At the start of the year, Week 4 against the Washington Redskins looked like a game the Rams should win. The Redskins have played pretty good football up to this point and are only a few plays away from being 3-0. The Rams on the other hand are coming off their worst performance in the Edward Jones Dome perhaps ever and seem to be heading in the wrong direction. If there was ever a time to rebound, it now. The schedule will not be getting easier anytime soon.
Here’s a look at three match-ups for Sunday’s game.
Brian Orakpo v. Roger Saffold
Unfortunately for second-year left tackle, Roger Saffold, his season does not get any easier. Week 1 – Trent Cole. Week 2 – Jason Pierre-Paul. Week 3 – Terrell Suggs. And now, in walks 2010 Pro Bowler, Brian Orakpo. Orakpo enters the game with only one sack. While Orakpo’s sack total is down thus far, most know that his numbers do not reflect his ability to disrupt an offense. The man, that some paint as the most feared pass rusher in the game, has 8 quarterback hurries in just three games. Look for the Rams to attempt to slow Orakpo down with Billy Bajema on the line of scrimmage (although that has not worked thus far) or get help from a running back.
In general, this Rams offensive line has to elevate their level of play drastically and they have to do it fast. After watching last week’s Redskins/Cowboys and knowing how the Rams offensive line has performed in the first three weeks, there is little doubt that Washington Redskins D-Coordinator (former Rams coach), Jim Haslett will be blitzing and blitzing often.
Santana Moss / Jabar Gaffney v. Bradley Fletcher & ……
I imagine this week might be one where Fletcher shadows Moss all game. This would leave Justin King, Al Harris, or new-Ram Rod Hood on veteran Jabar Gaffney. Gaffney comes into the contest second on the team in targets (21) and third in yards (176). After watching Torrey Smith have a field day on this secondary last week, one can expect the Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to implement a similar game plan – attack any corner not named Bradley Fletcher and attack them deep.
The 30-year-old Gaffney still can run. He has three catches over 20 yards this year including a long of 39. He had success down the field in week 1 against the Giants. The mere fear of Jabar Gaffney should illustrate to us all just how bad of shape this secondary is in.
It will be interesting to see how the Rams intend to limit the vertical attack this week. Expect to see a much different defensive alignment than the Rams used last week against the Ravens. Last week, especially in the 1st quarter, the Rams went with a lot of single-high safety looks playing Cover 1 and Cover 3 out of those looks. In theory, this was a move to stop Ray Rice and the short to intermediate routes. We see how that one worked out. Taking Gaffney and Moss out of the game could mean a big day for tight end Fred Davis. Despite only having one catch last week, Davis is leading the Redskins in yards (214) and is tied for the NFL lead for catches over 20 yards.
Sam Bradford and Rams skilled players vs. the Skins D
Thus far this season the Rams offense has as many touchdowns as the defenses they’ve lined up against. When you look at this Redskins defense the one thing that stands out is their playmaking ability. They make plays and they create turnovers very well. Their two safeties are pretty good. Hard-hitting LaRon Landry has a forced fumble and is always around the ball. As for the other safety, Rams fans shouldn’t be too hard press to remember OJ Atogwe and his playmaking ability. There is also ball-hawking corner, DeAngelo Hall. This year the Redskins defense have 6 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions and a touchdown. The Rams have to do a much better job taking care of the football because this defense is very capable of putting 6 on the board.
Keys to Victory
- Protect Sam Bradford – Everyone in the Rams’ passing protection is underperforming, line play, TE and RB protection, reads and decisions by the QB, routes by the WRs. It all has to be cleaned up. Sam Bradford is on pace to be sacked 59 times this year.
- Catch the football – Pretty simple here. We don’t do it well enough and it kills drives/big
- Patch up the holes in the secondary – The holes didn’t start last week. They started against the Giants in Week 2. Had Manningham and Hixon played in the 2nd half of that game, we would have known then what we know now: We are not very good back there.
- Get Pressure on quarterback Rex Grossman – James Hall and Robert Quinn should have been anxious all week to go against Trent Williams after seeing what DeMarcus Ware did to him on Monday Night Football. Part of the reason Torrey Smith and the Ravens had such great success last week was in part on those up front and their inability to get to the QB.
- Limit mistakes and turnovers – We can debate all day about the talent on this team. But the truth is if you are going to be second in the league in penalties and first in the league in defensive touchdowns scored against you aren’t going to beat anybody. These things are correctable. Let’s see it happen.
Please do not let Adam Carriker, London Fletcher, OJ Atogwe, Jim Haslett come in here and beat us.