Week three of the preseason is a big deal. The third game represents the closest thing to a dress rehearsal as it gets in the preseason as teams give their most likely starting lineups a lengthy taste of the action. As I've said before, week three also means a few changes after coaches have had almost a month of practice and two prior preseason games to make evaluations. Last year, the St. Louis Rams made the ultimate lineup change, starting Sam Bradford at QB. Nothing that dramatic will happen this Friday, but we should see a few changes. Below, are some likely and hoped for lineup moves for this week's game against the Chiefs, the coveted Governor's Cup, the stuff of dreams for Missouri's children...or something like that.
Outside linebacker changes
This is a done deal. Yesterday in practice, head coach Steve Spagnuolo replaced Bryan Kehl and Na'il Diggs with Ben Leber and Brady Poppinga. Both veterans have demonstrated a better awareness and gap discipline. (I charted an example of one costly breakdown here).
More Donnie Avery
You cannot argue against Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola in the starting lineup; both those players have earned it. Mike Sims-Walker looked a little rusty after missing some practice time. Look for him to be a little sharper this week. Donnie Avery made a good case against the Titans and in practice to get some more reps with Sam Bradford throwing him the ball this week, in a variety of roles and routes. He has the potential to be one of the top four receivers on the team.
Justin King saw plenty of playing time over the last two weeks, even starting in place of Ron Bartell in the Rams' glorified walkthrough win over the Colts. Al Harris has seen his fair share of snaps too, enough to tell me that he probably should be the Rams' third corner, at least their go-to nickel based on his physical style of play. King has value; he can stay with his man and be fairly effective. He even has the speed to give him a wider margin of error in zone play. The biggest problem is his physicality. King has missed some important tackles and hits.
Tight end number two
This isn't a week three change the Rams wanted to make. Michael Hoomanawanui's injury probably forces him to the sidelines this week, and forces the Rams to think seriously about a lineup without the oft-injured Uh Oh. Even with a logjam of potential at the position, nobody else on the roster matches Hoomanawanui's potent combination of physical prowess and sticky hands. He and Kendricks were supposed to create mismatches together. Billy Bajema probably sees more work now and more targets from Bradford. The wild card here is Fendi Onobun. Far behind the curve last year, Onobun has played well with the second and third teams. The converted hoops star bulked up in the offseason with the idea of adding some protection against the abuse of pro football and working more as a traditional in-line tight end. Is it enough to make him a contributor this year?