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Monday, September 21, 2009

A Heartbreaker in D.C.: Redskins 9, Rams 7

Posted By on Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 11:30 AM

Page 2 of 2

-- The one and only real bright spot on the day was the performance of Steven Jackson, who managed to amass more than 100 yards against a Washington D-line which featured both Albert Haynesworth and the talented rookie, Brian Orakpo. However, even Jackson's performance, solid as it was, didn't come without a caveat. 
click to enlarge Doesn't really relate to anything, I know, but I thought it was a funny picture. - LIOGRAPHY.COM
  • Doesn't really relate to anything, I know, but I thought it was a funny picture.
First, the play-calling was questionable again this week, notably in terms of not using Jackson in several key spots. Late in the game, staring 3rd-and-2 in the face, the Rams chose to go pass rather than hand the ball again to Jackson, even though he had gained eight yards on the previous two plays. Memo to Pat Shurmur: just because your play-calling Week 1 was supremely uninspired does not mean the proper way to atone is to get cute in key situations the next week. Go with what's working, okay? Short yardage on 3rd down, in likely 4 down territory anyhow, hand the ball to the big fellow and let him move the chains. Period. The bottom line is this: Steven Jackson had a very nice day, going over 100 yards against a very tough run defense. However, he did so on only 17 carries. Especially late in the game, when it was clear he was beginning to make some real headway against the defense, Jackson should have gotten several more carries than he did. 

The second component to Jackson's performance being less than it could have been is Jackson himself. Too many times -- and not just yesterday, but in most games the past few years -- we see Jackson take the ball, do that little stutter-step dance routine of his, then run right into a defender. In most of those situations, if he had simply taken the ball and run with it, rather than trying to get fancy with his footwork, Jackson could have gained significantly more yardage. It was especially noticeable in yesterday's game when on multiple occasions, Mike Karney opened up a great hole for Jackson to go through, and Jackson instead threw his hesitation move in there and ended up being brought down for a much smaller gain than he should have. Donnie Avery's fumble may never have occurred if Jackson had run hard ahead a couple plays earlier, when Karney blasted him an absolutely huge hole right through the Washington D-line. 

In the past, Jackson has often left yardage on the field, but he has also had to try and create his own space a lot of the time, leading to him hesitating behind the line of scrimmage as he tries to let a hole develop. In this current offensive system, though, with a fullback doing much of the heavy lifting, Jackson absolutely must learn to simply accelerate through the hole created, rather than trying to do it all himself and, more often than not, failing to take full advantage of the yards available. 

-- And finally, as I near the end of my ranting about the Rams' offensive woes, I still just don't quite understand the philosophy behind this offense. The Rams feature a power running back who can force teams to stack the box, but they're going with a dink-and-doink sort of west coast attack to complement the running game. This offense has shown absolutely no ability to stretch the field, allowing teams to play shallow zones without fear of getting beaten deep. There was talk all offseason about committing to the run, and really building the offense around Steven Jackson, but he has yet to run the ball 20 times in either of the Rams' first two games of the season. 

There are two ways to score points in the NFL: you can have talent, or you can have a plan. The Rams are painfully short on talent, and they don't seem to have much of a plan. There are a very limited number of good weapons on offense for this team; until they start taking advantage of the few they do possess, I think the Rams are in for a whole lot more failing to put points on the board. And it's a shame, too, because it looks as if the defense just might be good enough for this team to win some games. 

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