Welcome to the inaugural edition of Opposition Research, where I’ll go over the Packers next opponent. Aaron and Corey can give you the detailed matchups, but here’s where you’ll find out what they’re saying about us, about themselves, and about the big game on Sunday.
Coming into this game, the Rams are… very tired of losing. In Week 2, the Rams lost their 12th consecutive game (5-29 since 2007 season), this time to the Washington Redskins, 9-7. The loss included a costly fumble by Donnie Avery on the Washington 5-yard line and 245 yards of total offense. After the season opener where they were blanked by the Seattle Seahawks 28-0, however, scoring any points at all was a step up. They remain in a dead heat with the Detroit Lions for the bottom rank in most polls.
The fans at home are… hopeful about the direction the team is moving on defense. Football Outsiders put the Rams rushing defense at 20th in the league based on DVOA, signaling potential progress in the linebacking corps. The team still sits at 29th overall, but Coach Steve Spagnuolo is optimistic, with good reason: the Rams prevented the Redskins from scoring a touchdown on each of four trips into the red zone (see Example 1: Clinton Portis for -2 yards). Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Dispatch says that “0-2 feels differently this year.” I have to say, this imagery is great:
Linehan’s Rams were a pratfall waiting to happen, lurching down the stairs toward 2-14 oblivion. On the other hand, Spagnuolo’s Rams are earnestly clutching the handrail, trying hard to climb one step at a time upward toward respectability.
When looking at the Packers on film…Burwell was surprised at how many points the Bengals put up against the Packers last week, especially between the tackles. He sees this as a spot where the Rams have the advantage going into Week 3. Fans are hopeful that Steven Jackson will get the job done on the ground, and there’s plenty of talk about how the Packers’ newfound weakness at safety could open up passing lanes for Marc Bulger’s otherwise tepid pass offense. It also appears that the Rams may try to get a pass rush going against our offensive line (as if this is a revelation).
“Can I See Off Your Paper?” Why take time figuring out how to beat a team when someone’s already done it for you? Before Week 2, bloggers over at Hogs Haven asked their Seattle-cheering counterparts at Field Gulls how the Redskins could beat up on the Rams. Some key insights:
- The Rams don’t have a great pass rush behind DEs Leonard Little – who’s nearing 35 – and second-year man Chris Long. Going into the Packer game, they’ve recorded a single sack. (Still, if the Bengals got to Rodgers 6 times, Little thinks he can get his licks in, too.)
- St. Louis has not “dominant” WRs, though opposing defenses should watch out for Donnie Avery on plays where OC Pat Shurmur is using creative or unbalanced formations.
- Spagnuolo runs a “high risk – high reward” defensive attack and a good blocking back will be important to get a series going. Field Gulls warns that “it’s not enough to be able to block in space, a back must also show keen awareness, because half the battle is knowing where the blitz is coming from.”
As for injuries, the Rams offensive line is fairly banged up, with the biggest question marks coming from OT Jason Smith and C Jason Brown, both of whom were reported to have sprained knees. Other injuries seem to be of the ‘bumps and bruises’ variety.
- Like the Packers, the Rams are still learning their defense, so there is room for Rodgers to exploit a team that’s still working on timing and chemistry in a new scheme.
- Marc Bulger has yet to throw an interception. The Packers defense has already chalked up six picks (with one pick-six). Something’s got to give, don’t you agree?
- Given the release of S Aaron Rouse and the signing of S Matt Giordano, do the Packers regret releasing Anthony Smith at the end of the preseason? Had things been different, Smith might be starting on Sunday instead of sitting three-deep on the Ram’s roster.
- Along with Smith, Ruvell Martin found a home on the Rams roster after being cut by the Packers in favor of Brett Swain.
- The game, which is the Rams home opener, is only a few hundred tickets away from a sellout, thanks in large part to Green Bay fans who flock to other cities to watch the Packers because they can’t get tickets at home.