EARTH CITY, Mo. -- As Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers marched the Packers offense up and down the field seemingly at will on Saturday afternoon, it opened the door for questions about the St. Louis Rams defense.
By the times Rodgers' two series were through, he'd completed 11-of-13 passes for 128 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Starting running back Eddie Lacy had five carries for 25 yards, and the Packers had 10 points that weren't 14 only because a penalty nullified another Rodgers' touchdown pass.
The Packers' no huddle, uptempo approach clearly had the Rams on their heels.
But coach Jeff Fisher said after the game that his defense was playing about as vanilla as possible, hence the easy drives.
"We anticipated the no huddle out of Aaron, so we kept things basic," Fisher said. "We actually practiced it yesterday, but we kept things very, very basic on defense, and I thought it was a really good exercise for our defense in both those drives. Then obviously, we started subbing, I think we had two drives for 20 plays, and that was enough for our starters."
The claims of a vanilla approach are common in the preseason, not only for the Rams, but for all the teams around the league. In looking at the Rams' defense, it was clear that they indeed weren't doing much of anything other than simply lining up and playing. The cornerbacks spent most of the day lining up 7 or 8 yards off the line of scrimmage and the safeties were so far from the line that they weren't even visible at times.
On at least a couple of plays, safety Rodney McLeod was 20 yards away from the line of scrimmage and moving backwards at the snap. The Rams didn't blitz and the defensive line offered little in the way of stunts.
All of those things are far different than what the Rams do on the practice field everyday. It also yielded almost nothing in the way of pass rush and provided big holes in the run game along with easy completions.
"We had a couple pressures," Fisher said. "We had a couple of single pressures with Aaron. Our philosophy was to just line up and play and not rely on the pressure. We pressured a little bit last week and not allowing the pressure, of course. We’re holding a lot of stuff for our regular season as well."
As the regular season approaches, perhaps the Rams will show a little more defensively in the final two preseason games though they obviously won't give away much. Getting key starters like linebacker James Laurinaitis, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and defensive tackle Michael Brockers back should also provide some help.
Asked about the early defensive struggles, defensive end Chris Long offered an important reminder about what can and cannot be gleaned from the preseason.
"The guys in those locker rooms and in the film room and on the team learn a lot, but often times the people outside the building don’t learn as much because it’s hard to decipher what’s real and what’s not," Long said. "That’s the way preseason is, it’s not always indicative of how things are going to go on the field. For us it’s just about continuing to work on the little things and the result will become more important in a couple of weeks.”
Given the amount of talent on the defense and the presence of coordinator Gregg Williams, there's little reason not to give this group the benefit of the doubt. The real verdict can't be rendered until September.