With the quick turnaround from Sunday’s quarter pole of the season to Thursday’s game, there wasn’t an opportunity to hand out some grades on early returns. The long layoff between games has given that opportunity. Although it’s slightly after the one-quarter mark of the season, let’s get into some positional grades from the first five games:
Though it’s the first, this may be the hardest position of any to grade. The good? The team is 3-2, Sam Bradford has more touchdowns (6) than interceptions (5) and aside from Thursday’s 7-for-21 performance he’s been fairly accurate. The bad? The team still struggles to move the ball and score touchdowns, and the quarterback is at the center of both those inabilities. In the end, I won’t punish Bradford too much for an entire offense’s struggles.
Running backs: C+
It’s hard to flag Steven Jackson for playing through injuries, but he’s been ineffective when on the field, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. Daryl Richardson has been a nice change of pace, but Rams running backs have yet to score a touchdown this year. That won’t do.
Wide receivers/tight ends: B
Danny Amendola was on his way to a big season before going down with the clavicle injury last week. Brandon Gibson has made a couple big catches, and Chris Givens is the deep threat the Rams have been searching for the past few years. The only knock on the group is that they still struggle to get open at times.
Offensive line: B-
Bradford has stayed cleaner than many would expect with the offensive line’s revolving door, and when Rodger Saffold and Scott Wells return it should only make the line stronger. But the team has had trouble moving the ball on the ground, and the game in Chicago a few weeks ago highlighted what a dominant front four can do against the replacement-level linemen the Rams have to rely on for a few more weeks.
Defensive line: B+
They struggled to stop the run in the absence of Michael Brockers, but there’s no doubt ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn can wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks in passing situations. Jermelle Cudjo, William Hayes and Eugene Sims are the unsung heroes of a line that’s deeper than a lot of people think.
This might be a bit harsh, but the numbers paint a rosier picture of the linebacker play than has shown up on the field. James Laurinaitis has a quiet 49 tackles and hasn’t been the difference-maker that Ray Lewis or Patrick Willis is at the middle linebacker spot. Jo-Lonn Dunbar has been a pleasant surprise with a sack and an interception through five games, but linebacker has been the weakness of an otherwise very strong defense.
You can’t give it any other grade. Their eight interceptions to only two passing touchdowns allowed is the best ratio in the league. They’ve kept big-time receivers Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald out of the end zone. They bend, but they’ve very rarely broken thus far.
Special teams: A+
Gregory. Cornelius. Zuerlein.
Before the season, ESPN the Magazine projected the Rams to win zero games. By that estimation, three wins might as well be a Super Bowl appearance. Jeff Fisher has done an unbelievable job changing the attitude in the Rams locker room, and it’s reflected on the scoreboard. Rams fans couldn’t have asked for more through five games.