The St. Louis Rams face a tough test this week in Washington as they try to get in the win column...and keep fans interested in the franchise. Jaws dropped to floors all over the country last year when the Rams shocked the Redskins with a narrow defeat in front of the Washington crowd. It won't come any easier this year. Let's look at some of the match ups on the field that will make a difference this week.
Rams C Jason Brown, OGs Jacob Bell and Richie Incogntio vs. Washington DT Albert Haynesworth
The Rams will be double teaming the big tackle throughout the game, similar to what the Giants did last week. They have to in order to open lanes and keep him out of the pocket on passing plays. This was not an impressive group last week, and not just because of you-know-who's penalties. Brown's comments from this summer - about getting to the big guy early - provide a dramatic backdrop. Brown has the added duty of snapping the ball at another loud stadium, something that dogged him last week. But they have been practicing that. Haynesworth and his teammates no doubt see an easy 10-yards by getting to Incognito, so you can bet they'll be trying to get him to respond. If they can win more than half of their battles against Haynesworth the Rams offense should be able to make something happen.
MLB James Laurinaitis vs. Washington TE Chris Cooley
Last week, Seahawks TE John Carlson marred the rookie's otherwise notable NFL debut. He'll have to do better this week, since Cooley is just as likely to see lots of balls from Skins' QB Jason Campbell. The other LBs, especially on the strongside, will bare some of this responsibility as well. Still, Laurinaitis is quickly becoming the face of this defense (who else is there?) and he can't have such a glaring hole in his game.
WR Donnie Avery vs. Washington CB DeAngelo Hall
Put me in the category of people who think Hall is vastly overrated, but he can still play and, on paper, a match up against the Rams passing offense looks favorable for Hall. He wasn't in the mix in last year's game. The Rams need Avery to get better separation this week, getting into his routes sharply and quickly in order to open up the field some for Steven Jackson.
DE Chris Long vs Washington LT Chris Samuels
Samuels is a good LT, and won't make things easy for Long who desperately needs to ramp up his season. Samuels, however, has been struggling with barking knee.
RB Steven Jackson vs Wasington MLB London Fletcher
Rams fans should be plenty familiar with Fletcher, and hoping that Laurinaitis can erase the bitter memory of letting him get away. He's in his thirties, something you'd never know watching him play. Shurmur will almost certainly run the ball more this week, grinding it out against a tough defensive front similar to what the Giants did last week. With the o-line keeping Haynesworth busy, it'll be up to FB Mike Karney to clear the rest of the lane and Jackson to get around the Washington MLB.
RT Jason Smith vs Washington OLB Brian Orakpo
Top draft pick vs top draft pick. Smith has done well in pass protection, let's see if he can keep the Big 12 rivalry in his favor this week.