It’s that time of year again where we go Inside the Villain’s Venue to get a handle on who the Broncos are playing this week. There’s no better time to kick this off than with the St. Louis Rams coming to town. The Rams are playing in a very competitive NFC West division and they’ve made some major moves this off season, specifically in regards to their offense.
That’s why I checked in with Nathan Kearns of Ramblin’ Fan. Nathan knows the Rams as well as anyone out there, and he gave us some great insight on the team.
Without further ado, let’s go Inside the Villain’s Venue with Ramblin Fan.
1. First off, how much are the Rams’ starters expected to play on Saturday?
Jeff Fisher stated earlier in the week that the starters would like play up until halftime, but that does not necessarily mean he will stick with that gameplan. Fisher like to run the starting offense longer than the defense, and if Bradford & Co. haven’t reached the “magic number” in snap, Fisher will undoubtedly play them until they do.
2. Last year, Sam Bradford was hit a lot, but the Rams signed Jake Long in the off season to help protect him. Do you see the Long signing as a difference maker?
The Long signing has already made a noticeable difference, most visibly in Sam Bradford’s confidence. There was speculation that, after the St. Louis Rams nightmarish 2011 season, Bradford had contracted a case of “cabin fever,” feeling undo pressure from a pass rush that wasn’t always there. With the acquisition of Jake Long, and the rest of the offensive line regaining health, Bradford has been noticeable more upbeat when talking about the offense’s chances of success, and appears to be more calm and comfortable in the pocket.
3. How big of a loss was it for the Rams to lose Danny Amendola and Steven Jackson?
Most in St. Louis will admit that they were heartbroken when the Atlanta Falcons announced that they had signed Steven Jackson. However, the St .Louis Rams did look at the departures of Steven Jackson and Danny Amendola a “loss,” but, rather, as a transition into a new era of football under Jeff Fisher and Les Snead.
With Jackson out of the picture, the St. Louis Rams have finally formulated an offense suited for the strengths of Sam Bradford; spread formation with three- or four-receiver sets, with up-tempo play-calling designed get the ball out of his hands quickly. With Steven Jackson on the roster, Bradford’s arm was always going to play second fiddle to Jackson’s legs. Now, the Sam Bradford-era has truly begun.
As for Danny Amendola, it is hard to miss what you never really had. The ex-Ram was lightning in a bottle during Bradford’s rookie season back in 2010, but has been more of a folklore than a production machine for the last two seasons. He missed the entire 2011 year with a nasty dislocated elbow and torn tricep, only to follow up in 2012 by missing most of the season with a separated SC Joint and hamstring issues. Of course, we wish him the best of luck in New England, but the Rams will be “no worse for wear” in his absence.
4. Talk about the biggest position battle in camp.
Well, prior this week most would have said that the running back position was the battle of camp. However, as most expected, Jeff Fisher officially named Daryl Richardson the starter, and forcefully slamming the door in the face of anyone hoping to supplant the Abilene Christian University product. Now the only true battles at camp are at safety and left guard. However, with Darian Stewart, incumbent favorite at free safety, out with a hamstring, the starting job will likely go to sophomore undrafted free agent, Rodney McLeod. At guard, both Shelley Smith and Chris Williams have been impressive, and most would be happy with either player slotted between Jake Long and Scott Wells starting in Week 1.
5. Finally, what youngster should we keep an eye on Saturday night?
Regardless of who I say, most watching his Broncos/Rams game will be glued to No.11 in the gold and blue; Tavon Austin. The Rams’ eighth overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft got his first taste of action last week, catching four passes for 28 yards; he was also grossly overthrown on, what should have been, a walk-in touchdown in the redzone.
However, for the depth chart-junkie, keep an eye on outside linebacker, Ray Ray Armstrong, a “red-flag,” coverted safety from the University of Miami that went undrafted his season. He has been lighting up the football field so far this preseason, with an instinctual nose for the football and the accompanying speed to make played from sideline-to-sideline. With the suspension to Jo-Lonn Dunbar, veteran Will Witherspoon will likely see a bulk of the “starting reps” in the first half. However, it would not be surprising to see Armstrong take some rotational snaps with the 1st-teamers, and get a bulk of the workload in the second half of the game.