Emma Bull once said, "Coincidence is the word we use when we can't see the levers and pulleys."
You're welcome, Rams fans.
Breakdown after the fold.
St. Louis Rams, 2-1, t-2nd - NFC West
Baltimore Ravens, 3-0, 1st - AFC North
STL pass - N/A
BAL pass D - N/A
This being the fourth preseason game, it's a last look at the spots where cuts can be made to get from 75 people to 53 on the roster. That being said, this is not the time to try and get Sam Bradford a ton of snaps with the first team, so if you're hoping for a similar output from Bradford to what the did against the Patriots, you're gonna have to wait. Van suggested the starters, Sam being one of them, would only get about 15 snaps. With Feeley out, that means Keith Null and rookie Thad Lewis will get the majority of work, and likely battle for a third spot. It's a situation Nick Wagoner touched on in depth earlier this week.
As for the receivers, there's some serious confusion there both in terms of the 'who' and the 'how many.' With Avery out, this game becomes a good opportunity for guys looking to fill in behind Laurent Robinson and Danny Amendola. Whether Mardy Gilyard, Brandon Gibson, Danario Alexander or anyone else fills that void is honeslty up in the air right now.
Another position that will get cut down to three has to be the tight end spot. But between Daniel Fells, Billy Bajema, and the rookie duo of Mike Hoomanawanui and Fendi Onobun, there's no easy answer. NachoD isn't alone in his optimism when it comes to the unit, but with the addition of Dennis Morris via the Redskins, there's just too many bodies here.
As for the Ravens, while the game marks a return for Marc Bulger, it's also a homecoming of sorts for Travis Fisher, a 2002 second round Ram draftee who played in the Lou from '02-'06 for those who either lack memories or age. He'll probably be with the second team with Ladarius Webb, a 2009 3rd rounder. Chad Hawkins, an LSU product, will probably see the field often as well. As this is a third string battle, we'll likely hear some names that won't be Ravens for long. If there are Rams who can't make plays in the second half of this game, that's not exactly a case for a roster spot.
STL run - N/A
BAL run D - N/A
If there's a group that could use this game in terms of separation, this is it. The battle to back up AxJax hasn't produced a clear cut winner yet. This game could be the difference maker for Kenneth Darby, Chris Ogbonnaya or Keith Toston.
While the Ravens have thrown great starting linebackers on the field in the Ray Lewis era, their backups aren't anything to spit on either. Dannell Ellerbe, Tavares Gooden and Antwan Barnes should get it started with the second unit, and they're not untalented stuffers. And just a name to store away: Albert McClellan. He's a powerful 3-4 OLB who's fighting for a chance, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him laying a big hit or two on one of our RBs as he did at Marshall where he played DE.
STL O-line - N/A
BAL D-line - N/A
Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please - no injuries. Seriously. Just get through the game. We've gone over the unit often this offseason and through the preseason, so you should know the names and the battles. This is an important unit in the second half as these guys will be looked at to fill in the depth chart throughout the season.
They'll have their hands full with Baltimore's D-line which is not lacking in size at any position. Some depth guys to look for are Paul Kruger and Arthur Jones. The Rams third string guys will have their hands full with this group.
BAL pass - N/A
STL pass D - N/A
With Troy Smith expected to play the entire game, the Rams are definitely facing the lesser talent out of Joe Flacco, Marc Bulger and he. Still, with rookie tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson to work with Baltimore's receivers, it's not a walk in the park.
It's been a strange preseason for the Rams' depth chart. Minnesota's Sage Rosenfels embarassed the passing defense before they cleaned up on turnovers against Cleveland. With Tom Brady at the helm, the Rams fared relatively well, allowing just two offensive TDs by the end of the third quarter. This is an interesting test for the depth guys who will probably be sticking around.
BAL run - N/A
STL run D - N/A
The Baltimore running game is built on power rushing. Ray Rice and LeRon McCLain are hard, AFC style rushers. Behind them are some different options. Willis McGahee is the experienced backup, but watch for Jalen Parmele and Curtis Steele, a rookie out of Memphis.
It's not an easy job to stuff this run, but the Rams' rushing defense has had a solid preseason. This isn't an untalented linebacking corps, but it is raw. And while Josh Hull will probably end up on the practice squad, he's had a heck of a preseason. I doubt he'll be out of the mix for long.
BAL O-line - N/A
STL D-line - N/A
The overachievers of the Rams, the defensive line has had some very bright spots in this last month. . There's plenty to sort out from the top to the bottom of this group, so it's not as if this is a throw away for this unit either. Guys like George Selvie, Jermelle Cudjo, Darell Scott, the list isn't short. This is another good opportunity for the youngest players to get yet another opportunity to perfect what's been working and develop what hasn't.
The Ravens...heh, I'll be honest, I don't know a damn thing about their O-line after the starters. Damn AFC with your teams and your cold weather and hard-nosed rushing. Let's just say it like this: third stringers are third stringers for a reason. And they're fighting for a roster spot just like our defensive linemen are. May the best men win.
This week's top 3 storylines brought to you by the drama of the NFC West (NOTE: Every team, save for the Rams, has had to deal with legitimate negative drama this preseason. People talk that shizz when it comes to the four pillars and locker room chemistry and all that Miles Davis music, but it's hard to suggest the fact that the Rams have gotten through this preseason without any negativity in the media while every other NFC West team hasn't is a coincidence. Emma Bull, yo.):
1.) San Francisco 49ers - Kentwan Balmer has a middle finger, the GM also heads to Seattle, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree get into it for something mysterious that doesn't involve the ladies, and God calls on Glen Coffee at a really uncool time:
Let's start with Balmer. The drama started when Balmer began missing practice for a "personal issue", but it quickly became clear that whereas "personal issue" means a death in the family or a birth of a child or something akin to that where you can respect a player's privacy and let him deal with his personal life before coming back to the team for most players, it means "I'm pissed about where I am on the depth chart so I'm gonna sit out," for Kentwan Balmer. Credit to Coach Singletary and the Niners' FO for cutting ties and dealing him to the Seahags. Speaking of...
If you need another mysterious departure to Seattle, what about former San Fran GM Scot McCloughan? After leaving the franchise about a month before the draft (an event in which the GM plays a pretty effin significant role), McCloughan has ended up working with the Seattle Seahawks. I don't wish this kind of crap on any fan base. Seriously.
If that weren't enough, the two biggest receiving threats on the team, TE Vernon Davis and WR Michael Crabtree, got into it recently for something that has nothing to do with football and nothing to do with a female. That leaves random shit talking and... well, random shit talking, I guess.
And then Glen Coffee. Let me be absolutely clear: I completely respect Coffee for being honest about the person he is and pursuing a life that is absolutely commendable (as long as he's doing it for the religion and not the money). And going to Coach Singletary man-to-man? Kudos. But to do it that deep into the offseason...well, let's just say the timing of his decision was less than optimal for the Niners. His retirement, along with the Balmer drama, meant the Niners' 2008 1st and 3rd round picks were gone within two years for a late 2011 draft pick. Ouch. I say nothing of Alex Smith here. We have time.
Skip Balmer and McCloughan, two pretty classless moves. Pete Carroll is an assmonkey. He is vaginal irrigation. He eats sauteed leeks for lunch on Tuesdays. As someone who already couldn't stand the Seahawks, I'm glad they hired Pete Carroll, because it only makes it easier to hate them. Way to hand off a broken USC program, bro. He was a phenomenal head recruiter and a good coach at USC, but holy shit did he take a yacht from the Titanic on this one. He sharted on Taylor Mays and the LenDale White situation was just strange: trading for hiim on draft day and cutting him a month later. I wish him the very worst. Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. He is truly a skig-scag and a scallywhop.
And this. Nice.
It's hard to put into words how poorly the Cardinals have managed the career of Matt Leinart. Certainly, and I'm as biased as anyone here, Kurt Warner made the Cards legit, taking them to a Super Bowl and finally giving that franchise a shred of respectability. But to take a QB 10th overall only to backseat him for four years, it reeks of front office weakness. The Giants turned their franchise over to Eli Manning and have a Super Bowl ring to show for it as well as his experience at the helm for the future. Give them credit - the Warner-led Giants went 5-4 (after starting 5-2) in 2004, and after Manning took over in his rookie season, went 1-6. How is Aaron Rodgers looking? And as much as Kurt Warner means to St. Louis, Favre means more to Green Bay. Managing the future of your franchise takes sense and balls. I'm not sure which one Arizona has been most deficient in. And it's not just anybody that Leinart has been squeezed out for; it's Derek flooking Anderson. That's just sad, especially when it's less than 12 months after Warner left. And when an SBN community is calling for its head coach to "restore order" to the team on the metaphorical eve of the NFL season, something is seriously, seriously wrong.
And that's why I picked these three this week. Any of these three communities could have written what Greg did at Revenge of the Birds. The disarray behind the scenes of these three teams is blatant. I recognize that this might not be reflected in the final W-L record - hell, someone has to win the division. But as I look past 2010 and assess the long-term prospects of the four teams in the NFC West, the character of the Rams is worth something. It is. And I honestly didn't believe that until I saw the opposite from the rest of the division.
I'm ready for some damn football. Holler.