All eyes will be on the St. Louis Rams rookie QB Sam Bradford as he gets the first start of his NFL career Thursday night against the New England Patriots. Last week, Rams watchers were eager to see how the offensive line fared after a six sack performance in the preseason opener. The two plots merge into a more complete narrative for week three of the preseason as the line will have to do its part in keeping Bradford upright and giving him time to connect with his receivers, while the QB needs a better showing than his 44.4 completion percentage.
Thus far in the preseason, the Patriots have not been aggressive on the blitz, mirroring last season when they were strictly middle of the pack in terms of their sack rate. In fact, the Patriots haven't been among the league leaders in sacks rates since the 2007 season. So far in the preseason the Patriots have recorded just two sacks, one in each of their games.
Will that change this week against the Rams? I don't follow the Patriots close enough to know how Belichick approaches the preseason, but I have read somewhere recently that his Pats don't typically open up the playbook much in the preseason. If that is the case, then the Rams aren't likely to see the kind of aggressive approach that the Vikings second team used to cause such chaos in week one.
However, several of New England's top defensive players returned to action this week, including OLB Tully Banta-Cain, CB Leigh Bodden and DE Damione Lewis, who you may remember from his days as a Ram. Their other sack specialist is OLB Derrick Burgess, who Spags knows from their time together in Philly.
The third week of the preseason is an important one as teams shift from training camp to regular season mode. The starters often get more time together in week three before the final preseason game is used mostly to evaluate individual roster battles. Whether the New England pass rush is aggressive or not, the Rams o-line and Bradford have big expectations on their shoulders.