Examining the Rams: Five Points

The Rams have had a shaky start to the 2014 season, with less to show for it than a fortunate Eagles team has. Still, they're not to be underestimated.

AMBITIOUS AUSTIN

When Sam Bradford was lost for the season this summer, the rumor mill ran rampant on potential trades for a new quarterback. Eagles fans know this, because Mark Sanchez had his name tied to said trade speculation. Instead, coach Jeff Fisher announced the team would rally behind journeyman Shaun Hill under center.

A quadriceps injury halted Hill's forge at one half, with inexperienced third-year man Austin Davis stepping in during the team's flaying at the hands of the Vikings. Davis has remained the starter since, posting a league-topping 72.3 percentage of completions over ten quarters of play.

Across two starts, Davis has completed a little over 73 percent of his throws for three touchdowns and two interceptions. Davis also gets plenty of mileage out of his throws, averaging 7.18 net yards per attempt, and a whopping 11.09 yards per completion. A big part of Davis' success hinges on the emergence of the man in the next bullet point.

QUICK-LY MAKING A NAME

2012 second-round receiver Brian Quick had as pedestrian a pair of seasons as you can have in the NFL. Despite being active for 31 games, Quick started six, catching 29 passes for 458 yards and four touchdowns. That equates to less than a catch per game, and less than 15 yards an outing.

In three games this season, the 6'4" wideout is over halfway to matching his career reception total with 16 snags, for a sum of 235 yards and a touchdown. That's 14.69 yards a catch, and over 78 yards per game on average.

All you can really count against Quick at the moment are three penalties over three games, excessive for a receiver. Two of them are especially costly: a face-mask against the Vikings, and offensive interference vs. the Cowboys, which nullified a 30-yard completion to Jared Cook.

SCORING DIFFICULTIES

While Davis has proven to be much better than lowered skid-row expectations Rams fans may have had regarding the quarterback position, the team has had extreme difficulty converting its yards into points. After three games, St. Louis has averaged a miserable 138.11 yards per touchdown scored, the third worst average after Week 3.

The yards look fine: 318 vs Minnesota, 339 at Tampa Bay, and a whopping 448 hosting Dallas. Then you realize only six points were scored in that confusing loss to the Vikings, 19 in the lucky win against the Bucs, and 31 in the disastrous letdown against the Cowboys.

The Dallas loss was marred by three turnovers, half of the season total. The Rams have converted nearly 45 percent of their third downs, among the better teams in the league, so coughing up the rock at inopportune times has been a bane of St. Louis' young season.

MISSING PASS RUSH

Clear skies have provided cheery dispositions for opposing offenses. The 'Thunder Storm' duo of Robert Quinn and Chris Long have been kept out of the sack column entirely. Long has been absent since Week 1, going on short-term IR with an ankle injury, but Quinn, he of 19 sacks a season ago, has none this year.

In fact, the Rams have only one sack: first-round selection Aaron Donald managed to drop Josh McCown in Week 2. The team with 53 sacks a season ago is merely on pace for five this season, although that trend will most certainly change. Still, they'd need four a game going forward to reach last season's total.

Little surprise the effect that the poor pass rush has had on the passing game at large. Opponents are completing 74 percent of their passes against St. Louis, averaging over eight yards per dropback. The defensive 105.1 passer rating is among the worst in the NFL.

POUROUS RUN D

It might not be so bad if the run defense could hold its own as well. To make matters worse, opponents of the Rams are averaging 5.11 yards per run. While Cordarrelle Patterson's 102 yards on three carries in Week 1 skews the numbers a bit, it doesn't tell the whole story.

Bobby Rainey (144) and DeMarco Murray (100) have each hit the century mark against St. Louis, making it seem feasible that a frustrated LeSean McCoy could do the same, especially with reliable right tackle Lane Johnson back in the mix. These are the Rams that only allowed four 100-yard rushers all last season.

The absence of Long on the edge hurts the Rams' run-stopping capabilties, absolutely, but James Laurinaitis has been ineffective this season, while misdirection plays are catching the Rams' defense off guard. The defense has suddenly become rudderless, and at an alarming pace.

Follow Justin Henry on Twitter


War Nest Top Stories