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Rams Season Opener: In Focus

We live in a stat-obsessed world. Can the whizzes at Pro Football Focus give us anything to look at for the Rams season opener against the Vikings?

Joe Skipper

Like it or not, advanced sports statistics have become a fact of life - Billy Beane Brad Pitt made sure of that. You might not always agree with them (unless they say your team/player is doing well, of course), but it's a good way to set a benchmark for production - or so I keep telling myself.

Looking at the Rams preseason statistics is no different. It's more difficult when starters are just trying to make it to the regular season injury-free, but snaps are snaps and struggles are never good.

But for the sake of argument, let's perhaps look a little too far into these advanced preseason metrics, shall we?

Ethan Westbrooks et al.

Name the top rated 4-3 Defensive End of the preseason by PFF. Actually, skip that, because I just did. It's true, Westbrooks' success came against second stringers. But that doesn't distinguish the fact that he's been excellent not only as a pass rusher, with a sack and five hurries - but also as a run defender.

Considering how often the Rams rotate defensive lineman, could Westbrooks even see playing time against the Vikings? It might be a good idea, considering every Minnesota starter on the offensive line except C John Sullivan posted a negative preseason grade. Keeping the D-Line fresh and fast could go a long way to stopping Adrian Peterson.

That Whole 'O-Line'... Thing

The Rams haven't had much success with their offensive line. Things seemed to get better towards the end of last year, but injuries are still a major concern here. It's something to watch against the Vikings, whose entire starting defense line posted slightly positive preseason grades.

The key match-up is Everson Griffen vs. Jake Long. Griffen posted a +4.8 grade, which was good for top five in the league at his position. Jake Long posted a -4.8 grade, putting him in the bottom tenth of the league. It's probably the most lopsided match-up this week, statistically, so it's one to keep an eye on.

Still, the point here is pretty easy to make. With Greg Robinson out, the Rams don't have a lot of depth. The offensive line needs to perform well and stay healthy to set the tone for the season. Success against the Vikings paves the way for that.

Kenny Britt is the Guy?

Could the Rams have finally found a receiver that can...receive? It's tantalizing, given the fact that the last Rams receiver worth mentioning was drafted before Y2K. Britt posted a top 20 rating with PFF this preseason. If that were the regular season, it'd be only the third time a Rams receiver has cracked the top 20 since 2007.

It won't be easy considering both Captain Munnerlyn and Xavier Rhodes, Minnesota's starting corners, posted slightly positive grades and look to lead an improved secondary. He's also playing on a run first team featuring a backup QB, so expectations should be grounded...but it would be refreshing as hell to anyone who has followed the Rams in the last decade to see a receiver put up a 100 yard game from the get-go.