The St. Louis Rams get a chance to even up their record this weekend with a trip to the Bay Area to face the Oakland Raiders. It's a favorable matchup for the Rams, sporting a new found confidence to move the ball up and down the field. Of course, a win against any opponent requires execution and taking advantage of opportunities like the ones that cost them a win last week. Transitioning from last week to this week, I though it would be worth taking a look at the Raiders kickoff weekend outing to see where the Rams might find some of those opportunities.
Oakland lost to the Titans in Tennessee by a lopsided score of 38-13. There wasn't much on the positive side of the ledger for the Raiders to take away from the game. Still, Oakland should be fired up and looking to get in the win column in their first home game of the season. Wins are not going to come easy for the Rams. However, taking advantage of the matchups will certainly help.
After the jump, a couple soft spots in the hull of the Oakland ship that were revealed last week...spots that the Rams will be looking to target this week.
The Oakland offensive line
Oakland QB Jason Campbell was sacked four times against the Titans last week. Those sacks all came in the first half. That trend carried over from last year when the Raiders had the NFL's second worst adjusted sack rate according to Football Outsiders. Here's ESPN's AFC West blogger Bill Williamson on the Raiders offensive line:
We didn’t have very high expectations for this unit going into the season. Expectations have dropped dramatically after Week 1. The line was atrocious in a 38-13 loss at Tennessee. The unit gave new Oakland quarterback Jason Campbell very little time and Campbell was sacked four times. He lost a fumble on one of the sacks.
The offensive yards the Raiders did pick up came in a fashion that should be familiar to those who watched the Rams last year. To take the pressure of Campbell, the brought out the dink and dunk kind of passing game that infuriated Rams fans last year. Naturally, that failed to produce any meaningful yards, but it did keep their QB alive to play another day.
The Titans defense had 4 tackles for a loss and 4 hits on the quarterback. They went into the locker room at half time leading 24-6, and even Jeff Fisher didn't go out of his way to keep kicking the dirt in their face once the Raiders were subdued.
Maybe even more remarkable than the Titans put on Campbell in the first half was the number of passes defended. Tennessee defended 7 passes and intercepted one.
The Rams were incredibly aggressive against the Cardinals offense last week, sacking Derek Anderson twice and hitting him 9 times and bringing endless pressure. I can't imagine a world where that won't be a big part of the defensive game plan against Oakland this week with an offensive line at least as susceptible as Arizona's, probably more so. That should be a big help to the secondary, a unit that will likely be without both Kevin Dockery and Justin King (Dockery for sure, King's status is still TBD). Oakland doesn't have Steve Breaston or Larry Fitzgerald among their receivers either. More on that matchup later.
Oakland run defense
Rather than break this out as the defensive line, I think this is a better way to look at it from the Rams' perspective. Oakland was gashed last week by Chris Johnson for 142 yards and 2 TD. The threat of Johnson opened things up for Titans QB Vince Young, who passed for just 154 yards, completing 13 of 17 pass attempts which included 2 TDs.
Suffice it to say, the Rams game plan ought to include heavy does of Steven Jackson.
Football Outsiders has a great run down of the Young's 56-yard TD pass to Nate Washington late in the first quarter. That play came on a first-and-ten with the Titans using a four receiver set. After the snap, Young faked a handoff to Johnson and the Raider defense bit.
With four different Raiders defenders trying to reverse field and get back to the middle after biting on that fake, Washington was able to get downfield for the touchdown on a deep seam pattern with Stanford Routt trailing in single coverage.
I'll take Bradford on a play like that any day. Titans RB Chris Johnson scored one of his TDs on a draw play. The option play was/is key for the Titans, and it ought to be for the Rams as well, at least this week.