I could very easily point out how Robert Griffin III is the Rams number one threat in this Sunday's matchup against the Washington Redskins. And though he will undoubtedly utilize his athleticism to make things difficult on the Rams - both on the ground and in the air - I don't see the rookie QB as the Rams biggest focus if they're looking to win their first game of the season.
As a matter of fact, it's not even one person that I can point out the Rams will need to focus on shutting down in order to clinch their home opener. The Redskins, in recent years, have had a very formidable defense, while their offense has seemed to under-perform; mainly due to their lack of quality QB play. Problem solved! This season should prove, with the addition of RG3 and an upgraded receiving unit, to be the beginning of the end for their offensive woes.
I still think our biggest matchup problem comes from the defensive unit of the Redskins. The Rams offensive line may have looked promising starting the regular season - given their ineffectiveness in keeping their QB upright in 2011 - but the loss of Scott Wells in just his very first game as a Ram, and Rodger Saffold's uncertainty for this weekend are concerning. Quite honestly, backups or not, trying to keep Sam Bradford upright is no easy feat when you're trying to block…
Week Two Targets: Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo. Second and fourth year guys, respectively, Kerrigan and Orakpo are explosive outside linebackers in the Redskins 3-4 defense.
In 2011, the Rams offensive line was unable to contain the duo, as Orakpo was able to chalk up 2.5 sacks, 5 tackles (two for loss), and three QB hits, while Kerrigan tallied a sack and forced fumble. Because of his performance, Orakpo was the NFC's player of the week.
Brian Orakpo, 13th overall pick in the 2009 draft [Texas], is no stranger to the pro-bowl. In fact, he's been a perennial attendee since entry into the NFL. Peep the stats:
Ryan Kerrigan immediately became a fan favorite in Washington. In his very first regular season game, he tipped a pass from Eli Manning, intercepted it, and then took it to the house for six. That interception and TD would be his only of the season, but he was no stranger to the backfield. His rookie campaign was marked with dominant play. By season's end, he managed to stay healthy for all 16 games and tallied 63 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles. Though a candidate for Rookie of the Year, the award ultimately went to Denver Bronco Von Miller.
Last week's target was Calvin Johnson. Though he may be the most dominant wide receiver in all of football, there was a certain level of confidence for the Rams knowing that they've got one of the league's premier corners, Cortland Finnegan, in coverage. Statistically, Megatron had a decent day, but was kept out of the end zone, which can be considered a win for any defense.
This week's target(s), given the Rams injuries - and uncertainty of the majority of the offensive line - might prove to be a more difficult matchup. Jeff Fisher, I'm certain, is aware of these two gentleman and probably started game planning for this Sunday prior to you having your Monday morning coffee. Keeping Sam upright is always a priority, and will be more so if Saffold is unable to contribute this weekend. The Redskins will undoubtedly unleash these two linebackers, and they'll be foaming at the mouth. Getting the ball out of his hands fast will be critical for Sam. Making them pay for blitzing is how the Rams can keep the defense honest, and in my humble opinion, win this game.
The Rams defense will continue to impress on Sunday, even without Michael Brockers… you'll see.