Will Horton, a Rams blogger at Rams Herd, answers our questions about Monday’s game.
Q1) Why was Steve Spagnuolo, the great defensive mind who schemed so well
for the NY Giants, completely out to lunch vs the Eagles with his defense?
As head coach, he has to sign off on the Defensive gameplan. He had no gap
controll on Michael Vick, he had no pocket contain on Michael Vick, and then
he rushed with only 3 players, which is another insanity vs Vick. What
happened? What are your thoughts of Spagnuolo in his third year?
WH: Well, to be fair, Spags schemed up a pretty good game against Vick the
passer. He completed fewer than 50% of his passes for 187 yards. But as
you pointed out, several of the Rams’ odd-man rushes failed to account for
him as a runner. And a few times, we had Vick dead to rights but he just
slipped a tackle and there was no one else around to finish. Spagnuolo
enters a long list of defensive minds made look silly by this quarterback.
In general, Spagnuolo lives and dies by his pressure on the passer. Bottle
up that rush, or find a way to escape it, and you’ll do well. Don’t, and
the Rams have a great chance of stealing a win.
Q2) Please update us on all of the injuries, Bradford, Jackson, Amendola,
et al. Beyond obviously Bradford, which player’s loss is going to be felt
WH: I’d rank the injury impact as 1) CB Ron Bartell, whose loss exposes an
already thin secondary; 2) Danny Amendola, a critical third-down receiver
for Sam Bradford, and 3) Jason Smith, a powerful run-blocking tackle on
the right side. Smith hasn’t been very good in pass protection, but his
backup Adam Goldberg was even worse last year.
Q3) If Amendola is out, who catches the ball for the Rams?
WH: I expect Bradford to turn back to rookie tight end Lance Kendricks, who
was one of his favorite targets in the preseason, and who got five passes
thrown his way last week. He might have gotten more had he held on, but
whether it was first game jitters or he was wearing Carl Weathers’ wooden
hand from Happy Gilmore, he was flat out awful in Week 1.
McDaniels likes to spread the ball around, though, and I’d expect to see
WRs Brandon Gibson and Mike Sims-Walker more involved than last week
against Philly’s vaunted cornerback trio. Cadillac Williams is also an
able pass-catcher and has been running surprisingly well.
Q4) The score vs the Eagles was misleading, as the Rams played the Eagles
tough and just made a few sloppy plays. Who are we facing on Monday
the team that played the Eagles tough, or the team that made the sloppy
WH: I think that statement was true until the 4th quarter, when the Rams
defense just ran out of gas. The Eagles had run about 50 offensive plays,
but against Vick, it felt more like 80, and huge holes began opening up
everywhere late in the game. Spags’ teams are high-motor teams, though, so
I expect them to come out strong Monday night. Hopefully they can keep the
pressure on and prevent a similar fade.
As far as the offense goes, McDaniels preaches execution non-stop. So to
see them play as badly as they did, especially with eight dropped passes,
was a real shocker. He will drill them hard this week. We will see if it
Q5) Spags knows Gilbride’s offense very well. And another familiar
friend former Giant Fred Robbins plays for the Rams. Could you give us color on
the Rams defensive line? How do they match up against the Giants
WH: Spags loves to rotate players in and out of the line, as you well know. He
doesn’t have the talent yet to match up with his four-headed monster of
Strahan, Tuck, Umenyiora and Kiwanuka in 2007. But in LDE Chris Long,
Robbins, RDE James Hall and potentially the rookie Robert Quinn, he’s got
a nice group of guys who can get after the pocket. Quinn was inactive last
week for reasons unknown, but expects to play this week.
The left side of Philadelphia’s line was the weaker side, and the Rams
were able to send pressure that way for most of the game until Philly
started pulling into max protect. It appears that most of the pressure
Washington put on Eli last week came through the same lanes, so expect to
hear James Hall’s name a lot, or that of a blitzing linebacker.
Another familiar face is former Giant reserve safety Craig Dahl, a
Spagnuolo favorite who has become a tackling machine, if not a great
Q6) The Rams offensive line had protection issues against the Eagles. The
Giants strength on defense is the defensive line. Bradford is still nursing
an injury. How do the Rams offensive line match up against the Giants
WH: Your primary pass rusher, Jason Pierre-Paul, will be matched up against
our left tackle Rodger Saffold, an interesting combination of early round
picks from last year. Saffold is generally good in pass protection, but
struggles with combination moves (stunts, twists, etc), particularly to
the inside. He also has played poorly against 3-4 fronts, where he has
trouble identifying who to target. Once he gets his mitts on you, though,
he is very effective.
Q7) This game could come down to special teams. Tell us about the Rams
special teams. Do they have a game breaking punt or kick returner? How
are their coverage units? And their kicking game?
WH: Without Amendola, who is a solid but not electric returner, we are leaning
on either 28-year-old Jerious Norwood, who hasn’t done much this preseason
or in Week 1, or on a rookie like Greg Salas, who has done even less. This
is the biggest weakness on our special teams unit right now, as the
kicking and coverage squads are both very good.
Q8) Prediction on Monday night? Prediction on the Rams season?
WH: This game will be a bellwether of the season to come in many ways. Can
they make a statement that they can play up to “prime time” expectations?
Bradford has played very well at times but has yet to “arrive.” This
could be that time. Optimistically, I’ll say the Rams win 31-28 in a wild
game where big plays on offense take advantage of a pair of injury-ravaged