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NFL Week One: Rams vs. Vikings Players to Watch

A primer on a few key Rams players to keep an eye on during Week One's match-up against the Minnesota Vikings.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Rams brethren, game week is finally upon us. We have been waiting what seems like an eternity for this time of year to finally come. This season, the Rams start off the season at home against the Minnesota Vikings.

There is never an easy game in this league, and this Sunday will not be any different – especially with the best running back in the league, Adrian Peterson, coming to town. The defense has a daunting task ahead of them. The Rams will need a few players to step up and negate –or more likely just slow down – AD.

So without further ado, the five players to watch versus the Vikings:

James Laurinaitis

James Laurinaitis is a known commodity in St. Louis. The Rams know what they are getting out of James. But, Laurinaitis did not play a single down this preseason due to an ankle injury and there will be rust that will be need to be knocked off.

Laurinaitis is one of the leaders one defense and the front seven. That front seven will need to be on its A-game to put a halt to Adrian – if the middle linebacker is the weak link in that front seven chain, Peterson will gash the Rams.

The Rams cannot afford to have JL not be at full throttle, especially going up against Peterson.

E.J. Gaines

When starting cornerback Trumaine Johnson went down with a grotesque-looking knee injury, many were fearful he would be lost for the entire year. Luckily, tests results revealed only a MCL sprain and recovery of about six weeks.

Out of the handful of promising rookie corners the Rams acquired this off-season, it looks like E.J. Gaines will get the first crack at the starting lineup while Tru recovers. Gaines was an absolute steal in the sixth round out of Mizzou. Some say he slipped so far down the draft because of his 4.5 speed. However, E.J. has solid coverage skills and is not afraid to hit. He's had his fair share of moments in the preseason.

Some of the other corners are sure to get into the mix – like second-year player Brandon McGee and rookie nickel cornerback Lamarcus Joyner – but expect to see plenty of Gaines.

Aaron Donald

Aaron Donald demonstrated that he is as good as advertised during the preseason, causing a ruckus for opposing quarterbacks.

While he will not be a starter, according to the Rams' official depth chart, he figures to be a vital part of the defensive line rotation. Donald will be initially deployed on passing situations, to ensure he is able to capitalize on his strengths.

Since, the Vikings do have an All-Pro running back, it will be questionable if Donald will see the field much. But when all four first-round linemen – Donald, Michael Brockers, Robert Quinn, and Chris Long – it will surely be a sight to see.

Zac Stacy

Stacy's skills are not in question here. However, it will be interesting to see how much productivity he will be able to generate with a questionable offensive line.

Second-overall selection Greg Robinson will not be starting this game, in part because of his head spinning on a swivel due to him learning two positions instead of solely focusing on one. Instead, Rodger Saffold will switch over to left guard and veteran Davin Joseph will step into Saffold's right guard slot. Joseph did not look too good during the preseason, so it is interesting why head coach Jeff Fisher thinks he gives the Rams a better chance of winning at this point than Robinson.

Another large question mark along the line is left tackle Jake Long. He is coming off of an ACL injury and looked pretty damn rusty in is lone preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. He pretty much was responsible for letting Armonty Bryant to put that hit on Bradford.

So will the offensive line create enough push and open enough running lanes for Zac Stacy? Will Zac get enough help to bulldoze his way to success? those are the questions.

Tavon Austin

Last year, the quote-unquote secret plans on using Tavon never materialized. During the preseason, things did not change – Austin had five catches for 40 yards, the longest going for 14 yards. Surprisingly, Tavon is still being advertised as the starting wide receiver opposite of Kenny Britt.

Fellow receiver Brian Quick had himself a "breakthrough" training camp and preseason, so we might see plenty receiver sets including both big targets Britt and Quick.

In what type of plays will Austin see time in? In what manner will Austin be used? These, along with his playing time, will be interesting to see.


So there you have it. Five players to keep an eye on during Rams-Vikings game. There are definitely more players that could be added to this list. That is your job, as the reader. Sound off on the comment section! What players are you most looking forward to watching?