Titans vs. Rams: Previewing St. Louis' Preseason Week 2 Matchup

Steven Gerwel@Steve_GerFeatured Columnist IVAugust 20, 2015

Titans vs. Rams: Previewing St. Louis' Preseason Week 2 Matchup

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    The St. Louis Rams will face off with the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, Aug. 23, for Week 2 of the NFL preseason. 

    The team is coming off an 18-3 loss to the Oakland Raiders, so fans are eager to see it bounce back and correct many of the mistakes from last week. 

    Indeed, the preseason opener was an undisciplined mess. The game ended with 10 penalties and just a single scoring drive. It's the same old problems that have been weighing down the team for years. If these problems are not squashed soon, St. Louis will be in trouble when Week 1 arrives. 

    The Rams will attempt to win back the fans with a stellar effort against the Titans. If St. Louis can get the offense rolling and cut back on penalties, the optimism will suddenly make a comeback. 

    This article will break down St. Louis' matchup with the Titans, including the latest headlines, key matchups, predictions and more. 

    Location: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN

    Time: 8 p.m. ET

    TV: KTVI Fox (St. Louis Local)

News and Notes

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    Rams-Cowboys Joint Practice Ends in Brawl

    According to Todd Archer of ESPN.com, the joint practice between the Rams and the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday was cut short after both rosters erupted in a brawl. 

    Archer mentioned that a confrontation between Dallas linebacker Andrew Gachkar and St. Louis center Demetrius Rhaney—one of three Rams centers vying for the starting job—initially triggered the fight.

    Ultimately, a second eruption took place, which led to Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant being cold-cocked by St. Louis defensive back Imoan Claiborne. Bryant was not wearing his helmet at the time. 

    While these incidents are always entertaining to read about, it's not a good sign for the Rams. The team has participated in multiple brawls every season since head coach Jeff Fisher's arrival in 2012, and this incident seems to demonstrate the same old lack of discipline we've come to expect from the Rams. 

    Immature teams get into fights. Successful teams hold the punches and let the play on the field speak for itself. 

    Peter King of Sports Illustrated Likes Nick Foles in St. Louis' Offense

    According to Myles Simmons of the official Rams website, Peter King had some complimentary things to say regarding St. Louis' new quarterback. 

    “I’ve always been high on Foles,” King said in an interview with Simmons. “Nick Foles is a guy who knows when to push the envelope, but he’s not one of the guys who will make the dumb throw that leads to the interception.”

    King went on to mention that Foles' attitude toward the game is a major bonus for the Rams. 

    “I think one of the reasons why Jeff Fisher, Les Snead, why they really like him a lot, is his attitude is, ‘You just tell me what the offense is, and I’m going to do it,’” said King. 

    Also, according to Simmons' article, King compared Foles to former Super Bowl-winning quarterback Phil Simms. King stated that Foles plays with the same attitude and is willing to win at all costs. 

    It's still too early to tell what Foles will do for the offense. However, it's safe to say he should be an improvement over the backups—Kellen Clemens, Austin Davis, Shaun Hill—St. Louis has been forced to play with the past two seasons. 

Latest Injury News

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    Michael Thomas/Getty Images

    CB E.J. Gaines (Foot)

    Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com confirmed on Sunday, Aug. 16, that second-year cornerback E.J. Gaines will miss the 2015 season with a foot injury. Gaines started 15 games in 2014 and was considered one of the more reliable members of the secondary. 

    RB Todd Gurley (Knee)

    Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on Twitter this past Tuesday that rookie running back Todd Gurley is still being limited to individual drills. 

    OL Rodger Saffold (Shoulder)

    Rodger Saffold left Saturday's game against the Raiders with a shoulder injury. Thomas reported on Twitter this week that he's being held out of practice. 

    LB Daren Bates (Knee)

    According to the Associated Press (via Fox Sports), Daren Bates sprained his MCL in last week's game against the Raiders. 

    OL Cody Wichmann

    Rookie offensive lineman Cody Wichmann was held out of practice on Tuesday, according to Thomas. He didn't specify the details of Wichmann's injury. 

Key Matchups

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    Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

    Front Seven vs. Marcus Mariota 

    The Rams play in the NFC West, which means the front seven has to be comfortable shutting down scrambling quarterbacks. The team will face both Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick twice this season, so the group must work hard at containing dual-threat passers. 

    This week's matchup with Marcus Mariota will be a great opportunity for practice. 

    Mariota did not acquire any rushing yards in his preseason debut, but we know he's perfectly capable of torching a defense with his legs based on his college career. 

    Containing Mariota and providing relentless pressure should be a top priority. 

    Rams Secondary vs. Tennessee Receivers 

    Last week, when Tennessee took on the Atlanta Falcons, the Titans quarterbacks had a combined total of just four incompletions, and 12 different receivers caught passes. 

    Few people view the Titans as an aerial powerhouse, but there's no doubt their passing attack was in sync last week. It will be a great challenge for the St. Louis defensive backs. 

    The Titans have big, physical receivers in Chase Coffman (6'6", 250 lbs) and Dorial Green-Beckham (6'5", 237 lbs) as well as speedy receivers in Jacoby Ford and Kendall Wright. It's a diverse group capable of attacking opponents in a variety of ways. 

    If the Rams hold the Titans to a 60 percent combined completion rate with no backbreaking plays over 20 yards, it should be considered a major success. 

Matchup X-Factors

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The Ground Game

    Last week's ground production was abysmal. Four of the six St. Louis backs averaged three yards per carry or fewer. The top two backs on the depth chart—Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham—were held to 18 yards on five carries. 

    That's not what you'd expect from a team that's been hyped all offseason long as a ground-and-pound offense. 

    In fact, it's safe to say that the lack of a run game is a big reason why the Rams were held to just one scoring drive against the Raiders. It constantly put the offense in 3rd-and-long situations. 

    The Rams just spent four draft picks on road-paving linemen, not to mention last year's No. 2 overall selection, Greg Robinson, who earned his lofty draft status for his ferocious run blocking. 

    The line is built to open run lanes, so there's no excuse for last week's lack of push from the front five. It was just a lazy, uninspiring effort, and it needs to end this week.

    If the Rams want the offense to pick it up, the five blockers up front have to wake up.

    Nick Foles and the Passing Game

    Even though Nick Foles took a couple of hits under center last week, there were still some inspiring moments between him and his receivers.

    He hit Lance Kendricks for a 26-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage. On the very next play, he hit Tavon Austin with a quick pass, and Austin took it for a 35-yard gain. The drive nearly ended with a Foles touchdown pass to Jared Cook, but Cook came just shy of securing the tough catch.

    It's understandable that the coaching staff does not want Foles exposed too long, especially behind St. Louis' brutal offensive line, but it'd still be nice to see more from him in this game.

    Foles had a nice debut, going 3-of-5 with 69 yards. If the coaches decide to give him a full quarter, it'll really give us a chance to see what this offense is made of. 

Prediction: Titans 20, Rams 13

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Rams fans want to see more out of the offense, but it's likely that the coaches will keep it vanilla until the regular season. With that said, expect another dry performance on the offensive side of the ball. 

    The game might have more excitement if the coaches decide to keep Foles and the starters in for over a quarter, but don't count on it. After last year's season-ending injury to Sam Bradford in the preseason, Fisher is likely terrified of a potential repeat. He'll understandably keep Foles around for just two or three drives. 

    As for the defense, expect the starters to shut down the Tennessee offense completely. Then, after the starting St. Louis defense is yanked from the game, the Titans will slowly but surely acquire points against St. Louis' undisciplined backups. 

    However, the final score is meaningless in the preseason. As long as the starting offense produces a pair of scoring drives, including at least one touchdown, Rams fans should be happy with that result. 

    Steven Gerwel is the longest-tenured Rams Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and serves as the Rams' 2015 game-day correspondent. You can find more of Gerwel's work by visiting his writer profile or following him on Twitter.

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