Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
On Sunday, the Los Angeles Rams lost their third consecutive game in London, England against the New York Giants where the Rams hosted International NFL. The Rams started quickly after a forced fumble caused by Williams Hayes and Lamarcus Joyner and recovered by E.J. Gaines. The Rams scored soon after Case Keenum hit Tavon Austin for a 10-yard touchdown pass. The Giants next ensuing drive was quickly stopped after four plays and Rams forced a punt. The offense moved the ball some but the drive ended on Keenum sack, and the Rams settled for a field goal by Greg Zuerline.
The Giants were able to score on their only offensive touchdown, a one-yard plunge by running back Rashard Jennings late in the fourth quarter. The touchdown resulted in the game-winner for the Giants. Jennings touchdown run was nearly uncontested, as he almost literally walked into the end-zone. Eli Manning handed the ball to Jennings whom then ran left between the left guard and tackle. Middle linebacker Alec Ogletree, overpursued, misreading Jennings, in which he then whiffs on an attempted arm tackle allowing Jennings to score. In the NFL, middle linebackers are expected to make those types of plays, especially inside the red zone.
The 2016 offseason, the Rams moved Ogletree from strong-side backer to middle linebacker after the release of James Laurinaitis. On May 2, 2016, Ogletree along with fellowed Rams teammate Tavon Austin had their fifth-year options picked up by the Rams. On paper, it looked well with the Rams penciling in Ogletree at middle-linebacker, but it is my opinion, it may have been the wrong decision.
While at the University of Georgia, Ogletree played safety during his college tenure. He was frequently used as a linebacker as NFL scouts explored him at that position. In 2013, with a 30th overall pick, he was drafted by the then St. Louis Rams in the first round. As a rookie, Ogletree started outside linebacker and was putting up significant numbers his first two season recording over 100 tackles each of those seasons and causing ten forced fumbles. Unfortunately, in his third season, he suffered an injury, breaking his fibula in which it forced him to miss the remaining of the season despite being placed on PUP return list. Ogletree had registered 42 tackles, 27 of them solo, and two sacks. This 2016 season through seven games, Ogletree has recorded 57 tackles, 47 of those are solo, and no sacks, with one forced fumble. His play is declining at the middle linebacker position, and his past stats prove that he’s more effective as an outside linebacker.
The 2016 season has seemed to be a roller coaster of a ride for the Rams new middle linebacker. In week one, he was exposed the entire game leaving gaping holes where the 49ers running backs attacked successfully as well as quarterback Blaine Gabbert. In week two, there seemed to be a bit of promise where Ogletree would be seen flying all over the field and creating a forced fumble and recovery to secure a victory against the Seattle Seahawks, in the Rams first home game in Los Angeles since 1979. The next few contests, teams started running at Ogletree with success, many of times catching Ogletree either over committing or telegraphing blitzes. It all came to light once the Rams played the Buffalo Bills in week five, where LeSean McCoy ran wild against the Rams defense. If its any consolations, the Rams were missing 75 percent of their starting defensive lineman all who were out for injuries.
Week six featured a Detroit Lions team that had three running backs inactive due to injuries and played the game with a second-year fullback and newly signed running back Justin Forsett. Zach Zenner was able to hurt the Rams inside on runs that caught Ogletree once again out of position. Ogletree lousy play resulted in the Rams losing the second straight game and their third against the Giants this past Sunday.
My opinion if this Rams defense want’s to become that fearful defense they once were such as last season, position changes need to addressed on quickly. Alex Ogletree needs to be placed back outside with Mark Barron, and if the Rams are not comfortable with Bryce Hager or Josh Forrest as starters, then go search for a free agent linebacker with experience. However, wait, here is an interesting choice for the Rams that in search of a veteran linebacker who can secure the middle. A.J. Hawk, the once Green Bay Packers middle linebacker was released by the Atlanta Falcons earlier this week. A.J. Hawk can be a two down, and short yardage linebacker and Ogletree can shift to the middle on third downs. I feel that this would allow Greg Williams to create more savvy blitz packages he signaled in with Laurinaitis in the middle.
The Rams can use an overhaul at safety as well, by moving Maurice Alexander to strong safety and starting Cody Davis at the free safety spot. Davis has better read and reaction skills to the ball when it's in the air than Alexander. It showed in the game against the Giants where Alexander should have either deflected or picked off a Manning pass that hung in the air for Odell Beckham Jr who jumped up and caught it setting up the game-winning touchdown. Don't expect to see the big hits from Davis but, you also will not see many receivers getting deep without him contesting on the ball every time there is an opportunity. TJ McDonald on the other hand, especially with his legal woes still pending, should be platooned with Alexander as well and be brought in an extra linebacker to help assist with run support. Once again, these are my opinion that I see may help the Rams moving forward this season to make a wildcard push.
Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
The Dallas Cowboys former starting quarterback Tony Romo suffered a vertebral compression fracture during the first quarter of the Cowboys third preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks. His injury had opened the doors up for the starting quarterback position for the rookie sensation Dak Prescott; a fourth-round draft picks out of Mississippi State. Prescott play has been so fantastic, that he has been the best rookie quarterback selected from the 2016 NFL Draft. Statistically, Prescott has been breaking records this 2016 season with 176 passing attempts breaking the record for most consecutive pass attempts without an interception of starting a career. The record previously was held by the New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady with 162 efforts in the 2000 NFL season.
The Los Angeles Rams selected quarterback Jared Goff from the University of California Berkeley, with their number one overall pick, which was 134 selections before Prescott. Rams fans everywhere were joyful from the choice and were anxious to see the newly drafted quarterback play. One problem lurked in the midst of the freshly prepared quarterback, he never played under center and had to make that big transition to the NFL. Pre-season had arrived, and to say the least Goff play was subpar, the angry fans turned against him and Head Coach Jeff Fisher. Goff's first couple games were so terrible; many NFL analyst begins to compare him to past number one overall draft bust. In week one of the NFL season, Fisher named Case Keenum as the starting quarterback of the L.A. Rams as Goff would find himself inactive for the game. Fans were comfortable with Goff's inactivity due to his poor performances. Many rallied for second-year quarterback Sean Mannion, who outperformed the other two quarterbacks in preseason, by uniting the team back twice to wins, including the first game in Los Angeles since 1979 in front of 90,000 spectators at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Playing in front of 75,000 spectators on Sunday afternoon in London, England, the Los Angeles Ram lost their third consecutive game against the New York Giants. The outcome of those losses was so critical that fans were urgently calling for Coach Jeff Fisher's termination. It’s wasn’t about how the Rams lost the game, but the way they lost, as well as Coach Fisher’s comments at the Rams, post-game interview.
The Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones, made it public that when Tony Romo became healthy and returned to the Cowboys from injury, Romo would be the starting quarterback for Dallas Cowboys. Even though Prescott has the Cowboys not only in first place but also has a 100 passing rating, with seven touchdown passes, to just one interception. The buzz around the NFL and Cowboys fan base were people were questioning instead if Jerry Jones was utterly deranged?
The Los Angeles Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher stated after his team lost to the New York Giants that the quarterback position was not the reason why his team lost. Fisher went on to mention in his post-game interview that Case played well and that he was not making any changes to that position. Aiding to Keenum’s defense, witnessing the game live, two of the four interceptions were not Keenum’s fault, but the other two were from poorly thrown passes. If Coach Fisher honestly doesn't believe that a change at quarterback is needed, then he is just as ornery as a mule!
The similarities between Jones and Fisher is creating not only media outraged, but also public criticism. My question is why would a team owner bench a player that has performed and played as well as Prescott has played? Why is head coach refusing to bench a player that has thrown interceptions in his last fives games? Four of the five interceptions came on drives that could have potentially tied or won the game for the Rams?
My thoughts are, if Jones benches Prescott from Romo’s return and they lose out, it would be a complete meltdown and the Cowboy nation will go insane. If Coach Fisher does not play Jared Goff, and Keenum continues to start and play mediocre, then the Los Angeles Rams fans will once again turn their back against the Rams by refusing to show up for home games.
The Rams organization can’t afford this attention nor the scrutiny by allowing the fans to resist because of the coach’s indecisions. I’ve supported Coach Fisher and Case Keenum up to this point. However, after Sunday’s game, I knew for a fact that Keenum’s was over and it was time for Goff or Mannion to be named the new starting quarterback. Shaking up the coaching staff, by replacing the offensive coordinator as well as the offensive line coach will provide better offensive play. The project of Alec Ogletree playing middle linebacker is not working either; he should transition back to the outside where he has performed excellently throughout his short career.
If these changes not executed soon, let’s say Fisher's days are non-existent in Los Angeles. Sunday’s loss joined Jeff Fisher to a list of coaches of none who would enjoy being apart. Fisher has lost his 160th game as a coach and placing him only two games behind the legendary Tom Landry. If Fisher loses three additional games after tying Landry, he will then become linked with Dan Reeves as the most losses by a head coach. Per sources, reports made that since in week one that Fisher is due a three-year contract extension. If this is true, Fisher must have something hanging over Stan Kroenke head for him to accept his recent franchise losses.
My opinion is to prevent Rams faithful from turning their back against the organization again until Fisher fired.
Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
In the 2015 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams (now Los Angeles), surprised many, when they selected Todd Gurley, RB from the University of Georgia as their 10th overall pick.
Gurley earned All-SEC honors in 2012 and 2013, however, in October 2015, he was suspended by the University of Georgia for his alleged violation of NCAA rules. Georgia was able to decide in just two days from their investigation which and determined that Gurley has accepted over $3000 for at least a two year period for signing autographs and memorabilia. Gurley suspension would be for three games.
However, the NFL was shocked that he was drafted not because of the sanction violations, their surprise was that he had suffered a significant knee injury tearing his ACL during his junior year at Georgia. Gurley was still drafted in the first round and had not fully recovered from his season-ending injury.
Gurley made his NFL debut against the Pittsburgh Steelers last season, where he played sparingly and finished the game with only nine yards on six carries. Gurley’s next game, the Rams visited then, the undefeated Arizona Cardinals for an NFC West contest. Anticipated that perhaps the Rams may have gambled on a bust because Gurley on had rushed for only two yards by the half. However, by the second half, Gurley showed the Cardinals why the Rams picked him tenth overall by carving up Arizona’s defense for 144 yards in the second half while the Rams stunned the Cardinals 24-22. Gurley’s next three games, he rushed for over 100 yards each eclipsing the 1,000 marks later that season with earning him the Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Gurley’s 2016 season, well let's say it just not quite what Gurley and the Rams fan base had expected. Gurley has yet to have rushed for over 100 yards in six games played. If its any consolation, its honestly not all been his fault. Although the Rams had played in a few games that were favorable matchups, however, with the lack of production from his offensive line, the finger can be pointed mostly the line’s direction. Ram's opposition has done chiefly nothing but given Gurley eight and nine-man fronts, and daring the offense to run.
At this point, I’m would address these following questions:
1. Has Todd Gurley been subjected to the sophomore running back jinx?
2. Has Todd Gurley become frustrated due to the lack of production of his offensive line?
3. Has Todd Gurley been a victim to Space Jam?
One is to assume of answering these questions, my selection of choice would be none other than he’s frustrated with the offensive line play.
Todd Gurley has yet to rush for a one hundred yard game this season. His rushing average is at 58.4 yards per game. It is my opinion that he is running as conservative as the play calls thus far this season. Facing nearly eight and nine-man fronts per down, he has continuous pressure meeting him in at the line of scrimmage or even in the backfield. This pressure seemed to have taken his desire to read his blocks efficiently. Analyzing Gurley’s runs, I have determined him to protect the ball and run forward riding his lineman and hoping for a crack of daylight.
On fourth down and goal with the ball lying on the half yard line, (see photos below), my opinion a play called was designed for Gurley to run left, with a lead block from fullback Corey Harkey and right guard Jamon Brown pulling left. Gurley missed the read, had he continued to run left; he would of almost certain scored untouched. However, it wasn’t the first time that he's misread a play. Once in the first quarter, quarterback Case Keenum audible to run left, and Gurley went right. Again in the third quarter, an audible was called, where Gurley was to run up the middle instead, he started running directly but cut back just enough to get the handoff from Keenum and was hit for a loss.
It looks like something had physically bothering Gurley, or didn't have his mind into the game. Despite the bad play of the offensive line in recent weeks, they started with a beneficial run game. Fans were at ease waiting for that home-run rush, but it never materialized. There have been games had Gurley ran upright and cut back, he may take it the distance.
Rams host the New York Giants on Sunday at Twickenham Stadium in London, England. This game will serve as a reunion for several Rams and Giants players and coaches. Ex-Ram defensive backs Janoris Jenkins, who signed a free agent deal with the Giants this past off-season and Coty Sensabaugh who was released by the Rams after the fourth game into the season will have all eyes on the both. Rams love to have Sensabaugh matched up one on one with a receiver because they will take many shots as possible. Ex-Rams head coach and Giants current defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnoula, is preparing to put together a masterpiece defensive scheme to try and stop Gurley. Gurley will have to be ready to go with a healthy mind because the Giants will blitz early and often.
Many are speculating that this will serve as Gurley break out game this season. The crowd will be of a neutral setting, but the Rams are the home team. Look for the Rams offensive line try and overmatched the smaller sized defensive line when 6’4” 350 pounds, defensive tackle Damon Harrison is not in the game. Without Harrison, the Giants Defensive Line averages 265 pounds across the front. Rams center Tim Barnes and guards Jamon Brown and Roger Saffold will need to anchor down and contain Harrison. If the offensive line can be productive and capable of providing Harrison, look for Gurley to have size-able carries. If not, then Gurley will remain frustrated, and the choice two will apply of the sophomore jinx.
Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
There is a great deal of a "hoopla" circulating in the air, and many demanding for the removal of Head Coach Jeff Fisher and his staff, however, Fisher does have the support of a few fan base that agrees with Coach Fisher and the direction the L.A. Rams are moving. A simple way to address the issues is that Coach Fisher is not on the playing field on game day, and nor can he go out and play for his players. However, it is the player's responsibility to carry out the coaching techniques and teachings by executing them on the playing field.
Specifically speaking, I'm identifying and addressing the offensive line in particular! I say this, from my observations and analysis, the ultimate problem with this L.A. Rams offense is the O-line and its offensive line coach, Coach Paul T. Boudreau.
When Boudreau was the O-Line Coach for the Rams in 2006, S-Jax (Steven Jackson) rushed for over 1,500 yards that season. When Boudreau was coaching in ATL, Michael Turner nearly rushed for 1,700 yards in 2008, as well as the next two seasons; Turner rushed for over 1,000 yards. However, Boudreaux was fired, as well as a reoccurrence with him in Carolina, Miami, JAX, and with his second stint with the Rams in Los Angeles. The firing of Boudreau simply was because his run blocking success, which led to career highs for running backs, but his offensive lines also led the league in allowing a high number of sacks! Talented runners under the regime of the o-lines Boudreau had coached Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin, Thurman Thomas, and Fred Taylor.
Since 2012, with Fisher hiring Boudreau as the offensive line coach, the offensive line woes have continued, given up over 136 sacks, which averaged out to 27.2 sacks per season. If its any consolation, two of those season of the Rams were decimated by injuries to the offensive line, in which the Rams were hiring players that were coming out of retirement to play. At this alarming rate, there is no offense in the league that can stand a chance to survive with averaging these amount of sacks and also relying on the run game.
It is now 2016, and guess what people, the run game is just simply not getting any better, and the passing game has been hindered, with inconsistency and the inability of our offensive line to protect the quarterback from constant pressure. Do your homework and view the statistics. Five games into 2016, Case Keenum, has already been sacked 12 times this season, of these sacks, three have resulted from 3rd down and less than 2 yards of converting a first down.
In the 2015 NFL Draft, the Rams had a plan to draft running back Todd Gurley. Having numerous amount of draft picks that they acquired via trades, the Rams were set to launch a run game which led to Gurley's selection as the rookie of the year. Fisher and his staff stockpiled the draft by selecting offensive linemen in the second, third, fourth, and sixth rounds of that 2015 draft. These draft picks were Rob Havenstein OT, Jamon Brown OL, Andrew Donnal OL, and Cody Wichmann OG, with both Havenstein and Brown starting on the right side of the offensive line. Brown's season was cut short due to a broken leg, and nagging injuries hampered Havenstein's season. Wichmann ended up replacing Brown after his season-ending injury, but, as well as this season, because of Brown's ineffectiveness in week one against the San Francisco 49ers. Unfortunately, Wichmann game was cut short early in the first quarter yesterday against the Bills sustaining an ankle injury.
In that 2015 season, the Rams offensive line surrendered up 21 sacks, and it's my opinion, that total may have been higher of a number, had it not been for the athletic ability of Case Keenum escaping away from many potential sacks. Do the math; it's not rocket science, I believe that Boudreau coaching ability and teachings have surpassed him. These offensive linemen are getting beat to their spots on the field, in which they are making unnecessary penalties. His system is no longer active with the run game as well as the passing game, with that said, his oppositions, (the defensive coaches) have outsmarted his style of coaching. It is eminent that Coach Boudreau replaced, if he his not, I'm afraid that these offensive woes will continue to have a downward spiraling effect.
However, this is just my opinion!