Hey, if you guys are only going to read the headlines, I might as well take advantage.
Yesterday I foolishly wrote ‘Do the Rams even stand a chance?‘ as the blog post’s headline, partially purposely playing into the runaway hype, partially knowing that by asking it that way it would get reactions, and partially just not thinking.
Despite the jokey headline, it was actually a fairly serious post, a look at some of the things the Rams did well in their opener against the Lions. Judging by the comments, that was lost on all but about 10 percent of you.
I’ve spent plenty of nights on copy desks trying not to write headlines that obscure the author’s true intent, and yet I did it to myself. To me it seemed clear a few lines into the post the Rams most certainly have a chance, but those of you who chided me for giving the bad guys bulletin board material might not have read that far.
I don’t believe anything written on a blog is going to affect the outcome of Sunday’s game. I can’t envision Steven Jackson in the open field, thinking to himself “Well, I was going to run out of bounds here, but since this blog post from way back on Wednesday morning ticked me off, I’ll run over DeAngelo Hall and score a touchdown instead!” Anybody who ever played football past Pop Warner knows it doesn’t work that way. Once you get on the field, you focus on playing well, and outdueling your opponent. If you’re really locked in, you can barely even hear the crowd.
But even if players were influenced by blog posts, it wouldn’t be my place to try to use that influence to help one team or hurt another. My job to serve the readers of the Insider, and part of that is helping start a conversation every morning.
In the interest of doing that this morning, and leaving no doubt as to the intent, I brought in Ryan Van Bibber from the blog Turf Show Times to go back and forth about how the Redskins and Rams matchup. It makes sense when assessing the Redskins’ chances on Sunday to watch the Rams’ game from Week 1 (the true focus yesterday) and talk with someone who closely observes the Rams.
Ryan and I represented each fan base’s perspective, and asked a few questions of the other. Hopefully you’ll find it as insightful as my headline promises it’ll be.
Keith: Now that you’ve seen a game, how are the Jeff Fisher Rams different from the Steve Spagnuolo Rams?
Ryan: They’re confident and competent. One of the things that really stands out about Fisher’s team is how well prepared they are. They knew Matthew Stafford’s plays as soon as he did in Detroit last week. Players execute the fundamentals well. They block and tackle who they are supposed to block and bring down who they are supposed to tackle. That said, there are still plenty of weak spots; they won an average of three games over the past five seasons.
Here’s something Rams fans want to know, is RGIII going to be as outstanding as he was against the Saints?
Keith: The safe bet would be no. The fans are being pretty honest with themselves, believing that every game won’t go quite that well, and Mike Shanahan and Griffin himself have said the same things.
Let’s be clear. Week 1 was no fluke. Griffin is already very good, and the Shanahans got him comfortable by running plays he ran at Baylor, and using short passes to get him in a rhythm early. Pierre Garcon only played eight snaps and caught four passes from Griffin, all but one at or near the line of scrimmage.
The thing that stood out most to me about Griffin, and will be hardest to repeat, is the mistake-free performance. The fact he didn’t throw any interceptions in 26 attempts to me was more impressive than the 320 yards. Taking care of the ball, or not taking care of it, as you saw in the Rams-Lions game, can equalize a talent disparity.
The Rams stood out in the secondary last week, both with natural ability (the Janoris Jenkins route-jump near the end zone) and with coverage (the Cortland Finnegan pick-six came with him playing a zone underneath Calvin Johnson, so that if Stafford was just looking at the primary player in coverage over top of Johnson, the out route looked open). I think that’s a place they can make some plays against the Redskins.
All things considered though, here in D.C. they’re pretty psyched about Griffin. Do Rams fans still love the trade? Do you still love Sam Bradford?
Ryan: Yeah, very much so. The Rams drafted poorly over the past eight years; they’re so starved for talent. Look at the wide receiver position or offensive tackle. Poor picks and free agent busts left them paper thin at those spots, with no blue-chip players.
Speaking of Rams draft picks, Adam Carriker curries the favor of fans and coaches there. We got the niceties from Shanahan Wednesday, but I’m curious about whether he’s really done well there or is just solidly above average?
Keith: I can’t remember a time he’s stood out, but 3-4 defensive ends aren’t really supposed to. He had 5.5 sacks last year, but only one after Week 6. So I’d go with solidly above average, but that’s not a knock, either. With Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen alongside Carriker, people now say the Redskins have a formidable front seven, not just a couple nice linebackers.
Carriker’s a guy you’d have to watch the games closely to notice, let’s say that. Is there a Ram we might not know much about who we should keep our eye on Sunday?
Ryan: Anyone not named Steven Jackson or Sam Bradford. Defensive end Robert Quinn, last year’s 14th pick in the draft, is playing some outstanding football. The Lions had him doubled up with blockers instead of Chris Long on a couple plays last week.
I can tell you that more than a few Rams fans are nervous about the idea of Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan taking on Barry Richardson and (likely) Wayne Hunter. What’s the flip side of that, where do the Rams have an advantage over the Redskins?
Keith: This came up in the Insider’s comments section on Wednesday. Position-by-position, running back is the place where the Rams have the clearly better player. Matchup-wise though, I think Danny Amendola and Lance Kendricks will be able to work the middle for some catches against the Redskins’ third corner and safeties. Those guys played unexpectedly well against the Saints.
The other spot is at cornerback. If Pierre Garcon’s foot doesn’t let him play, Finnegan will be better than whoever he’s covering, and Jenkins looks talented enough to stay with anyone Washington throws at him most of the day.
Last thing I’ll ask. Redskins-Rams has grown into a bit of a rivalry. Does it strike you as odd that they seem to always play? It’s five seasons in a row now, and seven of the past eight.
Ryan: I was thinking about this the other day, and I think the parallel fortunes of these two franchises the last few seasons got them a few more dates together. In 2010 they played each other because they both finished last in their division in 2009. That’s why they met in 2009 too (which Washington won in an exciting 9-7 game).
Keith: Exciting. Sure it was.There was also 17-10 last year and 19-17 in 2008. I do think we’ll see more scoring Sunday than in those.
(Full disclosure: Unlike when Jimmy Kempski and I did this last week in an actual back and forth, Ryan and I each answered a block of questions separately, and I pieced them together to read like a conversation.)
Put your Friday picks in
The Redskins predictions seemed to go over pretty well last Friday. Let’s make it a weekly thing, with a caveat. Make the prediction something you expect to happen anywhere in the NFL this weekend. Separately, share something you’d like to see the Redskins do or do well. That’d be more interesting than a dozen picks of Redskins 27, Rams 17.
NFL prediction: After a 5.1 passer rating last week, the Browns’ Brandon Weeden passes for 300 yards.
Redskins wish: I’d like to see them give Evan Royster and Roy Helu about eight carries each, then have them feed Alfred Morris to wear the Rams down in the second half.
As always, the more unique the better.
Send your predictions and wishes to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll select a handful, if not all, to feature on Friday.