Is it just me, or is all the swooning over Robert Griffin III approaching Tebow-esk levels for everyone else too? This game will turn on both Sam Bradford and RGIII, of this I have little doubt, but who else will play a major role in both winning and losing this game? So let's delete the QB position for a second, and take a look at the rest of the cast of characters getting ready to meet in the Edward Jones Dome.
That this game will turn on the play of defenses is not an understatement. The Redskins defense played a near perfect game last week against the New Orleans Saints. Their front three were augmented by lights out play by the linebacker corp. If there is a better linebacker crew in the NFL right now, please let me know who it is in the comments. London Fletcher didn't play like he's 27,001 years old, and the outside linebacker duo of Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan sealed the edge, and provided pressure on Drew Brees all game long.
In this game, "Kerr-akpo" will be living in the back field if the Rams makeshift offensive tackles don't start channeling Orlando Pace in a big way. Wayne Hunter and Barry Richardson - both maligned players on their former teams - could be the single biggest key for the Rams. This game offers an amazing opportunity for both of these tackles. With everyone in the known universe thinking they'll be playing matador to the terrible twosome from the Redskins, they could literally resurrect their careers with solid play. To me, these two Rams represent a loadstone, and it'll be up to them whether their team wins or loses this game.
The Rams defense will match up well with the Redskins; far better than the Spagnuolo led Saints defense did. The Redskins defensive coordinator was in the mind of Spags from the first snap of the ball. The "Who Dat" defensive line had trouble with the Washington offensive line, and they played RGIII like he'd run on every down. They obviously pulled a game plan from last year when they played Cam Newton, expecting the Baylor star to run, instead of standing tall in the pocket. I think we'll see the rams in a great deal of man coverage, as well as dime-packages. We'll see a ton of corner back blitzes, with the Rams outside linebacker filling the DT-DE gap when Chris Long and Robert Quinn are turned loose on the edge.
A key for the Rams will be closing off flash-screen passes, and the DT-DE gap. Here is where defensive tackles become key to today's game for the Rams. They'll seriously miss a road-block tackle like Michael Brocker. How Kellen Heard, Matthew Conrath and Jermelle Cudjo team up to fill in will be telling indeed. Kendall Langford has played well, and the tandem of he and Brockers is promising, but in this game, one of the three mentioned will have to step up. If they don't, a guy named Alfred is going to shred the Rams for an Demarco Murray kind of day. This game will turn on the Rams ability to stop the run between the tackles. To a lesser extent, the St. Louis outside linebackers will need to react to short passes in the flat, and screen passes that seemed to befuddle them against the Detroit Lions.
There are a few things I'd like to see, one of them being more plays featuring Daryl Richardson. Rotowire has it that Richardson has displace Isiah Pead as the Rams #2 running back, and with good reason. He's a perfect match for the Redskins defensive front three too. His ability to hit holes inside the tackles, and quick outside break will back their outside linebacker up if he breaks a few for decent gains. The Washington secondary has a few bumps and bruise from the last few weeks too. I think the Redskins will start the game with 7 in the box, and blitz Sam Bradford early and often. Rams running back Steven Jackson is going to have a bruising day, but I see him having a better day receiving than rushing.
The first play of the game the Rams shouldn't call: The quick slant to Brandon Gibson. They've called that play one too many times, so look for the Redskins corner backs to be cheating up on the first play.
The first play I'd call? Steven Jackson releasing pass protection and swinging in back of Ryan Kerrigan in the right flat for a short pass. My big gamble play would be to send Chris Given flying down the field if the CBs are cheating up.
How about your first play call? Given all you know about the two teams, what play would you call to start the Rams offense?