QUESTION: What is your thinking on why the Rams have had so many problems protecting Sam Bradford this season?
First of all, the Rams’ offensive line represents the worst investment of money, and the biggest waste of money, in the history of St. Louis professional sports. It must be hard to pass block when your uniform is lined with all of those 100-dollar bills.
Next, there’s the Josh McDaniels’ downfield-passing offense. One problem with that: Rams wideouts can’t get open downfield. Bradford waiting for them to get open is about as futile as a guy trying to catch a taxi in the rain. Gonna get hit. Gonna get wet. (Hopefully, Brandon Lloyd will help in this area). When the receivers do get open, there’s a chance they’ll catch the ball. Maybe, maybe not.
Lastly, Bradford has to get rid of the football with a little more urgency. There’s no need to take a hit or a sack when there’s no chance of making a downfield connection. Throwing it away is a better alternative.
Contrary to popular belief, the pass blocking has been pretty good against the New York Giants and Green Bay. But if you had to name one thing, it would be the play of young offensive tackles Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith. After his strong play last season, Saffold has experienced a sophomore slump; he was much better pass-blocking last week in Green Bay (although he did hurt the team with penalties). And Smith played one of his better games.
And before you line up the offensive line and line coach Steve Loney before a firing squad, consider this: More than a third of the sacks allowed this year have had nothing to do with the o-line. There have been blocking breakdowns by the tight ends, the running backs, and there have been several times when QB Sam Bradford has simply held the ball too long waiting for receivers to get open in a scheme that features more downfield throwing.
Jason Smith is a pass blocking liability at right tackle. Left tackle Rodger Saffold has channeled his inner Alex Barron and become a human penalty machine – forcing Bradford into unfavorable down-and-distance situations. The Josh McDaniels offense features more deep patterns . . . and the Rams receivers haven’t been getting open consistently enough, leaving Sam holding the ball. Throw in an unhealthy number of protection mix-ups and Bradford has taken a beating.
Seems like the O-line is having trouble adjusting to Josh McDaniels’ offense. Bradford’s deeper drops take more time, which puts more pressure on the line. In addition, since the Rams have been playing from behind so much, opposing defenses can take more chances and set their sights on getting to the quarterback.
ROGER HENSLEY | St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Posted: Friday, October 21, 2011 12:56 pm
Cowboys C Phil Costa vs. Rams MLB James Laurinaitis: Much has been made about the Cowboys’ inability to run the football. I will not totally put the blame at the feet of the offensive line because there have been plays that have been blocked correctly where there has been a chance for a nice gain, but the backs have not hit the holes with any consistency in the right spot.
In three of their first five games, the Cowboys faced run defenses that ranked in the top 11 of the league. This week, they face a Rams squad that is one of the worst against the run. But St. Louis has a pretty good run player in James Laurinaitis. I have been impressed with his ability to get around blocks and make plays in the running game. He is the one defensive player for the Rams that is always around the football.
Phil Costa is coming off one of his worst games and needs to get some confidence back, but it will be very difficult against Laurinaitis, who is all over the field. Laurinaitis is similar to the Cowboys’ Sean Lee. The Cowboys have to be careful to not allow Laurinaitis to go unblocked because he has the ability to read quickly, then shoot gaps to get tackles for loss.
Other than Chris Long, the Rams’ defensive linemen really struggle to get off blocks, so there will be opportunities in the running game. But if Costa struggles, you will know it very quickly.
Cowboys run D vs. Rams RB Steven Jackson: Through six weeks, Rob Ryan’s defense is ranked first in the league against the run. The Rams, like the Cowboys, have had their share of problems in the running game, but it’s not because of the effort or ability of Jackson.
The last time these two teams met Jackson gashed the Cowboys for 160 yards. Jackson has always held a grudge against the Cowboys for not drafting him in 2004. To his credit, he has made Dallas look foolish for not taking him that day.
As mentioned, the Rams’ run game can’t find any consistency because the offensive line struggles to get any type of push at the point. Most of Jackson’s runs are done on his own by bouncing the ball outside or running from the shotgun on inside handoffs. The Rams also like to throw the ball to Jackson on screens and let him do damage in the open field. Ryan put it best when he said that his crew will need to keep hitting Jackson and get a bunch of bodies to the ball.
With quarterback Sam Bradford unable to play because of a high ankle sprain, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will turn to A.J. Feeley and try to establish the run with Jackson. In my view, the Cowboys’ front seven should be able to do the job.
Cowboys WRs Miles Austin and Dez Bryant vs. Rams CB Al Harris: Several years ago, this might have been a good matchup for Harris, but now it’s a big mismatch. Harris, a 14-year veteran, can no longer play at the level he once played at for so many years.
Injuries have robbed him of much of the skill he once had. He no longer has that burst, quickness or speed he used to. Harris now struggles to maintain any type of positioning in the route.
There are times when he is peeking in the backfield or guessing on the route. Last week against the Packers, wide receiver Jordy Nelson beat him on a slant-and-go for a big touchdown. Later in the same game, Aaron Rodgers pump-faked him out of coverage to bite on a route.
There is no doubt in my mind that either Austin or Bryant can run by Harris in the vertical game for a big play. Harris just doesn’t run well enough. When you play corner, that’s a huge problem. On the other side, cornerback Justin King has struggled to cover the deep pass, as well.
Before you go crazy, we don’t think the St. Louis Rams will beat the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon at Cowboys Stadium.
With Sam Bradford not available because of a high-ankle sprain, A.J. Feeley takes over at quarterback the Rams.
And Feeley has a victory over the Cowboys.
In 2002, Feeley led the Philadelphia Eagles to a 27-3 victory at Texas Stadium. He completed 19 of 33 passes for 253 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions that day.
Feeley hasn’t started a game since 2007, but Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan had some thoughts.
“Feeley has been around forever,” Ryan said after Friday’s practice. “He had a great preseason. Either way, I know they’ve added some great weapons in [Mark] Clayton and [Brandon] Lloyd. Two excellent receivers. This is an excellent-looking team. They just hung about 450 yards up on Green Bay. When [Steven] Jackson is playing, I believe they’re averaging over 40 yards a game. Whatever the stats say on the overall deal, we know we’re getting a hell of an offense here.”
NOTE: Clayton will not play on Sunday despite coming off the physically unable to perform list this week.
The Cowboys return home to face the winless St. Louis Rams at 3:15 p.m. Sunday. Here is a look at what they need to do to even their record at 3-3:
Establish Running Game
If there ever were a week when the Cowboys ground game should gain traction, it’s this one. The St. Louis Rams surrender an average of 161.8 rushing yards per game – the most in the NFL. Rookie running back DeMarco Murray, who should receive the bulk of the carries after replacing the injured Felix Jones last Sunday, should make a splash. And if he doesn’t then it’s uncertain when, if ever, this season the running game will get back on track.
Get better in red zone
The Cowboys can move the football and pile up yards. But when they close in on the opponent’s end zone, their offense stalls. According to Stats LLC, the Cowboys have scored only six touchdowns in 18 drives when they have moved inside the 20-yard line. That 33-percent success rate is the second-worst in the NFL. Only St. Louis, the team the Cowboys play this week, has fared worse. The Cowboys have to do better maximizing their opportunities. And there’s no better time to start than this week.
Put them away
The Cowboys have played 11 consecutive games that have been decided by four points or fewer. In part, that’s their fault. At times during that stretch, they have failed to put teams away. Last December against the Redskins, for instance, the Cowboys built a 20-point lead. They ended up winning 33-30. Earlier this month, they squandered a 24-point advantage against Detroit and lost 34-30. This Sunday, the Cowboys are favored to win by a double-digit margin. But in order to meet Vegas’ expectations, they have to hold a lead.
Reduce the penalties
The Cowboys were assessed 10 penalties during their loss to New England last week. And they were docked 77 yards as a result. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, who tried to create a culture of compliance in training camp, wasn’t happy that his team continued to commit one violation after another. This season, the Cowboys have been flagged 45 times – the 10th highest total in the NFL. They need to begin correcting the problem this Sunday against the Rams.
Here are the BOLD predictions from Robert A Knight … Our very own self-proclaimed prediction guru. The new crystal ball (was on the discount rack at Target) caught fire and shorted out last week. Don’t worry. The GREAT Robbini exchanged it for a brand new one! Last week, two of The GREAT Robbini predictions came true. Unfortunately, seven didn’t! Never discouraged, he’s back this week … fired up … and Jerry Jones’n for some REAL Dallas Cowboy football! Week #7 predictions are going to be good to him!
Since The Boys Are Back at home, we can expect a rowdy crowd and a determined Dallas Cowboy effort. Last Sunday, the New England Patriots exploited some of the areas for improvement. This week, Dallas will take out their vengeance on the lowly St. Louis Rams. As you know, Sammy the Rammy is not playing this week. We’ll have to settle for sacking Mr. Freely. Now for the good stuff. Sunday, the World Series also continues … in Arlington, Texas. If all goes as planned … we (Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers) should be able to send both St. Louis teams home with losses! Time for The GREAT Robbini’s predictions … I’m sure you’ll agree … these are very BOLD. OK, here we go …
The GREAT Robbini – Week #7 predictions:
- At least 4 takeaways for Rob Ryan’s Dallas D (2 forced fumbles, 1 interception)
- At least 4 DAL sacks on St. Louis QB (1 sack by Ware, multiple pressures)
- TD Diamond Dez Bryant (4th quarter)
- TD Jason Witten (2nd quarter)
- 350 yards passing for Romo (was a running day in Dallas this week)
- Miles Austin has a 100 yard game (2 receptions for 16 yards)
- Dallas commits under 50 yards of penalties (6 for 30 yards)
- Sean Lee leads the Cowboys in tackles (7th; 2 tackles, 2 assists)
- St. Louis punts at least 6 times (5 punts)
- Dallas Cowboys have 40 minutes of possession time (33:56)
Remember, you read it here! The Great Robbini predictions for week #7.
UPDATED: October 24, 2011 6:00 PM
The Boys Are Back POSTGAME SUMMARY: Was a great week for the Dallas Cowboys … not so great for the St. Louis Rams or The GREAT Robbini! He ended up with 3 of 10 predictions and actually … pretty close on a few more. I’d say he’s about 50% with the effort this week. Dallas had 3 takeaways, not 4 … and Ware was a beast in the 4th quarter! DeMarcus only recorded one sack, but was in Freeley’s face multiple times. Sean Lee was the 7th ranked tackler for the Dallas Cowboys this week. Most of the tackles came from the Dallas secondary … with Elam, James, and Jenkins leading the way. Dallas forced St. Louis to punt 5 times. The Great Robbini predicted six. Pretty close. Dallas recorded a 33:56 minute possession game … lead by remarkable running from rookies DeMarco Murray and Phillip Tanner. Read about DeMarco Murray’s historic day with numerous posts on The Boys Are Back blog. The Cowboys offense racked up 445 net yards, including 294 yards on the ground. Diamond Dez Bryant and Jason Witten provided most of the passing-game balance. Dez broke his 4th quarter slump with an impressive showing throughout the game. Miles Austin hasn’t made his mark since returning from the injury two weeks ago. Hopefully, he’ll be back on track against Dallas’ upcoming division rival, Philadelphia Eagles.