Rams vs Jets: What to Watch (part 2)

Earlier this week, we looked at the specific battle that the Rams defensive front would face against running back Thomas Jones and the Jets’ mammoth offensive line… even without center Nick Mangold and tackle Damien Woody. In the two days hence, though, last year’s free agent prize Alan Faneca broke his finger in a freak practice incident, and will also sit out. This prompted a little Q-and-A between RamsHerd and Joe Caporoso of Turn On The Jets. Here’s a transcript of our exchange, along with my added thoughts on what to watch for:

Will: This will be the first time that Marc Bulger plays without the red jersey, and will be free to take hits. How well does the new offensive line protect him, and how confident will he be in his throws? He’s looked good in practice, but he’s also been untouched. From the Jets’ perspective, who’s bringing the pass rush?

Joe: The Jets top two sack guys from last season were Shaun Ellis and Calvin Pace. Unfortunately, both are facing early season suspensions, with Pace missing 4 games and Ellis missing 1. Vernon Gholston will be stepping in for Pace and should see a ton of action against the Rams to get him ready for the first 4 weeks of the regular season. Also, keep an eye on under the radar linebackers, Marques Murrell and Jamaal Westerman who both have had very strong training camps.

Will: Will Spagnuolo be able to remake this Rams defensive front into a Giants-style penetrating attack? We got pushed sideways and backwards all last season, perhaps no game more so than against the Jets. (That video you posted is nightmarish for us!) With Mangold, Faneca and Woody out, are the Jets’ backups stout enough to hold the fort?

Joe: It is hard to evaluate their top backups because none of them have had extensive playing time. Regardless, Robert Turner and Wayne Hunter did contribute last season as extra tight ends in short yardage situations and are veterans of the Jets offense. Stanley Daniels, who will start for Alan Faneca is probably the biggest question mark of the three. Rex Ryan has already went on record stating he believes Wayne Hunter is a starting caliber tackle and Rob Turner is a versatile player with good size.

Will: If the Rams get to the red zone, can we score? How was the Jets’ red zone defense last season? How does it project this season?

Joe: The Jets red zone defense was pretty good last season and should project to be even better this year because of the depth they added at all three levels. Darrelle Revis and Lito Sheppard can man up on receivers and let the Jets stack the box. Kris Jenkins leads the charge on the D-Line and frees up space for the Jets exceptional pair of inside linebackers, Bart Scott and David Harris.

Additional position battles to watch in the second half:

Keith Null vs Brock Berlin: So far in camp, this battle has been one-sided in favor of Null, who has shown a strong arm and relatively quick release. However, how will he adapt to NFL game speed? Hopefully the Rams don’t get to their third string QB this season, but if they do, we need a better option than Berlin.

Tim Carter vs Ronald Curry: Curry has become the invisible man in camp of late. Are both of these guys going to make the roster, or are they jousting for one spot to make room for younger players like Brooks Foster … or a free agent signee from other teams’ roster cuts? They’ll be going up against the Jets’ deep and aggressive secondary, a good proving ground. Carter will probably also be returning kicks at some point.

Jonathan Wade, Justin King, Bradley Fletcher vs Jets’ receivers: All three of these second tier DBs are likely to see game action with the Rams this season — particularly if Tye Hill continues to fall apart. So this is not really a position battle as much as an open audition. Behind this trio is another young camper who has been making plays: Quincy Butler.

For more reading from the Jets’ perspective, I recommend checking out the rest of Joe’s thoughts on this game at TOTJ.

For more Rams pregame, check out the three-part pregame series focusing on individual battles: Part 1 – LinebackersPart 2 – Stopping the Run … Part 3 – to be announced.

Finally, Steven Jackson updated us with his pregame jam via twitter…. Really? This is what gets you pumped, SJ?