RamView: Week 1 – Coaching

* Strategery: Well, nobody can criticize Steve Spagnuolo for not being aggressive enough. Aggression was the watchword for the whole game plan. Spagnuolo and Pat Shurmur obviously trust Bradford, too, after having him throw a near-record number of times his first game. The positively Martzian pass/run ratio was about the last thing I ever expected out of Shurmur. And here we go bipolar again: the Rams were aggressive because of all the passing, but the passing wasn’t real aggressive. A little more downfield than the first two preseason games, but the flavor was still there that Shurmur’s still breaking the rookie in. And Shurmur didn’t beat the blitz much; the Cardinals really dictated the pace there, though a couple of Jackson draws into blitzes were a block or a step away from breaking big. I think what really ruined the day for Shurmur, a recurring theme for him, was the first possession out of halftime. I’m convinced he wanted to pass in the first half to set up the run in the 2nd half. Arizona stuffed Jackson after halftime instead, and now the offense is in trouble again. This is becoming a more and more blitz-happy league; Shurmur is going to have to find ways to keep it off balance. I was surprised not to see an end-around or even a fake one, and the Rams’ screen game was nil. The ultimate blitz-beater, though, would be the speedy change-of-pace to Jackson who has never been on the roster. So, yes, I’m ironically pining in 2010 for somebody like Trung Canidate.

If aggression was the offensive watchword, it was nuclear aggression for the defense, where Ken Flajole dialed up more blitzing than I can remember here for a very long time. He was especially zone-blitz crazy early on, and it was effective more often than not, and the ridiculous amount of blitzing did hold the opponent to a respectable 17 points. I’m going to stay on record, though, as saying the zone blitzing makes the defensive ends think too much and detracts from the rest of their game. And while Chris Long and George Selvie were effective rushers with blitz company, one-on-one, they looked like squat, and that’s when the D got burned. Here’s where zone blitzing works, just to show I’m not completely ignorant: at least twice, Arizona bunched 3 WRs on one side and the Rams only had two DBs and the nearest DE over there to cover them. Anderson could never exploit that mismatch; the blitz came from the single receiver side, and he threw hot read over there, not having the time to see Long covering a wideout on the other side. Last complaint, I don’t think any of Fitzgerald’s catches were off of Bartell, so red zone in the 4th quarter would have seemed like an ideal time just to have Ron cover Larry wherever he lined up, wouldn’t it?

Along with all this aggressive play-calling, all the evidence we needed to see that Steve Spagnuolo is stepping up his game from last year is that he went for the 4th-and-goal before halftime instead of kicking the FG. That situation automatically sent in the kicking team last year. Good for Spags. I respect that aggression even though I think it needs to be dialed back a little in the game plan. One thing Spagnuolo better get straight soon, though, is clock management. They butchered the endgame today. The Rams lost a good 20 seconds at midfield during the final minute, without spiking the ball (though it was first down) and while sitting on two timeouts. Atrocious.


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