The Rams will hit the road to take on the Cleveland Browns this coming Saturday. I will match-up the units of each team to see where we stand. Check back after the game on Saturday for my post game thoughts, as well as YouTube videos of Bradford's performance, and all TD plays.
QB: Sam Bradford looked very sharp at times in his debut, but was very limited in his last two drives by horrendous O-line play. Bradford will be looking to build on the positives he had last week. So far, when Bradford has been given a chance to throw, he has looked very impressive. I expect Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur to open up the play book a bit, if Bradford can get some protection.
Meanwhile, AJ Feeley looked terrible and almost threw two picks; if the Rams are considering (even the slightest bit) starting Feeley, then he needs to improve this week. Keith Null looked very average, completing 50% of his passes. Rookie Thaddeus Lewis looked decent, completing 83% of his passes, but he is still adjusting to NFL speed and hopefully he can improve this week. Null and Lewis are fighting for the 3rd sting QB spot.
Last week Jake Delhomme went 6 for 7 with 66 yards, those stats were accumulated on his 1st and only drive of the night. Back-up QB Seneca Wallace was impressive, given his 2 TD passes. And rookie QB Colt McCoy was disappointing; McCoy was 5 for 10, for only 25 yards and 2 INT.
Bradford seems to be our best chance when it comes to putting points on the board. But the actual outcome of the game could be determined by the play of Null/Lewis Vs. Wallace/McCoy
RB: Steven Jackson will be held out of the game. The likely starter will once again be Chris Ogbannaya. Ogbannaya was not effective on the ground (5 carries for 8 yards), but he did make some receptions for over 30 yards. Rookie Keith Toston will also get a decent amount of carries in the second half.
The Browns' rookie RB Montario Hardesty will likely be held out of the game, as he did not practice the entire past week. However, the Browns primary RB Jerome Harrison will likely get some carries this Saturday. Harrison rushed for 800+ yards in 2009, and he scored a TD last week agaist Green Bay. Other RB's for Cleveland are: Chris Jennings and James Davis.
With Steven Jackson out of the game, it is likely the Browns will have the superior ground game. The Browns also have a better o-line to block for their runners. If the Rams are going to win, it will likely have to be through the air.
WR: Donnie Avery, Danny Amendola, and Laurent Robinson will be the likely starters. Keenan Burton will also get some time with the first unit. And many Rams fans will be excited to see the debut of Mardy Gilyard, who was held out last week with a wrist injury. All of the WR's I just mentioned have displayed a lot of promise so far this season. It figures to be an intense fight for roster spots; with the names already mentioned, as well as Brandon McRae, Brandon Gibson, Brooks Foster, Jordan Kent and Dominique Curry.
Cleveland's primary receiver (at least in 2009) is Mohamed Massaquoi, who had just over 600 yards in 2009. The Browns' 2nd round pick of 2009, Brian Robiski, had a very disappointing 2009 campaign. Robiskie has been showing promise as of late, and looks to be much improved. Also watch Bobby Engram, and Joshua Cribbs. However, Cribbs' primary duty is on Special Teams.
We might not have Cleveland beat as far as overall talent. But I think WR is one of the positions where we definitely have them beat.
Offensive Line: The Rams had a pitiful display by their o-line last week. Jason Smith, our #2 overall pick in 2009, looked like a "walk on" college player. The Rams also had struggles from both OG positions (although starting LG Jacob Bell was held out of the game). Rookie OT Roger Saffold was probably the most impressive, although he did get beat on one or two plays.
Cleveland has Joe Thomas on the blind side. If Thomas had a better offense around him, he would possibly be considered the best LT in the game. LG Eric Steinbach helps to completely solidify the left side (although playing next to Thomas makes his job easier). Center Alex Mack had a promising rookie campaign a year ago, and it looks like he will improve this year; Mack should be a solid center for Cleveland for years to come. RG Shaun Lauvao is a rookie, so it is difficult to say how good he actually is, but he certainly has potential. And at RT Tony Pashos and John St.Clair will share time.
Cleveland has the better o-line. End of story. At least until we see what Saffold can really do in the regular season, and until Jason Smith decides to start earning his $33mm guaranteed.
Defensive Line: The Rams had very solid play last week from their d-line. Chris Long was a disruptive force, rookie George Selvie played like he wants to be the steal of the draft, and we got solid penetration from the DT postition.
Cleveland will have starting DT Shaun Rogers on the bench. That is very lucky for the Rams, given our poor o-line play. However, NT Ahtyba Rubin appears to be a somewhat solid replacement. I have not found anyone else from Cleveland's roster really worth mentioning. This appears to be another position where the Rams have Cleveland beat.
LB: James Laurinaitis was a solid force for our LB core last weekend; he appears to be the leader of our defense, and rightfully so. LB Larry Grant was also impressive against the run, and made the tackle of the night last week against the Vikings' KR. Na'il Diggs will be the third starting LB.
Cleveland has a very solid LB in D'Qwell Jackson, but Jackson will not see the field Saturday. LB'ers Matt Roth and Marcus Benard will get significant playing time, and are said by some Cleveland fans to have potential as pass-rushers.
The linebacking cores of the two teams look even. But I think the fact that Jackson will be on the bench, and Laurinaitis will be on the field, will put the Rams ahead as far as linebackers go.
DB: The Rams had solid play by their DB's in the first quarter last week, but their pass coverage seemed to dissolve as the game progressed. However, starting DB's Ron Bartell, O.J. Atogwe, and Bradley Fletcher were held out of the game, and they should all be returning this weekend.
The Browns' had some injury issues of their own in their defensive backfield. Starting CB Eric Wright was held out of last week's game, and it is questionable whether or not he will return. If Wright does not return to the starting line-up, then Cleveland will be forced to start two rookies at CB in Joe Haden and TJ Ward (reports, and fans, indicate that they both look promising). Meanwhile, Safety Abram Elam struggled last week against Green Bay.
The DB position could go to either team, but I'm leaning towards the Rams, only because they are getting 3 starters back, while Cleveland might have to rely on two rookies and a struggling safety.
Special Teams: Both team's special units are looking solid. Cleveland has the elite return-specialist Joshua Cribbs, and St.Louis has the solid return-man Danny Amendola (who took one to the house last week). It will be interesting to see if special teams play has an effect on the outcome of the game.
OVERALL: Look for Cleveland to have the superior ground game. Steven Jackson will be out of the game, so the Browns will have better RB's and a better o-line. But if the Rams can provide any form of protection for Bradford, then I think the Rams will have a superior air game. I believe if we win Saturday, it will be because the o-line steps it up and gives Bradford a chance to make something happen.
Look for the Rams' first team 'D' to swarm around like they did last week. This Rams defense will be fun to watch all season. It is likely that the Rams will have the better defense on Saturday, especially because Cleveland will be holding out some solid starters (Rogers, Jackson, and Wright). But, like all pre-season games, the final score will favor the team with better depth.