Redskins fans are accustomed to seeing their favorite football team playing the St. Louis Rams in recent years -- often with disappointing results. But NFL teams change so much from one year to the next now, so we wanted to learn more about the 2012 version of the St. Louis Rams. They have a new coach, a bunch of new players, and a couple of first round picks from the Redskins still coming to them. We went to a top St. Louis Rams fan site, Rams Herd, for answers. We sent them 5 questions about the Rams-Redskins game this week and their response follows. Check it out.
ANSWER: Bradford does struggle a bit under pressure, and part of the problem appears to be a lack of awareness from his WRs. If there's nobody playing a hot route, Bradford will take a sack rather than toss a pick. He will certainly face pressure this week, so I expect a lot of quick passes and play-action to counter. And a heavy dose of the run, of course.
2. The Redskins and Rams have played 4 times the last 4 years, splitting those games and the Redskins barely escaped with a win last year. What matchup advantages do you see for the Rams this year?
ANSWER: The Rams biggest improvement since we last played the Redskins comes with a far better game manager on the sideline. The Rams were embarrassingly timid in fourth down situations against Washington under Steve Spagnuolo ... Jeff Fisher will not lose a game of inches that same way.
Coaching and game-planning has to be considered the strongest advantage that we have going for us in this matchup in particular, though Mike Shanahan is certainly just as experienced on that front. It will be an interesting matchup between a pair of experienced rivals with very new teams.
3. Robert Griffin III had a big day with his arm and legs against the Saints last Sunday. What can the Rams do against this talented rookie QB?
ANSWER: Chris (@SmartFootball) broke down Griffin's work in the pistol on Grantland, explaining how much of the offense is determined by the rookie QB at the line. I expect the Rams to counter with lots of disguised looks, with Cortland Finnegan playing the wildcard role, and Chris Long and Robert Quinn applying constant pressure.
The Rams suckered Matthew Stafford into three bad turnovers in the first half, and had hands on two more in the second. The ability to bait Griffin into bad plays will be key, because it's obvious that the kid has all the physical tools you could want.
Griffin's ability to run is a real wildcard, though, and we have traditionally struggled with containment on defense - symptomatic of poor linebacker play. That will be a factor.
4. The Rams will be without injured C Scott Wells and OT Roger Saffold this week. However, Saffold gave up for sacks to the Redskins last year [3 to Brian Orakpo] so are the Rams better off without him?
ANSWER: Saffold had his worst game as a pro against Orakpo, but given that his backup is Wayne Hunter... no, I wouldn't say we're better off without him.
Again, though, coaching is a major factor. Our offensive line under Steve Loney was five guys on five islands, playing with no concept of spacing. Saffold was particularly vulnerable to inside moves, and never had help inside from the guard. Under Paul Boudreau, you see a vastly better approach to line play as a unit.
The loss of Wells is probably more damaging than the loss of Saffold, though, as Wells was primarily responsible for making line calls. Some of that responsibility will likely fall on Bradford now, which complicates matters.
5. Who wins the Redskins @ Rams game and what's the score?
I don't like to pick winners, but I believe the Rams will be a tough out at home this season. If we had Michael Brockers to anchor the defensive interiorand free up Quinn on the pass rush to chase Griffin down (he's more than fast enough), I'd feel pretty comfortable calling for the upset. Right now, though, with a few key missing pieces and the Shanahan run game capable of pounding the rock inside, I think the Rams are in for an uphill battle.
Thanks again to Will at Rams Herd. It's a quality site so check it out to learn more about Washington's opponent this week.