In the next couple of days the St. Louis Rams will be playing in one of the most anticipated games of the year versus the Atlanta Falcons. Not only because the Falcons are arguably one of the top teams in the NFC, but former, longtime St. Louis Rams’ running back, Steven Jackson, is now a part of their organization. On March 15th of this year, the Rams and Jackson went through a difficult breakup when their all-time leading rusher, signed a 3-year, $12 million deal with the Falcons. It will be quite severe for us Rams’ fans to witness the running back that we all been watching for the past 9 years to play against us, but it’s a match up Ramblin’ Fan can’t wait to see. Furthermore, this game will showcase many play-makers and young talent on both side’s of the ball, in regards with both teams. Expect to see some explosive play making from the Rams, possibly even a shootout. A 2-0 start from the St. Louis Rams can definitely get them some media attention, and beating the Atlanta Falcons will be a great stepping stone for this young team into the season. So, with that said, here are the 5 things to watch for in Sunday’s game.
It was quite odd watching the St. Louis Rams offense line up last week without Steven Jackson in the backfield. For the past nine years, we all relied on Steven Jackson to carry the load through each game. However, this week, the relationship will carry on to different terms. There will be no letup from the Rams this week as they prepare for their former teammate. A former first-round pick of the 2004 NFL draft, Steven Jackson has exceeded expectations every season, but the only problem is that he’s only been in the playoff’s once since being in the NFL and this happened to occur during his rookie season. This may be a part of the reason he decided to sign with another team, however all of us must remember the NFL is a business first. Jackson has been the most consistent running back since he’s been in the league after rushing for 1,000 yards on 8 consecutive seasons with a mediocre quarterback and offensive line early in his career. Last week the Rams did a good job containing Arizona’s running back Rashard Mendenhall with 16 rushing attempts for 60 yards. This will be a great test to witness if the Rams can stop the Falcon’s run offense and have them be one-dimensional with the passing game. When it all comes down to it, the Rams defense must show up early and often on Sunday and be ready for the savvy veteran running back to get plenty of carries.
The St. Louis Rams defensive line definitely came to play last week facing the Arizona Cardinals. It’s what you must expect from the reigning sack leader in the league last year when playing one of the worst offensive line’s in the league. Robert Quinn had an absolute field day recording three sacks and two forced fumbles and at this moment, is tied with Justin Houston (KC Chiefs) for the most sacks in the league. Even when the Rams play top offensive lines it still seems to us that the defensive line always gets pressure on the opposing quarterbacks. With 75 percent of the starting defensive line made up of 1st round draft picks the Rams have shown how dominate they can be with those four guys. However, what makes this group so special is the amount of depth they have. William Hayes is an absolute run stopper and with special pass rushing skills he’s almost unblockable. On his only sack last week he completely bull rushed Arizona’s guard Paul Fanaika and put him on his back to get to Carson Palmer in the last seconds of the game. With contribution’s from Eugene Sims, Jermelle Cudjo, and Matt Conrath as backups the St. Louis Rams easily put together one of the best defensive lines out there. When see Chris Long, Michael Brockers, and Kendall Langford hold their own on against the struggling Atlanta Falcons offensive line Sunday the rest of the Rams defense will ride their backs to a 2-0 start of the 2013 season.
The St. Louis Rams have the youngest team in the NFL at an average age of 24.98. With being such a young team there will be some growing pains and learning experiences that this team will need to endure during the course of the season. With a Jeff Fisher squad it’s very rare to see him put a selfish and undisciplined team out there on the field. However, if there was one thing that killed us Rams fans is to see all the yellow flags that the referees were throwing high in the air last week against the Arizona Cardinals. There is no excuse for penalties on any stage of football, especially the NFL. The Rams recorded seven penalties which resulted them loosing 59 yards. These penalties came in early situations for example, the first drive of the game when the Rams were slowly driving down the field LT Jake Long had a holding penalty and RT Rodger Saffold had a false start which in the end resulted in a punt. Veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan was also accounted for two personal foul penalties both on late hits. That’s unacceptable for the veteran cornerback, who is looked at as one of the team leaders on this defense. The Rams overcame those penalties last week, but the schedule looks a lot tougher in the next couple of weeks and penalties is one area they need to start to avoid.
Isaiah Pead’s return
The former 2nd round pick of the 2012 draft Isaiah Pead has returned to the team after his one game suspension. In terms of Rams fans, most of us call Pead’s tenure with the Rams a “bust” so far in the league. The Rams were expecting him to take over the realm that Steven Jackson has left behind, only to get beaten out by 7th round draft pick Daryl Richardson. Richardson has done a good job out of our backfield, but Ramblin’ Fan is waiting for Isaiah Pead to finally break loose. It’s obvious the kind of talent Pead has to the Rams as they used a second round pick on him last year and has shown flashes of his quickness and elusiveness. Fumbling issues have really held Isaiah Pead back from consistent playing time, but if he can hold on to the ball and run downhill we feel like he can fully develop into the back we are expecting him to be. Expect Isaiah Pead to play with a chip on his shoulder and flash some of his talent on Sunday.
The St. Louis Rams receivers are young and very talented. Each one of them has their own skill set as this group brings size, speed, and great hands. However, the receivers need to do a better job of getting open. Sam Bradford completed 27 passes on 38 attempts last week, but only 12 of those completions were to the wide receivers with Tavon Austin leading the way with six receptions and 41 yards. This offense is very effective with utilizing the tight ends and running backs in the passing game, but to open and stretch the field more, these receivers need to run precise routes and get open for Sam Bradford. Coming into this season, Chris Givens was pointed out the number one receiver spot after posting 42 receptions, 698 yards, and three touchdowns. On Sunday, Givens recorded just two catches and 27 yards, but a big part of him not being involved with the offense is he was guarded by 2012 pro-bowler Patrick Peterson a majority of the game. Other receivers such as Brian Quick and Austin Pettis are needed to step up as not much attention is given to them by opposing defenses. It only has been one week into the season, so expect a big game by multiple Rams’ receivers this coming Sunday.