In the last breakdown, we compared the offensive linemen and quarterbacks, with the St. Louis Rams getting the edge in both categories. We will stay on the offensive side of the ball and breakdown the skill positions; the wide receivers and running backs.
Both the St. Louis Rams and the Chicago Bears have superstars manning their backfields, with Matt Forte and Steven Jackson each handling the workload for their respective team. Against Detroit, the St. Louis backs had a tough time getting anything going on the ground, mainly because they weren’t really getting anything going with the offense as a whole. However, against the Redskins, both Jackson and Daryl Richardson had phenomenal performances. Before being sidelined, Jackson racked up 58 yards on the ground (plus, what should have been, a touchdown), and his replacement, Daryl Richardson, continued on the ground for another 83 yards on 15 carries. The newest one-two punch at running back could prove deadly as the season progresses. Both backs can hit the whole, and while Jackson will wear the defenders out his hard-nose running, Richardson is the change-of-pace back that can break one open for the big gain on any given play.
Chicago has a similar combination, between Matt Forte and Michael Bush. Matt Forte is the swifty, dynamic running back that will beat the defenders to the edge and has great backside vision to make the jump cuts back through the hole. Bush is the power back, the goal line running that can punch it through on 3rd and short or into the endzone. The two were a great combination against the Colts, but after an apparent ankle injury to Forte against the Packers, Bush was left in as the full time back. He did not play poorly, rushing for 54 yards on 15 carries, which is good for 3.9 a touch. However, Bush does not have the quickness or the speed of Forte, which will be sorely missed if he cannot return to the field by Sunday. Head Coach Lovie Smith made a comment yesterday that the injury was not a high ankle sprain. Forte hasn’t been ruled out of the game yet, but is listed as questionable by the team.
Jackson is comingoff of a “groin injury,” which he sustained in the first quarter of the Redskins game. Jackson is already back at practice and claims that he is back to full strength. With questions about Forte and Richardson’s showing on Sunday when given the full load, St. Louis’ backfield appears to be in much better shape. We will have to see how the injuries play out the rest of the week, but until then…
Advantage: St. Louis Rams, 3-0
St. Louis has quietly amassed a solid group of receivers, regardless of whether of not any of them would be considered a “true number one” or not. The cream of the Rams crop is obviously Danny Amendola, who leads the league in receptions and is ranked third in receiving yards after a record-breaking game against Washington. Brandon Gibson has also put together a nice little run, catching a touchdown in both contests so far this season, although only recording 6 receptions. The rest of Bradford’s receptions have come from a variety of sources, primarily the tight ends and running backs. Steve Smith is the only other wide out with a reception so far in the regular season, although the return of Austin Pettis from his suspension should bring an added spark to the receiving core.
The Chicago Bears made a huge wake in the off season with the signing of Brandon Marshall, who played for a good number of years with Cutler in Denver. Marshall is easily the best receiver on the Bears roster, which is exemplified by some telling statistics: he has 34% of the Bears receptions, 32% of the targets, and 31% of the yards. However, most of those numbers came in a single game against the leagues worst team in 2011, the Indianapolis Colts, who are picking up players from the streets of Indy to start in their secondary. Against the most prominent Green Bay Packers, Marshall recorded only 2 receptions for 24 yards, and dropped a huge touchdown pass in the end zone that might have kept the Bears in the game.
After Marshall, the talent drastic falls off, with rookie Alshon Jeffery as the next best receiver on the team. After Jeffery, names like Devin Hester and Earl Bennett finish the list, and there are no notable tight ends to be found on the roster. Still, the inclusion of Brandon Marshall alone should vault the Bears receiving core above the Rams, at least for the time being.
Advantage: Chicago Bears, 3-1
Next, we will switch over to the defensive side of the ball, breaking down the defensive linemen and the linebacking core of the St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears