We finally made it to the first week of the 2012-2013 NFL regular season. September 9 seemed like an eternity but now it’s less than 48 hours away. Who’s ready for some real Rams football?!
But as excited as I am about the start of the season I’m equally realistic about the expectations for this very young team. 23 of the 53-man roster consists of players that have been in the league less than 3 years including 17 rookies, 7 of them undrafted. But don’t call it a rebuild. It’s closer to a remodel or restoration of a once proud and high flying franchise.
It doesn’t help that they are opening the year against a very tough Detroit Lions defensive line boasting the likes of DT Ndamukong Suh, DE Cliff Avril, and a red-eyed DE Kyle Vanden Bosch. Oh and they have some guy nicknamed Megatron on the offense. I hear he’s a good player.
Injuries in key positions on both teams will decide how the game will play out. The Lions will be going without two major pieces in their secondary and the Rams have a glaring hole in the D-line.
Five Things I’ll Be Watching For in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions:
1) Will the Rams work horse RB Steven Jackson be able to set up the offense for the passing game? This will largely depend on, wait for it… the Rams offensive line. The Lions run defense ranked 23rd overall in 2011 giving up an average of 128 yards per game.
I don’t have any doubts of Jackson’s play making ability but he has to get some help from the guys up front. As good as he is the man can’t do it all by himself. I’m hoping for at least 50-75 yards and 1 TD from Jackson. Which segues nicely into my next question.
2) Will the Rams offensive line be able to hold up against a fierce Lions defensive line? Unofficially the starting offensive line for the Rams are as follows:
LT Rodger Saffold – LG Rokevious Watkins (rookie) – C Scott Wells – RG Harvey Dahl – RT Barry Richardson
Watkins has the presumed okay-to-go at LG with the surprising release of LG Quinn Ojinnaka, who was the starter at that position for all four preseason games. Coach Fisher seems to be a firm believer in the trial by fire approach. I don’t have any delusions of grandeur. This line has not worked together and will take a while before they get comfortable with each other. This is not good news for Bradford.
Compare that to what Stafford has according to Jeff Gordon of the Post-Dispatch. This is exactly what Bradford needs and hopefully will get as the season progresses.
The Lions have admirable continuity on their offensive line. Their five starters have made a combined 489 consecutive starts. Not coincidentally, Stafford has become a far more durable quarterback.
With Delmas and Houston out of the game the receivers should be able to get open. The question is will Bradford have enough time and be mobile enough to get the ball to his guys.
I couldn’t help but notice Wednesday night how Cowboys’ QB Tony Romo overcame his own porous offensive line to scramble and possibly save himself several sacks. Romo finished the night against a similarly thin Giants’ secondary completing 22 of 29 passes for 307 yards resulting in 3 TD’s and one INT. Bradford needs to channel his inner Romo on Sunday to be able to deliver to his targets.
3) How will the Rams receivers do against a banged up Lions secondary? Luckily for the Rams the Lions’ starting FS Louis Delmas (knee) and CB Chris Houston (ankle) have not practiced all week and are most likely out for the game.
Houston accounted for 14 passes defended and 5 INT’s and 2 of them taken to the house. The combination of Delmas and Houston accounted for 105 of the Lions’ 1024 tackles in 2011. This should bode well for Rams QB Sam Bradford and the Rams receiving corp (Brian Quick, Chris Givens, Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, and Steve Smith) to get their feet wet without getting their legs taken out from under them.
4) How much will the Rams defensive line miss DT Michael Brockers? Deja vu anyone? The 2011 season began with a depleted Rams secondary and this year it’s the defensive line – specifically at the DT position. Number one draft pick Brockers (ankle), his back up Darell Scott (knee) and the rookie Matt Conrath (knee) all landed on the injury report this week and have officially been ruled out for week 1. That leaves the Rams with Kendall Langford, Jermele Cudjo and the new guy, Kellen Heard on a short rotation to fill in the gaps. It’s not the most ideal way to start out the year but it is what it is. Maybe this will make Brockers even more hungry for when he returns.
5) Will the Rams be able to keep the Lions’ number one offensive weapon in check? I usually don’t wish bad things upon players but he did go ahead and land himself on the cover of Madden 13. That’s probably the only sure fire way of containing WR Calvin Johnson.
Ryan Van Bibber of Turf Show Times discussed about getting physical with Megatron up front at the line but we both agree no one on the Rams D is really built for that role. I like Cortland Finnegan‘s grit at 5 foot 10 inches but he doesn’t have the size. Rookie Trumaine Johnson is a bit bigger at 6 foot 2 inches but a 6 foot 5 inch Megatron on a rookie corner spells disaster and an easy six. So long story short, the Rams really don’t have a good answer. Best solution will be attack QB Matthew Stafford before he has a chance to get the ball to Calvin Johnson. This will be up to DEs Chris Long and Robert Quinn to get into Stafford’s grill. Yes, it’s easier said than done.
The Rams offensive line will have their hands full probably because they’ll be holding a lot to save Sam’s hide. They will also provide the Lions with at least one or two false starts depending on how loud Ford Field gets.
Bradford will have to scamper and connect on short to midrange passes to effectively move the team downfield on passing situations. Remember channel Romo…
Jackson will have to keep the Lions defense honest by busting out a few 10+ yard runs.
The Rams secondary will be busy keeping Megatron in check and as a result will most likely give way to some plays to other Lions receivers Titus Young and Nate Burleson. Young and Burleson fantasy owners rejoice.
The Rams defense will get some pressure on Stafford and sack/or get a QB hit on him at least once or twice.
Kicker Greg Zuerlein will get to show off his leg and not in an Angelina Jolie red carpet kind of way.
Yahoo! pick ‘em has the Lions winning by 7 points at home. Not to be a Debbie Downer but this is too low.
The Lions will defeat the Rams 28- 17.
I’m just trying to keep it realistic folks. If I’m wrong then I’ll be the first to admit it and we all be happy that the Rams begin their season 1-0.