San Francisco 49ers Vs. St Louis Rams: Week 10 Preview of a Young Rams Team
Remember the days of "same old Rams?" They're over now and sooner than the 49ers would have liked.
The Rams were the NFL's most pathetic franchise in 2009 and were therefore awarded the top picks in last April's draft.
They did not exactly become a powerhouse overnight, but they have already quadrupled their wins from last season.
The youth they've brought in over the last couple years is apparently not a joke, and they've making as good of a playoff push as any team in the NFC West.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is a rivalry that predates 49ers glory. These are the only two remaining teams of the old NFC West and neither has been afraid to kick the other when they're down.
In the words of Michael Buffer, "Let's get ready to rumble!"
Coaching: Steve Spagnuolo
Steve Spagnuolo took over the Rams last year, and led them straight to a 1-15 record. With that came the first pick in every round of the 2010 daft.
Spagnuolo cleverly used his first year as an assessment and development period, while at the same time placing the Rams in position to pick up even more rookies that will likely to be key players for years to come.
With such a young team, one has to understand that a certain amount of good coaching should be credited for the Rams 4-4 record.
Passing: Sam Bradford
As a Nebraska Corn Husker and San Francisco 49er fan, it's in my blood to hate Sam Bradford. I can't even pretend to be unbiased or objective regarding him.
Nevertheless, Bradford's stats speak for themselves. The rookie quarterback has completed 171 of 292 passing attempts for 1,674 yards, 11 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. He's done all this while guiding his young team to their 4-4 record and a piece of the division lead.
When St. Louis drafted Bradford instead of Ndamukong Suh with the first overall pick in April, I dismissed this as a step back—"same old Rams." Now I painfully admit that barring an injury like the one that haunted him at Oklahoma, Bradford seems to have been a smart pick for them.
A.J. Feeley is Bradford's backup.
Recieving: Youth Galore
A bunch of kids make up the Rams receiving squadron.
Laurent Robinson is the old man on the corp, as he's in his fourth year.
Danny Amendola, and Brandon Gibson are in their second years and have shown plenty of ability.
Amendola played along side Michael Crabtree at Texas Tech.
Rookies Mardy Gilyard, and Danario Alexander are new on the scene, but show plenty of potential as well. Gilyard gives them a small speedster, while Alexander is a tall receiving threat at 6'5.
Rushing: Steven Jackson
That guy who needs a haircut (aka Steven Jackson) is definitively the Rams best skill player. Jackson has had over 1,000 yards rushing in each of the last five years, and he is on pace to have another great year this season as well.
Jackson is also a receiving threat out of the backfield, and his athleticism can really make teams pay for bringing the house on blitzes.
Teams that don't contain Jackson end up regretting it.
Defense: Growing Up Fast
The Rams defense is young and growing.
James Laurenaitis was a stud at Ohio State and was even touted as a second or third round pick for the NHL. Imagine the ankle strength implied there. It was for this reason, coupled with the intrinsic intensity of hockey as a sport, that I had targeted Laurenaitis as a linebacker who would impress at the pro level. I was disheartened to hear he would be a Ram.
Chris Long bears a strong family name on the back of his jersey. Of course we all remember his father Howey as a Hall of Fame defensive end for the Raiders in the 80's and early 90's. That's a good pedigree, and I'm sure he was coached by pop growing up.
Oshiomogho Atogowe has become the cornerstone of the Rams secondary. Six years in, the Windsor-born Stanford grad has not been to a Pro Bowl in spite of his eight-interception 2007 season. You know he's hungry for one.
St. Louis runs a 4-3 defense.
Blocking: Paramount to the Game
If there's a place where the 49ers can hope to shake up the Rams nerves, it's on the line. Most of the Rams starters have a healthy amount of NFL experience, but Roger Saffold is a rookie at right tackle. Saffold isn't by any means small though, standing 6'5, 325 lbs.
Right Guard Adam Goldberg is a giant at 6'7, 309 lbs., and center Jason Brown is a brick at 6'3, 328 lbs.
Mike Karney is the starting fullback for St Louis, but a familiar face will also be in the house: lion-hearted 49ers pre-season fan favorite Brit Miller will walk the sidelines and rock special teams for the Rams.
Venue: Candlestick Park
After a crazy road trip to Carolina, a "home game" in London and a bye week of preparation, the 49ers are back at Candlestick this Sunday.
It will be the faithful's first look at secret-weapon and x-factor Troy Smith. Whatever happens, don't expect chants of "put in Carr" anymore.
Many great games and plays between these two teams have rocked Candlestick in the past.
Weather calls for a clear, breezy day in the low 70's, with 55% humidity and a 100% chance of cheerleaders.