The Rams will face the Cowboys in Jerry’s palace today at 8:00 pm Eastern time. The third week of the preseason is typically when you see the starters play the most of any preseason game. From interviews with Jeff Fisher it appears that wont be the case for the Rams this year. If the Baltimore Ravens rest all their starters in the final week of preseason, which I expect will be the case, than this will still be the best preview of the 2012 Rams. So what are the things I am really looking forward to seeing tonight?
Run Defense. I am sure I don’t need to remind anyone of what happened last season against the Cowboys. Since the Cowboys were so successful on the ground last year I am looking towards this game as a measuring stick for our recent run stuffing additions. Michael Brockers and Kendal Langford are going to be counted on to vastly improve the run defense this year so this game should be a good litmus test for them. So far the Rams defense has been very effective against the run in the preseason so hopefully that trend will continue against DeMarco Murray tonight.
Offensive Line. The biggest question mark coming into the season was the offensive line with wide receivers coming in a close second. Will the big free agent pickup Scott Wells play in this game? If he does play how does the offensive line look together? Will Jason Smith reclaim his starting spot at right tackle? By most accounts he has been the better tackle through the preseason, could a strong showing in Dallas be enough to get him back into the starting 5?
Isaiah Pead. There isn’t a rookie on the roster that I am watching more closely. I watched Pead in college and was very excited when he was drafted by the Rams. So far though he has shown plenty of the rookie jitters. Can he overcome some of those rookie nerves and take what the defense gives him? If he does overcome the nerves and starts to develop a feel for the speed of the game in the NFL he can let his natural abilities take over and become an explosive weapon for the Rams.
Receivers. Wide receivers were supposed to be a big weakness for this team after the Rams missed out on the top talent in the draft. The Rams felt very good about Brian Quick and reportedly had him as a 1b on their draft board. Last week Quick was starting to show flashes of what the Rams were hoping for before leaving the game with back spasms. Probably the biggest surprise of the game last week was seeing Danny Amendola more than 5 yards from the line of scrimmage on pass routes. Hopefully that trend continues and Amendola becomes more than just a check down this season. Lance Kendricks had a rough rookie campaign, but has had a pretty productive preseason so far. Last year Kendricks had a stellar preseason so hopefully he can carry it over to the regular season more effectively this time. If Bradford and Chris Givens can finally connect on the deep ball it will do wonders for the Rams offense, but until they actually connect defensive coordinators wont lose sleep over the rookie from Wake Forest.
3rd Down percentage. The Rams have not done well on 3rd down on either side of the ball so far in preseason. Part of this could be because they are running “vanilla” schemes on offense and defense. This game should see a little more of the playbook on both sides of the ball so look for the percentages to improve. Aside from the turnover battle 3rd down conversion rate is one of the most telling statistics in football.
Those are the five things that I am going to be looking at the hardest. What are some of the things you are focusing on in tonights game?