Washington's defense presents a challenge for the St. Louis Rams this week. Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, who Rams fans will remember from his days as the defensive coordinator and interim head coach here, held the Saints to just 32 points last week, which is something like holding any other team to 20. Despite that, don't expect the Rams to abandon the run.
Running room was hard to come by against the Lions last week. Still, the Rams moved the ball on the ground, or tried to anyway, with 16 attempts in the second half of the game.
"We just kind of put ourselves in a tough spot," Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "Didn't have a lot of success running the ball on first down, which puts you in a tough spot. Eight-man fronts and penetration got us a little bit, the noise probably hurt us a little bit. But again, this week is about getting back to basics, fundamentals, alignment, stance, coming off the ball, targets, things like that. Again, that's certainly not our standard and we think we can get back to it this weekend."
Running the ball has been an area of emphasis in practice this week, especially after injuries forced some shuffling on the offensive line.
"As far as the running game, it's just me getting comfortable and knowing how guys are going to block, how they're going to pull," Steven Jackson said. "We've got to continue to work on that. It will be ongoing, but I'm confident in what we have prepared as an offense.
"Coach ‘Schotty' and Coach Fisher committed to the run," Jackson continued. "Although we weren't as productive as we would have liked as yards per carry, we kept them committed to having to defend the run, which allowed us to have some good drives towards the end of that game."
An effective ground game might the Rams' best hope for taking some of the pressure off quarterback Sam Bradford against an aggressive defense headlined by a pair of the game's best young pass rushers in Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan.
"Kerrigan is terrific, Orakpo speaks for himself," Schottenheimer said. "The thing about them, obviously, is that you've got to find them. They do a good job of moving Brian around on third down. In this league, it's something you get every week. You're going to have a great pass rusher."
Jackson echoed his offensive coordinator.
"Expecting a lot of pressure," Jackson said. "Coach Haslett believes in being exotic, a lot of zone blitzes. He's going to try to throw different fronts at us, especially as an offensive line, since we have some replacements coming in from last week because we're dealing with injuries. He's going to test us to make sure that we're going to protect Sam and we're all on the same page."
Playing against a quarterbacks like RGIII, who makes it hard for defenses to prepare for all possibilities, the Rams will have to score more than 23 points.