Friday, August 21st, 2009, 7:00pm, CDT
St. Louis Rams, 1-0, t-1st - NFC West
Atlanta Falcons, 0-1, t-1st - NFC South
Parentheses include NFL rankings in that area.
STL pass v. ATL pass D
Again, the group headings will include some statistics on each group in the regular season; for now, they're just titular. I love that word.
Van had a great piece on what the Rams passing game can expect against the Falcons using some statistics to suggest Boller & Co. should be successful early through the air. The Falcons secondary isn't very impressive. Keep an eye on rookie CB Chris Owens (out of San Jose St.); he can burn, but lacks much of the polish other CBs displayed coming out of college. Erik Coleman is a solid SS, but not too effective against the pass; of course, he'll soon be replaced by rookie William Moore, so things are looking up for this unit. Still, they've got a long way to go. Should be a good chance for Kyle Boller to rack up some stats if he can get time.
STL run v. ATL run D
When Dave the Falconer stopped by to answer any burning questions we had about the Falcons, I immediately jumped in to ask about the LB situation. After losing Michael Boley and Keith Brooking, you would think this unit would be a sore spot. As Lee Corso might say, not so fast, my friend. BTW, did you know Corso's college roommate was Burt Reynolds? Ah, the internet. Anyway, the addition of former Jaguar Mike Peterson helps close the hole left by Boley & Brooking. His veteran experience is badly needed as the Falcons' other two starting linebackers, Curtis Lofton and Stephen Nicholas, have combined to play less than half of the NFL seasons Peterson has.
STL O-line v. ATL D-line
This should be fun. Atlanta boasts a solid pair of pass rushers in John Abraham (aging yet productive) and Jamaal Anderson (young but underproductive). Add to those two their late 1st round draft pick, DT Peria "The Pariah" Jerry, and you have a unit that can disrupt most offensive lines. But the Rams offensive line is no longer the colander it once was. Keep an eye on the Abraham-Alex Barron matchup; it should give us a decent barometer on Barron's progress as an everyday (or, in the NFL everyweek) LT.
ATL pass v. STL pass D
Now that Roddy White has renegotiated, Matt Ryan has his WR corps back (minus the underutilized and oft injured Laurent Robinson who is now a Ram). Add eventual HOF'er Tony Gonzalez, and you have a serious aerial attack. This should be a bigger challenge than the Jets game; better QB, better top end WR, better running game to buttress the pass... did I just say buttress? Yes I did. I'm hesitant to put much stock one way or the other in the CB corps based on the first game alone; at least going against this crew gives us a larger sample size.
ATL run v. STL run D
Yes, Michael Turner is going to get a ton of carries this season, but Jerious Norwood will have a significant role too. This is a great 1-2 punch to test our run defense. I'd like to see SS James Butler more involved in the run D with a team that leans on the run to power their offense. Of course, James Laurinaitis should be a Ram you keep an eye on.
ATL O-line v. STL D-line
Many of you probably remember the final game of the 2008 season when the Rams played... the Falcons. Shocker. Equally sarcastically shocking was that Michael Turner torched us for 208 yards. I didn't come away as impressed with Turner as I did with Atlanta's O-line. That being said, I don't think we should be dominated like we were at the end of last year. This unit is a cohesive, well-coached line, but it certainly doesn't have the talent other lines do. Is Sam Baker far beyond Chris Long on talent? I don't think so. This is a tougher test given the linemen that didn't play for the Jets.
This week's top 3 storylines brought to you by recent Tweets by Steven Jackson:
1.) "I will try to find u tomorrow": With Bulger and Avery gone, Jackson is the lone Ram on offense who can make things happen on his own. Luckily, he can do that more often and for more gain than the other two. Until Bulger returns, the reailty is: this offense has become the Steven Jackson show. Defenders - he will try to find you....
2.) "Rejoice that we have made another day. We r not perfect but let's work on it.": Shocking though it may be, this game marks the halfway point of the preseason. There is still a significant amount of time to get this team together. That's not a statement intended to predict a loss, but rather to reflect the reality that despite how this team plays, there is still plenty of work to do. Especially when you're eyeing guys like Jason Smith, James Laurinaitis, Bradley Fletcher, Brooks Foster & Darnell Scott.
3.) "El Dog!": Yeah, not sure, so let me translate. This team is coming off a win, and while it is "just" preseason, it 's a win. The biggest contribution the team can make to its own future is displaying a willingness that didn't exist in year previous. In other words, if we can leave the franchise of the last few years behind and get back to a a team that not only wants to win or works hard enough to win but demands of themselves to will wins, then we are a much better team than we have been.