Rams vs Jets: What to Watch (part 1)

The second sons of New York, more famous for Fireman Ed and Brett Favre than for much actual football in the last few years, have quietly turned into a very formidable rushing team. Last offseason’s signing of Alan Faneca and Damien Woody, along with the continued excellence of Nick Mangold at center, have created a behemoth run-blocking offensive line, one that made the Rams’ front seven invisible in last season’s matchup. Joe Caproso at Turn On the Jets offers a video recap of Thomas Jones from that game — However, it’s not for the faint of heart. You can literally get to five mississippi before a Rams defender lays hands on him in many of these clips.

The Jets plan on giving Kellen Clemens and Marc Sanchez snaps with the first team offense, which likely means Jones and the first-team offensive line will play the entire first half. This represents the first major test of the Rams’ defensive line — specifically Adam Carriker, who will likely line up opposite center (unless he is pushed aside by Hollis Thomas); Leonard Little at left Defensive End, lining up outside the Jets’ right tackle; and James Hall, who is likely to line up at left DT, possibly switching to LDE if Leonard Little is being rotated in and out. Additionally, Laurinaitis, Witherspoon and the team’s starting strongside backer du jour (is it Chris Draft? Larry Grant?) must fly to the point of attack.

That said, Mangold and Woody may sit this game out, leaving the formidable former Steeler Faneca to single-handedly play wrecking ball. He’s a capable beast, but the Rams front seven should hopefully be able to show something in this game against Mangold and Woody’s replacements. The Rams also get a break from the contract holdout of super-speedster and special teams star Leon Washington.

Correction: Leon Washington is still without a contract, but ended his holdout and is practicing and expected to play this Friday.

Nonetheless, the major effort for Spagnuolo is to fix the leaky run defense — especially considering a schedule packed with power-running teams in September and October. The Jets, and Falcons in preseason week 2, represent the strongest tests the Rams will face before the season starts.

For additional subplots, the “let’s trade Thomas Jones to Seattle” story will just not go away, thanks to renewed zeal from its authors at the National Football Post. In its original incarnation in May, the deal proposed was a straight up Jones-for-Deion Branch swap. However, as Mike Sando pointed out in a brief debunking, it was all (and probably is still) pure speculation, not an actual report on a deal on the table.