"No, I'm going to ask you again, how did you grow that beard!?!"
The St. Louis Rams will play their first football game under new head coach Jeff Fisher on Sunday. There are thousands of things that fans will be looking at, but quite frankly most of it doesn't matter. This is the preseason. Not much can be gained from it, but what can be gained is quite important.
Today, I wanted to make a little "go-to guide" for all our great fans as to what to watch for, and why.
1. Rams defensive formations
The Rams are moving into a new defense this season. It is a "4-3" defense, but it is likely the Rams will actually be playing nickel the majority of the time. Now will this be a nickel with 3 CBs and 2 S, or 3s and 2 CBs? Also how will Cortland Finnegan be used? He is one of the best slot corners in the NFL, but he also great outside. Will he just follow the best WR around? Also how will the Rams utilize the wide-9 technique they plan on installing this season. The first preseason game will be very telling of what the Rams defense will look like this season.
2. Is Sam Bradford comfortable in the pocket?
The second Sam steps off the field, his stats will instantly be up on Twitter and dissected by thousands. His stats aren't what's important tomorrow though. In preseason, teams are calling plays to see how they work or how the defense responds, not to move the ball most effectively. Thus, many offenses and QBs do not perform well. What actually matters with Bradford is how confident he is. Sam was gun shy in 2011 as any QB would be after all those hits. Sam needs to be able to stay in the pocket, step up and throw a confident ball. He needs to be comfortable or it will be a very long year for this offense.
3. The Wide Receivers
The battle for the last few spots is wide open. Only Brain Quick, Chris Givens and Danny Amendola can be confident they have a spot on this team. Everyone else will have to show what they can bring in these preseason games.
The biggest battle outside of WR for the Rams is for the right tackle spot. Both players have struggled mightily the last few season, but the Rams are hoping offensive line coach Paul Boudreau can help them become somewhat productive. Also keep an eye on how the Rams use TEs and RBs in pass blocking. That will be key in keeping Sam Bradford upright this year.
5. Isaiah Pead
Steven Jackson rarely gets worked in the preseason, so this is the time for Pead to shine. Pead will see the field a lot this season, but how well he plays in the preseason might dictate how much carries he sees behind workhorse Steven Jackson.