The St. Louis Rams head the second week of the preseason with much to improve on after struggling through an 18-3 loss to the Oakland Raiders last Friday.
The Rams offense was nearly non-existent along with two players suffering potential long-term injuries in the game. However, they will get a chance to clean things up this week against the Tennessee Titans. Here are three adjustments St. Louis must make on Sunday night:
Open up playbook more
With his first game in a Rams’ uniform under his belt, quarterback Nick Foles should have a better understanding of his team’s game plan.
It’s no secret that St. Louis under head coach Jeff Fisher has developed a run-first offensive identity. That said, the addition of Foles and new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti could change that a bit. In truth, the 26-year-0ld Foles has shown the ability in the past that he can lead a team with his arm. St. Louis has also made it clear that they are confident in what he can do after signing him to a two-year extension without him even playing a game for the team.
Ultimately, the Rams will likely open up the playbook a bit more for Foles this week. The hope is that he can build off his encouraging performance last week against the Raiders.
Focus on stopping the run
Despite continued improvement on defense for the Rams last season, they ranked just 14th in the league against the run allowing 110.3 yards per game. This trend continued against the Raiders last week, giving up 102 rushing yards.
St. Louis improved the defensive line by signing former Detroit Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley in hopes that he can help clog up the running lanes for opposing teams. Unfortunately, the Rams still struggled to accomplish that against Oakland last Friday with Latavius Murray leading the way with 35 rushing yards on just six carries in limited action.
The task doesn’t get easier this week for the Rams against another young and hungry running back in Titans rookie David Cobb, who produced a strong performance last week with 53 yards on 11 rush attempts. The Rams must limit the Titans’ rushing attack from the get-go as much of their offense is predicated on first establishing the run.
This is also a vitally important aspect of the game that St. Louis must excel at due to the NFC West being filled with run-first teams like the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers. If the Rams want to take that next step this season, it will require vast improvement in stopping the run.
It was an all-too-familiar struggle for the Rams last week against the Raiders with their offensive line allowing three sacks and four hits on the quarterback.
It is expected that there will be plenty of bumps and bruises along the way for their young group that will feature three new faces in the starting lineup. However, their performance against the Raiders was at times frustrating and hard to watch because of the lack of consistent blocking.
This was most notable with left tackle Greg Robinson, who had his fair share of trouble blocking second-year linebacker Khalil Mack. On the other hand, there was also some encouraging play from the team’s rookies in right guard Jamon Brown and right tackle Rob Havenstein.
With the Rams electing to go young and inexperienced on their offensive line this season, there will be many learning moments along the way. That said, this week’s matchup against Tennessee will provide invaluable experience for them to grow and improve.