Sam Bradford. He is risen.
St. Louis Rams, 0-1, t-2nd - NFC West
Green Bay Packers, 0-1, 4th - NFC North
Aug. 16, 4 p.m. ET - NFL Network
GB pass v. STL pass D
Green Bay's got a pretty deep passing attack, bolstered by the addition of second round 2014 NFL Draft selection Davante Adams. He'll join uneclectic Jordy Nelson and electric Randall Cobb to form a pretty potent trio if he lives up to expectations. Saturday, though, gives us a stronger look at the depth here. Perhaps problematically for the Rams' secondary (and more specifically, the ability to evaluate how the Rams' passing defense is doing), the Packers run the ball pretty heavily against Tennessee a week ago. That left the passing game spreading the ball to different targets (only one GB WR had more than two catches) and some missing cohesion (primary backup QB Matt Flynnand fourth string Chase Rettig combined to go 6/13 for just 59 yards -- no in-game chemistry developed in the pass...which is the case for every team in the preseason, but anyway...). It is a chance for the Packers' WR depth to establish themselves with guys like Chris Harper, Myles White and Jeff Janis looking to seize the moment.
Meanwhile, the Rams' cornerback and safety battles are shaping up to be worth paying attention to. Brandon McGee (though I think he's already locked in), Greg Reid, E.J. Gaines, Marcus Roberson and Darren Woodard are all fighting for a spot in the corner ranks. We also get another look at the safety reserves. Is it Mo Alexander's time to shine?
GB run v. STL run D
As I mentioned above, the Pack ran the bell pretty heavily in their first 2014 roll out. James Starks and Rajion Neal? They had it going on 11 runs for 88 yards. DuJuan Harris and LaDarius Perkins? 17 carries for 36 yards. Of course the running game is often referendum on offensive line play, but it's a good opportunity for the Rams to improve against the run after struggling to contain it early against the Saints.
Thing is, the linebacking corps looks pretty set to match last year's sextet of James Laurinaitis, Alec Ogletree, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Will Witherspoon, Ray Ray Armstrong and Daren Bates. Perhaps some improved play from Ray Ray to show he's picking up on the position or a splash play from Ogletree would do us good here.
GB O-line v. STL D-line
Time to eat. The Packers struggled in pass protection last year, ranking 24th in sacks allowed and 26th by Football Outsiders in Adjusted Sack Rate. Things were better in the run game however, and having Aaron Rodgers miss time never helps things. Nevertheless, it wasn't all that impressive of a unit. So the depth battle here should be interesting for the second offensive line unit.
For the Rams, we're pretty settled on the D-line. For me, the big question will be if Michael Sam can have another plus performance. At that point, you'd have to start giving him a real chance at a DE role and not just special teams if the staff has seen what they wanted from him on that front. For me though, he's got to have a big performance Saturday to get another shot in the last two games...which would be interesting.
STL pass v. GB pass D
Sam returns. This might get a mention after the game. As the second preseason game though, there's also a battle for a potential extra spot on the WR chart to support the absence of Stedman Bailey for the first four games.
Meanwhile, the Packers have a pretty strong corner unit that is now bolstered by first round pick Ha'Sean Clinton-Dixat the back. So if nothing else, Sam's going have a challenge on his hands with the starting unit the Pack offers. Beyond that, the Rams will always have a bit of challenge with their own assets so don't be surprised if the Packers' secondary depth in guys like Jumal Rolle and Jarrett Bush aren't tested all that heavily.
STL run v. GB run D
This might be the most interesting battle of the night. The Rams were pretty balanced last week against the Saints but may opt to lean on the run to incorporate Sam back into offensive waters at a less accelerated rate. That would only intensify the scrutiny on the RB depth chart....meaning more scrutiny for RB Tre Mason. And with Isaiah Pead back healthy again (to say nothing of Benny Cunningham or UDFA Trey Watts), there's going to be a lot to scout here.
Meanwhile, the Packers really struggled with the run in 2013. Clinton-Dix may provide some pop out of the back, but three of the four linebackers remain from last year. The only change? The introduction of Julius Peppers at LOLB over Nick Perry who's now in a reserve role. Having a 2013 starter out there with the second team should help the Rams' running game gain some valuable experience, but it's not a stellar unit. As expected, the roster battle here for the Pack is intense, so don't be surprised if emotions run high among the Packers' linebackers in the second half.
STL O-line v. GB D-line
This is a compelling matchup as well. Without Jake Long, do the Rams give Greg Robinson more looks at left tackle? How do they rotate through the second and third units? Yall know I love me some O-line play. I'm eager to see this one play out.
That's partially because Green Bay have a pretty decent three-man front. B.J. Raji's back to the nose with Datone Jones and Mike Daniels flanking. Third-round pick Khyri Thornton is still in reserve as a DE right now as well, and with Jerel Worthy shipped to New England, there's a void to be filled for the backups.
This week's top 3 storylines brought to you by the stupid Ice Bucket Challenge which has done wonders for a good cause...but is still stupid:
1.) The Ice Bucket Challenge is forcing us to torture ourselves for each others' pleasure
The ALS Association, in this two-week period last year, raised $1.4m. This year (through Thursday), it has raised $7.6m. That's an incredible success toward helping treat and eventually, hopefully, eliminate the disease. It hasn't happened because we reached into our souls and found a new tier of benevolence to reach toward. It's happened because people are pouring freezing water on their heads. Somehow, we weren't able to raise this level of funding out of sheer want for societal improvement. We were able to do it by inflicting momentary discomfort. And putting it on YouTube. We are a stupid, stupid people.
But momentary discomfort can be entertaining. With the defense seemingly healthy going into the second preseason game, I wouldn't be upset to see them inflict some momentary discomfort on the Packers' offense. Injuries? Never. I'm not a villain. But a couple big hits from the defensive line? Some aggression out of the back? A reminder that Gregg Williams is now the Rams' defensive coordinator? All for a good cause...
2.) The Ice Bucket Challenge is going to motivate some stupid non-profits to create their own torture PR campaigns for a good cause.
"Wet Willies for Whooping Cough!" "Take the Titty Twister Challenge for PTSD!" Never, never, never ever assume a PR firm won't. Because somewhere, a PR firm absolutely will. And some non-profit is going to stumble upon that very PR firm and dear God help us. Mimicking often doesn't work because it lacks the punch, the inventiveness of the prototype...and we're more prepared for it. It doesn't take us off guard the way it might have the first time you saw a sane, healthy person poor ice water all over their damn head.
The Rams can't mimic other offenses. Brian Schottenheimer is Brian Schottenheimer. But they've got to find a way to install some dynamism into this offense. We finished 27th in the league in passing yards per game last year. We tied for 20th in passing TDs in the league. We don't have to try to replicate Dana Holgorsen's offense to get the gaudy numbers out of Tavon Austin we saw in college. We're not turning Jeff Fisher into Chip Kelly. But forging a new path for this offense with these players is a must in 2014 if they're going to be successful. Getting a sense of that in the second preseason game would be...comforting.
3.) The Ice Bucket Challenge is stupid because if you momentarily subject yourself to torture, you can pick somebody else to have them momentarily subject themselves to torture
This is perhaps on its face the most stupid part of this. "I just took the burn my knuckles challenge and now my knuckles are like overtoasted toast. I challenge...my mom! Mom, burn your knuckles for the orphans!" Of course now if you don't burn your knuckles, you're an asshole because don't you care about orphans. But you do. You didn't really before everybody was burning their knuckles and putting it on the internet, but they are so now you do and now you're burning your knuckles with one hand, holding your phone in the other because your son called you out and you don't want to be the uncool mom who doesn't burn her knuckles in solidarity with her son and the thousands of other morons who are doing it.
Yes, I am the mom.
Fine. I will burn my damn knuckles for the orphans. I will sacrifice myself on this altar of nonsense to prove, as if it needed to be proven, that I have a soul and I acknowledge that we share this plane, this time as a people.
What does this have to do with the Rams-Packers game? I don't know. I just know now I have to pour ice water on my head this weekend. I'm not even sure I own a bucket.