Week 1 against Detroit presents an immediate challenge to the idea that the Rams will succeed on offense by feeding carries to the beast that is Steven Jackson, aka Ground and Pound. While last year, Detroit’s rush defense ranked 30th in terms of yards per carry with 5 ypc, and 23rd in terms of yards per game with 128 ypg, their defense ranked tied for 6th with only 10 rushing touchdowns allowed all year. In other words, they’re stout at the goal line, and are willing to bend everywhere in between. In fact, Detroit’s defense is designed to bend because it creates the illusion that the other team can run, which they can, but not into the end zone.
This creates two issues for the Rams going into week 1. One, can the Rams stop Detroit’s passing game? Detroit’s passing offense can be deadly with Stafford throwing to Megatron, Burelson, and Pettigrew, allowing the Lion’s O to score early, and often. If that happens Week 1, the Rams will likely run themselves out of time if they try to force the ground game. It is thus imperative that a healthy secondary, led by Finnegan and probably Jenkins, and the LB corps contain this pass happy offense often enough to successfully implement Ground and Pound.
If the Rams secondary cannot stifle the Lion’s passing attack, Schotty will be forced into passing perhaps more than originally contemplated in the initial game plan. I actually have confidence that Sam Bradford and our wide receiving corps will rebound. They may not be able to go blow for blow with Detroit’s passing game, but if Lance Kendrick’s acts like a second round TE, and with Brian Quick able to leap out of the stadium, the Rams should be able to execute some TE curls and fade routes with more success in the end zone this year, given the Detroit defense bends enough to allow the running attack to get inside the 20.
In short, the Rams have a chance to win Week 1. If I put my rose-colored glasses on, I’d say Rams 24 / Lions 21. It could happen. The keys to success will be vastly improved secondary play and a more diversified offensive strategy than Ground and Pound should the Rams fall behind by a TD or two early. We will see quickly in Week 1 if the key improvements we believe the Rams have made are real. Is our secondary elite, and can we score by passing in the red zone? I can’t wait to find out.