The Rams will face a desperate team Sunday. The Raiders will be motivated by the home crowd and the embarrassing way they played in a 38 to 12 loss at Tennessee. But make no mistake this is not a good Raider team. Tom Cable gets credit for directing his team to a 5-11 record last season. I don't know how they won five games but they did.
The Rams mission this week is to get more bang for their buck. They ran 81 plays from scrimmage but netted just 13 points. Their average yards gained per pass attempt was 4.6--worst in the NFL in week one. So how do the Rams get more downfield production in the passing game without a serious deep threat at wide receiver? Former NFL coach Rick Venturi thinks the key is staying with the running game even against eight man fronts. I'm thinking the Rams have to get more creative in the passing game but Venturi says they have to be more creative in the run game. He advocates staying with the run and alternately spreading the field and using two or three tight ends. He believes that coming out throwing will play to the Raiders strength on defense. They are--by 2009 stats and week one results (205 yards rushing by Tennessee)--a much better pass defense than run defense. Interesting that Tennessee scored 38 points but threw the ball just 16 times. I expect Sam Bradford to throw more than that but not 55 times as he did in week one.
I also would love to see the Rams get back to checking the ball down to Jackson more often. He was brilliant in the passing game in 2006 (a franchise record 90 receptions) and did most of his damage on simple checkdowns. I know this as a former linebacker: the last thing you want to do is to break back toward the line of scrimmage from your pass drop and then have to take on a big, physical running back who has a head of steam and is operating in space. The screen game should also be implemented and I know Pat Shurmur is trying to improve that area. Marc Bulger couldn't sell a screen pass to save his life. Sam Bradford can.