The length of the NFL preseason has become a hot button issue of late as the owners would like to add 2 games to the regular season, and eliminate 2 meaningless preseason games.
As the schedule currently stands, the 3rd game of the preseason is the most telling of the 4 since it gives coaches and viewers the longest look at their perspective teams first unit. So here we are, week 3, Rams at Patriots. I've laid out a few items that Rams coaches will be watching for, and so should you.
1. Sam Bradford's ability to adjust to NFL speed against a mid to top tier defense.
The Rams 1st round pick has had a mediocre preseason to date which largely can be attributed to an injured offensive line and poor weather. Bradford will get the start tonight and likely will play close to 3 quarters.
Sam needs to show his coaches that he's adjusting to NFL speed by making the proper reads when faced with pressure. If he does, it's very likely he'll get the starting nod come week 1 of the regular season.
It's likely that new (silent) majority owner Stan Kroenke will push for his 50 million dollar man to be QB1 come September 12th.
2. The offensive line's ability to find cohesiveness.
The entire unit should move as one, like synchronized swimmers on a football field. O-line play has been a major concern in training camp because injury has plagued the bunch for the better part of two seasons. The line cannot protect their QB if they don't know how to react to pressure as a unit. Left tackle Rodger Saffold has been a standout in camp as he's proven to be more than capable of protecting QB1's blindside.
3. How good are the Ohio State Linebackers?
With the offseason addition of Bobby Carpenter, it became clear the Rams have a crush on linebackers from The Ohio State University. Carpenter became the 4th Buckeye LB on the roster- joining James Laurinaitis, Larry Grant and Na'il Diggs. As of now it looks like Grant will start on the weak side with Luarinaitis in the middle and Diggs on the strong side.
The defense needs the Buckeyes to be monsters in the middle of the field. It will be interesting to see how they gel against a Super Bowl caliber offense led by Justin Bieber look-alike Tom Brady.
4. Which backup running back will step up?
With pro bowl running back Steven Jackson coming off back surgery, the Rams must be prepared if Jackson goes down. Opportunity is knocking for backups, Ken Darby, Chris Ogbonnaya and Keith Toston, but nobody has answered. Currently, the thought is that Ogbonnaya will be the backup come week 1 but he's failed to impress so far in camp. It's likely Jackson's playing time will be limited so look for one of them to step up and show they are capable of being a reliable backup.
Check back Friday for game analysis and my interview with Rams backup running back Chris Ogbonnaya.