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St. Louis Rams at Washington: Calling the Matchup

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Everything you need to know about the Rams and Washington before Sunday's game. How long can St. Louis remain unbeaten?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

So this is what optimism feels like.

I had nearly forgotten.

Coming off the St. Louis Rams' most important win since, well, the last time they beat the Seattle Seahawks, Jeff Fisher's squad is gifted with a rare opportunity to begin the season 2-0. The Washington Redskins, riddled with controversy, appear to be an ideal matchup for a young team hoping to turn a corner and return to relevance.

Which means the Rams will lose, right?

Here's how the Rams and Redskins stack up position-by-position.


Rams

skins

Redskins

Edge

Offense

QB

1. Nick Foles

1. Kirk Cousins
2. Colt McCoy
3. Robert Griffin III

How many of Washington QB's will we see on Sunday? Regardless, none have inspired much confidence.

RB

1. Tre Mason
2. Benny Cunningham
3. Isaiah Pead
4. Todd Gurley?

1. Alfred Morris
2. Matt Jones
3. Chris Thompson
FB - Darrel Young

skins

Morris isn't much of a receiving threat, but he's a true workhouse who torched the 'Fins for 121 yards last week. Until Gurley plays and Pead doesn't, the Rams may not win here.

WR

1. Kenny Britt
2. Brian Quick
3. Stedman Bailey
4. Tavon Austin

1. Pierre Garcon
2. Ryan Grant
3. Andre Roberts
4. Jamison Crowder
DeSean Jackson

Like Gurley, the Rams need Quick on the field, but patience is key, and their pair of WVU alums really played stellar ball in Week 1. St. Louis is fortunate DeSean Jackson won't be suiting up.

TE

1. Jared Cook
2. Lance Kendricks
3. Cory Harkey

1. Jordan Reed
2. Derek Carrier
3. Anthony McCoy

Reed is never a guarantee to play, and while Kendricks is always a reliable option, Cook looks like a safe bet to once again lead the Rams in receiving.

OL

LT - Greg Robinson
LG - Jamon Brown
C - Tim Barnes
RG -Rodger Saffold
RT - Rob Havenstein

LT - Trent Williams
LG - Shawn Lauvao
C - Kory Lichtensteiger
RG - Brandon Scherff
RT - Morgan Moses

skins

The Rams' front played well against Seattle, but let's not anoint the unit quite yet. Williams is a three-time Pro Bowler, and we all remember the hype surrounding Scherff prior to the draft.

Defense

DE/
Edge

RE - Robert Quinn
LE - Chris Long
3 - William Hayes
4 - Ethan Westbrooks
Eugene Sims

WLB - Ryan Kerrigan
SLB - Trent Murphy
3 - Jackson Jeffcoat
4 -Preston Smith

I expect Kerrigan to give the Rams a fit, and Murphy has potential, but this is the Rams.

DT/
Interior

1. Aaron Donald
2. Michael Brockers
3. Nick Fairley

RE - Jason Hatcher
NT - Terrance Knighton
LE - Stephen Paea


Aaron Donald.

LB

W - Akeem Ayers
M - James Laurinaitis
S - Alec Ogletree

M - Perry Riley Jr.
M - Keenan Robinson
3 - Will Compton

The little brothers of the Rams' fierce front-7, the linebacking corps made big strides against Seattle. But Riley Jr. and Robinson have fared well in replacing the legendary London Fletcher.

CB

1. Janoris Jenkins
2. Trumaine Johnson
3. Lamarcus Joyner
4. Marcus Roberson

1.DeAngelo Hall
2. Bashaud Breeland
3. Will Blackmon
4. David Amerson
Justin Rogers
Chris Culliver

Hall, who was the talked about as a potential cut in August, is a shell of his former playmaking self. If Johnson doesn't play, though, this could go the other way.

S

FS - Rodney McLeod
SS - T.J. McDonald
3S - Mark Barron

FS - Dashon Goldson
SS - Trenton Robinson
3S - Jeron Johnson

Goldson is on his third team in four years after fizzling during his stint in Tampa Bay. Mark Barron, on the other hand, has drawn some comparison to the late great Sean Taylor.

Special Teams

All

K - Greg Zuerlein
P - Johnny Hekker
R - Tavon Austin

K - Dustin Hopkins
P - Tress Way
R - Jamison Crowder

Austin already has a return touchdown in 2015. Crowder has fielded three punts in his career.

Coaching Staff

All

HC - Jeff Fisher
OC - Frank Cignetti
DC - Gregg Williams
S T - John Fassel

HC - Jay Gruden
OC - Sean McVay
DC - Joe Barry
S T - Ben Kotwica

Admit it -- the only name you recognize here is Gruden.

Rams Total - 10

Redskins Total - 2

This is really more of a result of the poor and dysfunctional state of Redskins than it is a testament to the improved talent level of the Rams. For St. Louis to top any team on offense at this point, without a healthy backfield and with a still-questionable offensive line, it's nothing short of miraculous.

Even before a Legion of Boom-shredding performance by Nick Foles, he would have easily taken the nod over Kirk Cousins ... and/or Colt McCoy ... and/or RG3.

Expect the Rams to take another step forward with Tre Mason back in the fold, and the team can't afford to keep Brian Quick shelved as a healthy scratch too much longer, but even if Todd Gurley is active, he won't be heavily involved. Let him and the Steelers' Le'Veon Bell make their 2015 debuts together next week.

Washington still boasts a capable defense in several areas, particularly up front, but inexperience in the secondary presents the Rams' tight ends with yet another opportunity to wreak havoc.

I still maintain a smidgen of hope for Jay Gruden -- he does talk to his brother now and then, right? -- but autocratic owner Dan Snyder made even Mike Shanahan reconsider retirement.

Injury Report

Rams: Out - RB Chase Reynolds, DE Eugene Sims. Questionable - RB Todd Gurley, RB Tre Mason. Probable - LB Daren Bates, CB Trumaine Johnson.

Redskins: Out - WR DeSean Jackson, CB Justin Rogers, LB Martrell Spaight. Questionable - OT Tom Compton, LB Jackson Jeffcoat, DT Terrance Knighton, TE Jordan Reed. Probable - CB DeAngelo Hall, OT Trent Williams, C Kory Lichtensteiger.

Rams Offense vs. Redskins Defense

If the Rams' defense does what's expected, the offense will see the field a lot on Sunday. That's good, but will almost certainly leave you shaking your head and diving into a six-pack shortly after lunch.

St. Louis, not too long ago considered expansion-level at nearly every position, is still far away from taking over and winning games on offense. Still, the Rams have to get at least some of the mistakes ironed out before a pivotal matchup and potential shootout against Pittsburgh next week, and Washington may be the perfect remedy.

What bodes well for the Rams is the dwindling depth in Washington's secondary, which will be without cornerbacks Justin Rogers (injured) and Chris Culliver (suspended).

Foles may be asked throw for nearly as many yards as he did against Seattle (297), because the Redskins are surprisingly stout against the run. In Week 1, Washing held Dolphins' breakout candidate Lamar Miller to only 53 rushing yards, and they have Ryan Kerrigan, who will undoubtedly harass St. Louis from the game's first snap.

In three career games against the Rams, Kerrigan has 14 tackles, four sacks and two forced fumbles. Rookie right tackle Rob Havenstein faces another tough task in slowing down Washington's top pass rusher.

Rams Defense vs. Redskins Offense

Oh, this is going to be fun.

Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald may already have their bags packed for the Pro Bowl, because they're eyeing potentially career-best performances against the easily rattled and mistake-prone Kirk Cousins. If the pass rush gets going, which it should, the Rams will tally sacks and turnovers in bunches.

One thing, though, appears certain, and that is speedster Pierre Garcon will torch the Rams' secondary at least once for a long gain. With DeSean Jackson nursing a hamstring injury, Garcon is a lock for double-digit targets.

The biggest test here comes in fourth-year running back Alfred Morris, who the Redskins will feed regardless of the score. Morris, who has surpassed 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons, is a relentless bruiser in open space. Arm tackles won't take this guy down.

St. Louis committed the unimaginable in Week 1 and allowed a decent outing to an opposing tight end, but that was Jimmy Graham, and his touchdown was scored in single coverage against T.J. McDonald (who, as good as he is, should not be isolated in that position) as the Rams blitzed every one except Gregg Williams himself. Alec Ogletree will tail the oft-injured Jordan Reed for much of the afternoon with the safeties adding protection.

Who to Watch

On the Rams: LG Jamon Brown and RT Rob Havenstein
The training camp hype appears real, ladies and gentlemen. Brown and Havenstein performed admirably in their rookie debuts, and they both have a chance to really take the Rams out of the bottom barrel discussion on the offensive line with another strong performance against Washington.

Honorable Mention: DT Nick Fairley
If you kept an eye out for Fairley last week, you missed some really good defensive football, because more often than not, the former Lion was standing on the sideline. He was never a threat to steal snaps from John Randle reincarnate Aaron Donald, but after an impeccably strong performance by Michael Brockers, Fairley has been cemented as the Rams' third defensive tackle. He will need to do the most with limited action to earn Coach Fisher's favor.

On the Redskins: OLB Trent Murphy
Kerrigan is the obvious choice, so we'll go with his bookend on the opposite side. Drafted in the second round in 2014, Murphy was coming off a superb college career -- he led the NCAA in 2013 with 15 sacks -- but he brought down opposing quarterbacks only 2.5 times in his rookie year. At 6-foot-5 and 258 pounds, he's not the kind of guy Rams fans want chasing down Nick Foles.

Honorable Mention: RG Brandon Scherff
Another week, another inexperienced interior offensive lineman to exploit. A lot of mock drafts had Scherff slotted to the Rams back in April before the Redskins took him with the fifth overall pick. You can bet he's seen tape of Michael Brockers blowing up Seattle RT Garry Gilliam countless times over the past week.

Best-Case Scenario

Tre Mason is comfortable and pain-free in his return from a preseason hamstring injury, running wild behind the stout blocking of the Rams' offensive line, while Benny Cunningham assumes all breather and third down duties as Isaiah Pead watches from the bench. Nick Foles picks up where he left off last week, connecting with Jared Cook for an early score, and Stedman Bailey shows flashes of the big-time playmaker many still expect him to be.

After throwing a couple interceptions and absorbing countless hits, Kirk Cousins is pulled after halftime in favor of clipboard cowboy Colt McCoy. Despite early success on the ground, Alfred Morris can't put Washington on his back, and he is bottled up with the Redskins forced to play from behind.

RG3 grimaces as the former Longhorn quarterback throws an errant pick-six.

The Rams coast on a double-digit lead, play conservative Jeff Fisher football down the stretch and begin planning for Pittsburgh before the late afternoon games even kick off.

Worst-Case Scenario

Nick Foles returns to 2014 form, taking unnecessary chances and making costly mistakes, and the Rams' young offensive tackles are abused by Washington's formidable puss rush. The receivers, though open, stone-hand the football as drops once again plague the Rams offense. Tre Mason just doesn't look right, slow off the edge and dancing at the line of scrimmage.

I won't mention a certain former Georgia Bulldog.

Playing agonizingly susceptible off-coverage, the Rams' secondary is relentlessly picked apart as Pierre Garcon tops 100 receiving yards and burns Janoris Jenkins down the sideline. Washington's offensive line, better on paper than Seattle's, buys Cousins just enough time to manage the game, and Morris rumbles for a big day.

The Rams eventually lose a tough-fought game by a single-digit margin, and, rightly so, the national media declares that St. Louis' Week 1 win was a fluke.

Prediction: Rams 24, Redskins 13

This is a game the Rams cannot lose. I mean, they absolutely could -- they're the Rams -- but they've come too far since the teams that beat only the good and lost to the bad.

St. Louis has made an infuriating habit of following up emotional, respectable wins with deflating losses. Eventually, that will come to an end.

If the Rams are even remotely a playoff contender, this is a must-win game, and I'm all but certain the youngest team in the NFL has matured enough to capitalize.