When we originally previewed the season’s first month, we forecast a Week 1 loss in Seattle. (Boo!) Given the events of the preseason, though, does this prediction still hold up? In St Louis, we’ve seen the emergence of Laurent Robinson, the shuffling of linebackers, and the transformation of the defense into a producer of sacks and turnovers. We also haven’t seen Marc Bulger under center since the preseason’s first game. In Seattle, they’ve lost 3/5ths of last year’s starting offensive line, including the stalwart Walter Jones, and sacrificed TJ Duckett for the even older and slower Edgerrin James.
Here’s what we wrote then:
|Week||Date||Opponent||LY: Record||LY: Points||3Y: Record||3Y: Points|
|1||Sept. 13||at Seattle Seahawks||4-12||294/392||23-25||1022/1024|
|Rams games vs opponent, last three seasons:|
Week 6, 2006: Lost 28-20 at home
Week 10, 2006: Lost 24-22 @Seattle
Week 7, 2007: Lost 33-6 @Seattle
Week 12, 2007: Lost 24-19 at home
Week 3, 2008: Lost 37-13 @Seattle
Week 15, 2008: Lost 23-20 at home
Now, I firmly believe that — due to their age, injury history, and lack of personnel for the kind of dominant run game that Coach Mora wants to run — the Seahawks are actually as bad as they looked last season, and are slated for a basement finish in the division. However, they ran the Rams off the field last season with their underwhelming double-backup duo of Julius Jones and TJ Duckett, and the Rams have done little to beef up their defensive line. If the Rams’ follow the pattern of the 2007 Giants, it will take a few weeks for the players to truly “get” Spagnuolo’s pass-rushing scheme, and Hasselbeck’s cranky spine should still be capable of holding his giant shiny head up in Week 1, blinding the Rams’ defense and allowing him to tear the asshole out of Tye Hill or the rookie Bradley Fletcher, or whoever our 4th and 5th defensive backs turn out to be.
Patrick Kerney will likely be out or operating part-time following offseason surgery, but they have this young unknown terror on the defensive line, Brandon Mebane, who will put the rebuilt offensive line (and Bulger’s confidence in same) to the test. The good news, though, is that the Seahawks’ run defense is little better than ours, and Steven Jackson has enjoyed many a good day against the Hags.
I don’t like it. But I see a 30-17 Seahawks final here, and a double-shot of delayed gratification for Rams fans, who want both to see their team on the rise, and Seattle on the decline. It will happen. Just not in Week 1.
Without Walter Jones (knee), Max Wahle (retired), or center Chris Spencer (torn quad), Seattle will be much more vulnerable to the Rams’ budding pass rush. Hasselbeck is a quick enough quarterback in terms of recognition to be able to hit hot routes, and the Rams have very little tape on the offense that Jim Mora and Greg Knapp is trying to install, but they should still be able to inflict a good deal of punishment, and force more short completions and incompletions. This brings Seattle’s scoring punch down a significant notch.
It also places more emphasis on the Rams’ addition-by-subtraction move to dump Tye Hill and promote Jonathan Wade. The diminutive Hill would be a terrible matchup against the lanky Nate Burleson, but the taller and more physical Wade should be able to keep him in check.
Finally, the addition, and proven effectiveness, of James Butler in the box should prevent short runs from becoming long runs. Last year, Julius Jones and TJ Duckett both found themselves in open space five yards from the line of scrimmage, and were able to race untouched for massive gains. Butler and the more disciplined Spagnuolo defense should prevent these 5-yard gains from becoming 50-yard gains, taking another significant bite out of Seattle’s ability to run a quick-strike offense.
So I think we will see a significantly improved Rams defense, though not a lockdown effort by any means. These are not the Titans or Steelers, but they should prevent the team from getting beaten by a large number of big plays.
That said, I don’t see reasons to be more optimistic about the Rams’ offense than I did a month ago. So rather than a 30-17 Seattle win, I see a much closer game, something akin to a 20-17 battle decided by turnovers and a fortuitous field goal. Honestly, I could see it swinging either way.