Nov. 25, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA: St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers (90) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

3 Key Matchups: St. Louis Rams vs. Jacksonville Jaguars


 

This team had visions of drafted and acquired playmakers flying all around the field, a defense that finished tied for first in the NFL in sacks last season to contend for a top-10 ranking and for Sam Bradford to step foot on center stage and announce to the league that he has arrived.

But all the offseason hype, sizzle and built-up suspense have gone out the window after a dreadful 1-3 start.

As the Rams set forth to take on Jacksonville at home, a loss against the consensus worst team in the NFL will begin the unraveling of the  Rams 2013 season.

Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Rams run-defense

By the way the Rams run-defense has been playing the past two weeks, Jones-Drew could singlehandedly win this game by himself. And with Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne under center, that might be the only recipe for the Jaguars success.

Through four games of the season, St. Louis has given up 534 yards on the ground (28th-ranked) with opponents averaging 4.6 yards per attempt–7th worst in the league. You can throw out the stats for the first four games, it’s the past two that has been the story of the ailing defense.

Dallas and San Francisco racked up a combined 412 yards rushing against the Rams in the past two games. There is too much talent and money invested in the Rams defensive line to continue their embarrassing play. It is up to Michael Brockers to set the tone up front by providing a strong push and penetrating into the backfield.

The Jones-Drew of old would’ve presented a bigger threat after leading the NFL in rushing in 2011, but this year the former rushing champ has been hampered by an ankle injury. Aside from the injury, the Jaguars haven’t been able to get much going on the ground because they have fallen behind early in games. The Jaguars currently ranked 31st in rushing yards with only 196 yards rushing a game.

But don’t think Jacksonville won’t hand the ball off to Jones-Drew 25+ times to get him churning.

Rams rushing attack vs. Jaguars rushing defense

It’s a hard pill to swallow knowing I could interchange the Jaguars and Rams rushing offense and defense and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. St. Louis is ranked dead last in rushing yards averaging 47.3 yards per game with a whopping 2.6 yards per attempt–second worst in the league behind who else, Jacksonville (2.3). Perhaps the most troubling stat is that the Rams are the only team in the NFL that has zero rushing touchdowns.

The departure of Steven Jackson has left a crater sized hole in the Rams backfield. Daryl Richardson–who has 114 yards averaging 2.7 yards per carry– is best suited as a change-of-pace back, Isaiah can’t get out of his own way to realize his potential and Benny Cunningham was a great camp story, but his talent level doesn’t compare to the other running backs.

That leaves fifth-round draft pick Zach Stacy who only has one carry for 4 yards on the season. When asked about he gets the lion share of the carries this week, coach Jeff Fisher replied, “I haven’t decided yet. We’ll probably play most, if not all of the running backs, if they’re active.”

Reports are circulating saying Stacy might get the nod to start this week. Whoever it is in the backfield, someone needs to distance themselves from the pack. Another horrible outing against the 31st-ranked rushing defense and we might not see some of these backs on the roster next season.

Rams secondary vs. Jaguars Quarterback Blaine Gabbert

It was devastating to lose T.J. McDonald early in the season after a promising start. He doesn’t need season ending surgery, but a fractured leg will keep him out for 6-8 weeks. He was fifth on the team in tackles. Cortland Finnegan, who has been routinely beaten throughout the season, is questionable with a thigh injury. Rookie cornerback Brandon McGee has only seen playing time on special teams this season, but he’s also injured and coaches feels he’s not ready to contribute on the defensive side of the ball.

The rash of injuries in the secondary has caused for starting safety Rodney McLeod to come down play nickel and promote Darian Stewart back into the starter role. Whoever is on the field, production is much needed in the secondary.

The Rams have one interception this season. That lone interception came in week 1 against the Cardinals by Trumaine Johnson. They are tied for third worst in the league behind Oakland and Pittsburgh who have yet to register and interception. Gabbert and Chad Henne have combined to throw 7 interceptions this season, also third worst in the NFL. The Rams secondary have to come away with turnovers against arguably the worst quarterback group in the NFL.

Tags: Blaine Gabbert Daryl Richardson Jacksonville Jaguars Maurice Jones-Drew Michael Brockers St. Louis Rams