3 Key Matchups: St. Louis Rams Vs. Atlanta Falcons

September 16, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins (21) celebrates during the second half against the Washington Redskins at the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams defeated the Redskins 31-28. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Rams secondary had their hands full with the Arizona Cardinals offense before stifling them in the second half. The young secondary surrendered 327 yards to Carson Palmer, but a chunk of those yards came when the Rams were in a soft zone. Facing the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and the emerging Andre Roberts more than prepares the Rams for the best wide receiver corpse in the NFL.

Janoris Jenkins and Cortland Finnegan vs. Julio Jones and Roddy White

Besides getting beat on a fade route by Fitzgerald in the end zone, Jenkins held his own against the Pro Bowl wide receiver deflecting three passes and crashing down in run support. If battling Fitzgerald wasn’t difficult enough, Jenkins now is prepping himself for a familiar foe, Julio Jones. The two previously went toe-to-toe with each other in college when Jenkins was at Florida and Jones was at Alabama.

In an interview with the Austin Chronicle during the 2010 Senior Bowl, here is what Jenkins said about Jones:

“You know right off, he goes to try and out muscle you. He’s big and you know that he likes the post and the dig. He can run every route in the tree, but he loves those.” Jenkins added, “But other than that, it’s pretty much like preparing for a guy like A.J. (Green) except he isn’t going to run a curl or a 15-20-yard comeback. He can’t come out of his cuts quick enough.”

Even as a prospect coming into the league, Jenkins closely studies his opponents, but Jones isn’t the same receiver he was in 2010. He has the size, speed and hands to completely dominate a game. In just his third year in the league, Jones is already a top-10 wide receiver.

Cortland Finnegan is coming off a forgettable game where he had two costly penalties and repeatedly beat by Arizona receivers. When teams are in three receiver sets, Finnegan is moved to the slot, so he won’t see won’t line up against Roddy White for the entire game. Finnegan might have more trouble with the speedy Harry Douglas the same way he was struggled with Roberts.

Atlanta only put 17 points on the board against New Orleans. Look for them to take shots early and often.

Rams D-Line vs. Falcons O-Line

Congratulations to Robert Quinn for being crowned the NFC defensive player of the week. He just might win it again this week. Atlanta gave up three sacks to the now blitz happy Saints under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. The Falcons released long time right tackle Tyson Clabo in favor of second year man Lamar Holmes and the recently signed Jeremy Trueblood. Neither of the two are physically capable of blocking Quinn one-on-one.

While it’s easy to say by double-teaming Quinn mean a one-on-one matchup for Chris Long, it will be up to Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford to provide an inside rush. Long is going up against one of the better left tackles in Sam Baker. Not saying Baker can completely shut down Long, but the Falcons are OK with their best lineman up against the Rams’ best lineman.

Already off to a four sack lead, the Rams defensive line has to prowess to add pressure on Matt Ryan and make him uncomfortable in the pocket.

The Rams defense vs. Falcons running back Steven Jackson 

Still Jackson has gone on record saying he’s not “too up” for facing his former team. I’m not buying it. The big, bruising running back will come ready to play just like the Rams defenders are eager to put a licking on their former teammate. St. Louis was all over the Cardinals ground game holding them to 3.3 yards per carry.

But the Rams know Rashard Mendenhall and Alfonso Smith combined can’t equal to one of the most prolific backs in NFL history. Jackson rushed for 77 yards on 11 carries that included a 50-yard run. It might be all high fives and hand shakes before and after the game, but once the whistle blows, both will forget each other’s past history.

Topics: Atlanta Falcons, Cortland Finnegan, Harry Douglas, Janoris Jenkins, Julio Jones, Robert Quinn, Roddy White, Sam Baker, St. Louis Rams, Steven Jackson

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