St. Louis Rams: What to Watch for in Week 1 of Preseason
Despite the fact that the two teams combined for four wins last year, there is considerable optimism on both sides entering this game. Because of the nature of that optimism (which is based on the projected performances of unproven commodities at the NFL level), there is a strong sense of curiosity, as well. Here are five things I’ll be watching for on Sunday.
5. The new-look Colts offense
The Colts landed the first overall pick in April’s NFL Draft and selected the collegiate field general from Stanford University. They followed his selection by pairing Luck with his Cardinal teammate, tight end Coby Fleener. Will the Colts ride Luck’s passing to drive the offense this season, or will they go conservative with a running game?
4. The Colts’ 3-4 defense
With the arrival of head coach Chuck Pagano, the Colts are switching their defensive scheme from the 4-3 to the 3-4. The defense was a sore spot for the Colts last season, so such a drastic change in the scheme might take a while to be finely tuned. Will longtime defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis be as successful generating a pass rush as outside linebackers?
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3. The return of Sam Bradford
We already know what to expect from Steven Jackson, but Sam Bradford was hit an awful lot last season and missed six games due to injury.
I expect that his offensive line should be able to keep him clean against the upstart 3-4 defense of the Colts, but how will his chemistry with his litany of new receivers be? Can the new guys get open consistently against the Colts’ corners? Will Lance Kendricks take care of business like he did last preseason and, more importantly, can he carry his success over to the regular season?
2. The Rams’ new front seven
The Rams will likely be starting six new faces on defense this season. Four of them will line up in the front seven.
St. Louis allowed the second-most rushing yards over the course of 2011, so wholesale changes were definitely in order.
After investing money in free agents Kendall Langford (DT), Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Rocky McIntosh (OLBs) in addition to drafting Michael Brockers (DT) 14th overall, it’s clear that the team’s intent is to avoid being in that position in 2012.
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How much will the impact of Brockers be felt?
1. Janoris Jenkins
No disrespect to Cortland Finnegan, the Rams’ free-agent addition at cornerback. I know what Cortland Finnegan can do. The Colts know what Cortland Finnegan can do. Jeff Fisher knows what Cortland Finnegan can do.
I want to see Janoris Jenkins.
I want to see Trumaine Johnson.
But I want to see Janoris Jenkins.
I want to see what all of this hype from training camp is about. Teams tend to keep some of their more creative play calls under wraps during the preseason, but I want to know if Jenkins can lock up a crafty veteran like Reggie Wayne for several plays at a time. According to Coach Fisher, he’s already projecting to be “a very good corner in this league.”
A healthy Rams’ defense will be a force this year if he turns out to be just that.
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