After such a joyful Week 1 for Redskins fans, it might be tough to let go. But it’s time to turn the page from the win over the New Orleans Saints to the Week 2 game Sunday in St. Louis, the seventh meeting with the Rams in the past eight seasons.
To the casual eye, it’s fair to ask if the 0-1 Rams even stand a chance. The experienced among us know that one week in the NFL can change the narrative and make the Redskins prohibitive favorites, even on the road, but not much is ever certain.
Does this game worry you at all?
Because it’s another road game? Because these are the Jeff Fisher Rams, not the poorly coached, lack-of-talent Rams? Because Week 1 was almost too good to be true?
There will be the obvious comparisons between third-year quarterback Sam Bradford, whom the Rams committed to by dealing the No. 2 pick to the Redskins, and Robert Griffin III, whom the Redskins took with that pick.
There are the names you know: Running back Steven Jackson, defensive end Chris Long, linebacker James Laurinatis and Bradford. But the Rams also rebuilt the roster to a degree. St. Louis’s defense gave up 429 yards in a season-opening loss to the Lions, but it looked formidable in generating three turnovers.
Assuming you were too busy watching the miracle in New Orleans (just kidding) to have seen any of the Rams, I watched a condensed version of their opener on DVR. Here are some things I picked up:
— St. Louis intercepted Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford three times in the first half, once when cornerback Janoris Jenkins jumped a route on the goal line, once when linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar dropped into coverage and a third when cornerback Cortland Finnegan bracketed Calvin Johnson, playing underneath him with coverage over top. Stafford threw it anyway, and Finnegan took it back for a touchdown. The Rams defense also dropped two more interceptions that hit them in the hands.
— The Rams’ roster is the NFL’s youngest, with 17 rookies active. Yet there are a handful of standout vets, as mentioned above, on either side of the ball.
— The Brian Schottenheimer-called offense went with a heavy dose of Jackson, getting him the ball in every way possible, especially early. They used a shovel pass, they threw it to him out of the backfield and they had no problems running him on consecutive plays. Isaiah Pead spelled Jackson a couple times, but if they tried to establish the run against Detroit’s defense, which is strong on the defensive line and weak in the secondary, they’ll probably try to do the same against Washington.
— The Rams have their own Baby Welker in Danny Amendola, a wide receiver who gets most of his catches working the underneath routes out of the slot. They also have former New York Giants receiver Steve Smith, who can do the same. This means the Redskins’ linebackers, safeties and slot corner will get a workout. The Rams don’t really have any dangerous outside weapons. Only Brandon Gibson (No. 11), who hauled in a touchdown pass, caught my eye.
— Tackle Roger Saffold suffered a serious injury in the game. I don’t think offensive line was the Rams’ strong suit to begin with, so a big day for the Redskins’ pass rush could be in store.
— St. Louis led Detroit, a playoff team last year, 20-13 with 9:45 left in the game. They also led 23-20. Detroit had two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, though, and scored in the final 15 seconds to win, 27-23.
— The game seemed about as close as the score made it look, but by the numbers, Detroit outgained St. Louis, 429-251. The Rams only rushed for 78 yards, on 27 carries, 21 of which went to Jackson. The problem was the Rams didn’t make any big plays — their longest was Gibson’s 23-yard touchdown catch, and their longest run was 11. They have the methodical part down. The explosive part, not so much.
— That last point, the lack of Rams offensive weapons, might mean the Redskins can cover with minimal manpower and dial up exotic blitzes. Against the Saints, I recall at least one safety blitz, and another when both DeAngelo Hall and DeJon Gomes got close to Drew Brees.
My question to you all is how confident are you heading in, and is it possible you’re too confident? Everybody’s different; some of us need to worry to function, some of us are measured in our approach and some of us are always confident.
It’s a game the Redskins should win, if you’re looking at the schedule and picking out the opportunities for victories. But based on the Week 1 results, when the Rams had an NFC playoff team from last year on the ropes until the final drive, it might not be the slam dunk it seems.
Is there any way you could see the Rams giving the Redskins trouble? Are there any particular matchups you like or don’t like?