bradford will start to click once again with the receivers. 

However, it likely will not happen against Arizona. 

Despite the Cardinals being ranked 27th in pass defense, they have talent in the secondary, such as Adrian Wilson and Patrick Peterson. They will be able to keep Bradford in check, especially with some help from their pass rush, which will dominate the Rams weak line. 

The Rams will have to win the game on the ground with Steven Jackson, which brings us to the next point...

8. Steven Jackson Will Pound Away

After rushing for 417 yards in three weeks, Steven Jackson finally cooled off against the Seahawks last week with only 42 yards on 15 carries (2.8 yards per carry). 

Both of the Rams' starting tackles are out with injuries (Rodger Saffold, Jason Smith), so Jackson is running behind a patchwork line, which might lead you to believe that he'll be contained. 

However, the Cardinals are not stout against the run (ranked 24th in run defense), and Jackson is an elite player. He is too good to be completely held in check two weeks in a row, despite the inevitable poor run blocking that he'll receive.

7. The Receivers Will Be Unproductive

Brandon Lloyd has been very good ever since arriving in St. Louis, he has 26 catches and 322 yards in five games and has been one of only two consistent players on offense (the other being Steven Jackson). 

Lloyd has averaged 64.4 yards per game since arriving in St. Louis and had 80 yards against Arizona two weeks ago. So in the team's rematch against the Cardinals we can expect him to finish somewhere in the range of 65 to 80 yards and maybe a touchdown, which he has three of with the Rams this year. 

Lloyd is solid, but Bradford has no "bailout" option in the slot. Greg Salas and Danny Amendola, who were both solid options in the slot, are both out for the year with injuries. The only other slot option is Austin Pettis, who has been very mediocre so far in his rookie campaign (16 catches, 133 yards).

With Danario Alexander's return from a hamstring injury still questionable, the only other receiver capable of producing is Brandon Gibson, who has been a ghost the last two weeks with only four receptions and 37 yards. 

The injuries, combined the dropped balls that have been cursing the unit, so it's safe to say that the receivers will have yet another underwhelming performance. 

6. Chris Long Will Impress

The Arizona Cardinals' offensive line has surrendered 33 total sacks through 10 games, which is the third most in the NFL. 

Defensive end Chris Long has been an absolute beast for the Rams recently, with six total sacks in the last four games and nine total sacks on the season (already a career high). 

With the way Long has been playing, the Cardinals' line is in for a long day on Sunday. 

5. Penalties Will Hurt the Rams

Penalties have killed the Rams so far in 2011. They have 74 penalties on the year, which is the ninth most in the NFL. 

It's not that they can't survive going at the rate of 7.4 penalties a game, although that makes things tricky, but the timing of their penalties has been awful. 

Outside of their win against New Orleans, the Rams never fail to disappoint. Their ability to commit a procedure penalty on a promising drive, or hold in a unnecessary situation to wipe out a solid gain, is uncanny.

Then there is the occasional delay of game or unnecessary roughness, which always seems to hand the momentum right over the the opposing defense.  

There's no reason to expect a change in this trend on Sunday against Arizona. 

4. Quinn Porter Will Be Tackled Behind the 20-Yard-Line

The Rams are certainly missing Danny Amendola in the return game.

Amendola, who is out for the year with a dislocated elbow, was never a "take it to the house" type a returner, but he certainly was a fighter that found a way to give the offense some solid field position. 

Quinn Porter, a former practice squad running back for the Cleveland Browns who was claimed by the Rams early in the year, has taken over kick return duties and has not excelled, to say the least. 

Porter has attempted a return 19 times this season, and only 11 times has he brought it past the 20. But he never gets too far past the 20, as he's averaging 20.7 yards per return.

On the other eight attempts he has been tackled behind the 20, which has really been hurting him in recent weeks. 

The NFL moved the kickoff spot forward in 2011, so that's something to consider, but someone needs to tell Porter to play it safe an take a knee. He's not good enough to take it for a score, so don't even try. 

3. The Defense Will Give Up a Fourth-Quarter Touchdown

The defense has been a strong point for the Rams in recent weeks, keeping opponents relatively in check and giving the offense a reasonable opportunity to come up with a win, which they've only done twice. 

However, the defense has been letting opposing offenses slip by in the fourth quarter. 

Over the last five games the Rams' defense has allowed six fourth quarter touchdowns, which was particularly harmful against Arizona two weeks ago when Larry Fitzgerald's touchdown with just under four minutes left was the difference in the game. 

You can't really blame the Rams' defense. The stale offense commits so many three-and-outs that no one can reasonably expect the defense to stay rested and effective for four full quarters. 

2. The Offensive Line Will Be Dominated

The Rams have been forced to put together an amateur offensive line due to injuries at the position, but the line wasn't even good to begin with when healthy. 

Tackles Jason Smith and Rodger Saffold are both injured. Saffold is out for the season, and while Smith has a chance to return, his serious concussion makes missing the season a realistic possibility.

Saffold's replacement at left-tackle, Mark LeVoir, was injured last week against Seattle with a pec injury and could be sidelined for up to four weeks. Third-stringer Kevin Hughes is the current left-tackle, despite having a pathetic performance against Seattle. 

Jason Brown, the Rams' starting center since 2009 and a $37.5 million free agent, lost his starting job ever since his poor performance against the Cardinals two weeks ago. However, he could possibly be forced into action again if the injuries continue.  

Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett and rookie outside-linebacker Sam Acho are capable of creating a dominate pass rush for the Cardinals and the three of them should excel in St. Louis this Sunday. 

1.  The Offense Will Be Atrocious

The Rams have scored only 120 total points through 10 games this season, which averages out to 12.0 points per game, making them the worst ranked offense in the NFL. 

The Rams have scored only 33 points in their last three games combined. If you take away their win against the Saints, a game where they score 31 points, the Rams next highest point total in a game this season is 16, which was against the Giants back in Week 2. 

The word "pathetic" does not rightfully describe the state of the Rams' offense. The point of the NFL is to provide entertainment and the Rams are certainly not entertaining to watch while they lose.

In other words, they are even bad at losing. 

There's likely nothing that will revitalize the offense by Sunday, so expect another poor offensive performance against the Cardinals, who the Rams were only able to score 13 points against two weeks ago. 

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