First it was the combination of Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald that gave the Rams’ secondary a headache, then Matt Ryan to Julio Jones torched Cortland Finnegan and Co. for 182 yards, and now, St. Louis travels to Jerry’s World to take on Tony Romo and Dez Bryant.
St. Louis’ secondary is still a talented and underrated group, but they have to do a better job at forcing turnovers. Tim Walton, the Rams new defensive coordinator and former Detroit Lions’ secondary coach, has to fine tune his defense to put his players in better positions.
While the focus is on the secondary this week, let’s take a closer look at the standout matchups:
Janoris Jenkins and Cortland Finnegan vs. Dez Bryant and Miles Austin
The Rams have giving up 656 yards in the first two games of the season. Traveling to Dallas to take on Romo, Bryant, Austin and Jason Witten isn’t a welcoming sight to an ailing secondary, but nullifying the Cowboys passing attack is instant success for a team that is struggling to run the ball.
Both Bryant and Romo are listed as questionable, but so was Julio Jones before he exploded for 11 receptions 182 and a touchdown. After a quiet season opener against the Giants, Bryant also enjoyed a breakout game against the Chiefs, in a loss, with 9 receptions, 141 yards and a score. But Bryant and Austin present matchup problems for Jenkins and Finnegan with their size and speed, but if the Rams play more man-to-man and trust the young safeties over the top, then the Robert Quinn and company can wreak havoc on a Cowboys’ offensive line that has given up 5 sacks.
The Rams’ ability to get to the quarterback leads to the to my second matchup:
St. Louis Rams pass rush vs. Dallas Cowboys offensive line
The Cowboys makeshift offensive line will dress eight offensive linemen when they play the Rams Sunday. When Dallas faced the Giants on opening night, it was the fourth straight year the Cowboys opened the season with a different starting five. They were still looking for options on the offensive line even after the season started.
Besides he only locks are Tyron Smith at left tackle and first-round selection Travis Frederick at center, the rest of the Cowboys offensive has major holes in them. Doug Free was originally playing right guard before he was kicked out to right tackle after a terrible showing by Jeremy Parnell, and Mackenzy Bernadeau, who struggled much of last season and has been battling a slight ankle sprain.
Romo won’t be playing at 100% when he faces the Rams after he took a hard shot to the ribs. Reports have said he will take a pain shot before the game. If St. Louis has plans to slow down Bryant an co., then hitting Romo early and often will be the key to victory. This game has a Chris Long breakout written all over it as he is eager to record his first sack of the season.
St. Louis Rams offensive line vs. DeMarcus Ware
No player in the NFL has more sacks than Ware dating all the way back to his rookie season in 2005. His only single digit sack total came in his rookie year with 8, since then, Ware has had 11 or more sacks since he’s been in the league. Both he and fellow defensive end Anthony Spencer are listed as questionable, but St, Louis won’t take a team with 7 total sacks lightly.
Jake Long and the rest of the Rams offensive line have pitched a shutout thus far giving up zero sacks in two games, but that streak will be put to the test trying to keep Ware from taking down Sam Bradford. With right tackle Roger Saffold out with an injury again, chances are likely we will see more quick passes from Bradford to protect him from the pass rush.