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RamView: Preseason Week 1 – Special Teams/Coaching

* Special teams: Hey, we have the next Az Hakim on our hands in Danny Amendola. He returned a punt 93 yards for a TD, and fumbled the next punt away to set up a Minnesota TD. Classic Az, that. On the TD return, Amendola pretty much just juked the first guy and took off up the sideline, getting a massive block right in front of the coaches, a truck whose number I sadly did not get. On the fumble, though, he made the mistake of trying to take off with the ball before he had it put away. Still, Mardy Gilyard might want to make sure he’s first in line for treatment on his injured arm Monday morning. Quincy Butler was the backup kick returner but represented little threat. Not to say Tom McMahon’s special teams weren’t good. Larry Grant LAUNCHED into Asher Allen on a punt return for one of the best hits we’ve seen in the Dome. Vobora and Fendi Onobun made good plays in kick coverage, and Jordan Kent had his usual weekly stoppage of a punt near the goal line. Donnie Jones took way too much off a couple of punts for field position, but blasted a bunch more over 50 yards and still averaged 45.3. I really don’t need to see him punting NINE times in a preseason game, though. Think about going for it on more 4th downs, even if they’d be stupid to go for in the regular season. Shaun Suisham’s kicks were fine. Even with Amendola’s fumble and Josh Brown’s injury, special teams are the least of Rams Nation’s worries.

Coaching after the jump!

* Coaching/discipline: This game reminded me of the training camp session I attended at the beginning of this month. The passing game was about as daring as an episode of Matlock. Bradford or Feeley didn’t throw much that wasn’t either quick or short. I think there was a conscious effort to protect Saffold against Jared Allen. I laughed at seeing a fullback AND a tight end lined up around Bradford in his first obvious pass situation. That was ultra-max protect. Perhaps they’re waiting for the line to jell before they let Bradford throw anything downfield in a game situation, but there’ll be frustrating times ahead if that’s the case. Obviously no trick plays happening, though in defense of Shurmur and Co., the Vikings didn’t exactly do anything fancy, either. They just had the fortune of getting to go against the Keystone Kops (ok, and some desire to throw downfield). And did we see Rosenfels become the Vikings starter tonight? It was curious to see Tarvaris Jackson get yanked after one series, on which he blew a very makeable pass.

Ken Flajole did flash a wrinkle or two on defense. They didn’t blitz much, but Laurinaitis did get to blitz (and got nice pressure) before he went out, and Atogwe also came in at least once. All the blitzing I saw was over on Long’s side. There was an interesting personnel group at one point; they had a 4-DE line, but with Carpenter at DRE. And then they zone-blitzed out of it. I didn’t see Long drop back in coverage tonight but Selvie did a few times. I don’t honestly know if zone-blitzing contributed to any of the big plays. They did blitz big on the Mills TD bomb, and I really don’t get why. 3rd-and-11, just play straight-up D. Spagnuolo and Flajole obviously never read TMQ.

What enthused me most tonight, if anything, was the amount of hitting the team did. I don’t think this team has been known any for hitting since Toby Wright played. But tonight, there’s Grant decleating a punt returner. There’s Payne lighting up a WR on the sideline to break up a pass. I thought that was the best play of the night, because Gibson thumped Rosenfels right after he got that pass off. Vobora was hitting. Saffold pancaked a(nother) guy. Spagnuolo has the team playing physical, and you have to like that. He’s got them bought into the system; now they’re out there knocking guys around. The offense is going to need a lot of luck, to get the o-line to jell, and a lot of healthy Steven Jackson, to aspire to much more than a four-win season from the looks of things, even with my rose-colored Rams glasses on. The test Spagnuolo will have to pass again this season is to keep everybody rowing in the same direction like he did last year.

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