St. Louis Rams vs. Washington Redskins: Full St. Louis Game Preview

Steven Gerwel@Steve_GerFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 17, 2015

St. Louis Rams vs. Washington Redskins: Full St. Louis Game Preview

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    The St. Louis Rams will hit the road for the first time in 2015 to take on the Washington Redskins

    The Rams are flying high after a stunning 34-31 overtime victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1. By taking down the defending NFC champions and fierce division rivals, the Rams managed to start the season on an unbelievably positive note. 

    For Washington, opening day was not so sweet. The Redskins played a hard-fought contest against the Miami Dolphins. Alfred Morris rushed for 121 yards, and the Washington defense held Miami to just 10 points, but the Dolphins still pulled off a 17-10 victory. 

    This Week-2 contest will be an opportunity for Washington to pull itself out of an early 0-1 hole. For the Rams, it's a chance to continue to momentum and start the season 2-0—something that hasn't occurred for St. Louis since the 2001 season, when the Rams finished 14-2 and faced New England in the Super Bowl. 

    The stakes are high for both teams, and it's important for St. Louis to keep that in mind and avoid overconfidence. Regardless of the team's victory over Seattle, there are no easy wins in the NFL. The Redskins might not have a powerful reputation on their side, but Washington plays excellent defense and is great at running the football. 

    If St. Louis takes the contest too lightly it will fumble away a winnable game. 

    This article will preview the upcoming game, including the latest headlines, injury news, matchup analysis and more. 

    Viewing Info

    Location: FedEx Field, Landover, Md.

    Time: 1 p.m. ET

    TV: KTVI Fox (St. Louis Local)

News and Notes

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Washington's Chris Culliver Suspended for Week 2

    Washington Redskins cornerback Chris Culliver will be suspended for Sunday's game against the Rams, per John Keim of ESPN.com

    The suspension stems from a June guilty plea in a misdemeanor hit-and-run case. Culliver hit a bicyclist and drove off.

    Culliver finished the 2014 season with a career-high four interceptions. The 27-year old's performance last season earned him a new contract worth $32 million over four years, per Spotrac.

    Redskins cornerback Bashaud Breeland will be returning from a Week-1 suspension, per the Keim article, which could counterbalance the loss of Culliver. Still, until both corners are in the lineup simultaneously, the Washington secondary will suffer.

    Rams Will Do Without the Pregame Trolling This Year

    During last year's game between the Rams and Redskins, when it was time for team captains to partake in the coin toss, St. Louis selected every player it received from the Robert Griffin III trade as the chosen representatives—a clear effort to troll the Redskins, who easily got the short end of that 2012 trade.

    At the time, the move sparked a lot of headlines and made the Rams out to be pranksters. According to Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com, Jeff Fisher does not anticipate a similar display of boasting. 

    “(It's) probably going to be the captains that were elected by their teammates," Fisher said.

    The joke was humorous at the time, but repeating the same stunt for a second year is probably overkill. Not to mention a great way to earn bad karma and anger the football gods. 

    Aaron Donald and Tavon Austin Earn NFC Player of the Week Honors for Week 1

    Sunday's win over Seattle was a tremendous team effort, but Aaron Donald and Tavon Austin in particular stood out. According to Fox Sports, both players won NFC Player of the Week honors. 

    Donald recorded two sacks and nine total tackles, including the backfield stuffing of Marshawn Lynch—with the help of Michael Brockers—on 4th-and-1 to win the game. Donald was recognized for his performance by being named NFC Defensive Player of the Week. 

    Austin had a pair of touchdowns in the game. He scored on a 16-yard run in the first half, followed by a 75-yard punt-return touchdown. For his long return touchdown, Austin was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. 

    Both players were excellent in Week 1, and the Rams need to see more of that to ensure success in 2015. 

Latest Injury News

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    Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

    The following is the latest injury report from NFL.com:

    St. Louis Rams

    RB Chase Reynolds: Did Not Participate In Practice

    DE Eugene Sims: Did Not Participate In Practice 

    LB Daren Bates: Full Participation in Practice        

    RB Todd Gurley: Full Participation in Practice

    RB Tre Mason: Full Participation in Practice 

    CB Trumaine Johnson: Limited Participation in Practice

    Washington Redskins

    WR DeSean Jackson: Did Not Participate In Practice

    DT Terrance Knighton: Did Not Participate In Practice

    CB Justin Rogers: Did Not Participate In Practice  

    LB Martrell Spaight: Did Not Participate In Practice  

    LB Jackson Jeffcoat: Full Participation in Practice 

    OT Thomas Compton: Limited Participation in Practice

    CB DeAngelo Hall: Limited Participation in Practice

    C Kory Lichtensteiger: Limited Participation in Practice

    OT Trent Williams: Limited Participation in Practice  

    The Rams clearly have the advantage as far as injuries. 

    Todd Gurley and Tre Mason remain banged up, but St. Louis did just fine with Benny Cunningham in the backfield during Week 1. Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com reported that Mason is back in action at practice and likely ready to go. Wagoner is more skeptical regarding Gurley's status and suggests we'll have to wait a little longer for his debut. 

    According to Philly.com, Washington receiver DeSean Jackson will not play in Week 2 and is likely to miss three to four weeks with a hamstring injury. 

    Jackson was Washington's most dangerous receiver in 2014. He posted 1,169 yards with six touchdowns and threatened defenses with his big-play abilities. He averaged 20.9 yards per catch last season—the second-highest average of his career. 

    Alfred Morris remains a threat on the ground, but St. Louis has to be pleased knowing Washington's top aerial weapon is unavailable for the game. Beating the St. Louis defense through the air is much easier than conquering it on the ground.  

Top Matchups

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Janoris Jenkins vs. Pierre Garcon

    The Rams cruised to a comfortable 24-0 win over Washington in Week 14 of last season, but Pierre Garcon still put up a good fight. 

    Garcon had nine catches for 95 yards in that game and St. Louis had a tough time containing him between the 20-yard lines. Garcon turned in a solid Week-1 performance with six catches and a team-high 74 yards. He appears to have decent chemistry with Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins. 

    With Jackson out, the Rams will have to narrow in on Garcon and prevent any back-breaking plays. As the team's top cornerback, that responsibility will fall on Jenkins' shoulders. 

    As usual, Jenkins must comply with St. Louis' "bend but don't break" policy on defense. Holding Garcon to zero receptions is not a realistic goal, but if Jenkins can ensure every catch is under 20 yards, it'll help the defense tremendously. 

    Jenkins gets overzealous at times and goes for the pick, but that can't happen in this game. He needs to take a smart, conservative approach and prevent Garcon from obtaining any long touchdown catches. 

    Greg Robinson vs. Ryan Kerrigan 

    The young St. Louis offensive line did a decent job keeping Nick Foles clean in Week 1. The Seahawks produced solid pressure but managed to sack Foles just twice. 

    The front five will have another tall order this week. Greg Robinson in particular will have a tough time containing the pass-rush skills of Ryan Kerrigan, who had a half sack in Week 1 and led Washington with 13.5 sacks in 2014. 

    Despite being in his second year, Robinson is still very green and has yet to develop his pass-protection skills. He played in a run-heavy offense at Auburn, so his collegiate career did little to teach him the finer points of keeping his quarterback clean. 

    This is not a matchup that favors St. Louis, so the Rams need a game plan that minimizes the impact. Leaving a pass-blocking tight end on Robinson's side and utilizing screens would be a decent start. 

Matchup X-Factors

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    How Will Kirk Cousins Respond to St. Louis' Pass Rush? 

    Kirk Cousins has been kept relatively clean in his NFL career. He has not been sacked more than twice in single game since 2013, and he has never been sacked more than three times.

    The Washington offensive line deserves credit for keeping him clean, but that won't last forever. Eventually, a tough defense will overcome the Redskins blockers and give Cousins a rattling like he's never experienced before. 

    The Rams are a candidate as good as any. The Rams had a six-sack performance in Week 1, and a repeat of that success will surely result in a submissive Cousins. 

    Cousins is prone to mistakes as is. If the pressure is coming from every direction on every down, the errors will pile up and the St. Louis defense will take care of the rest. 

    Can Tavon Austin Continue to Excite? 

    Tavon Austin had catches of 35 and 43 yards in the preseason, which led fans to believe that perhaps he found his groove. If there were any doubt, it was removed by his Week-1 performance. 

    Austin put St. Louis on the board in the second quarter with a 16-yard touchdown run. He followed that up with a spectacular 75-yard punt-return touchdown in the third quarter. 

    Between Austin's preseason success and his electric 2015 debut, it appears the former No. 8 overall pick is finally living up to the hype. The 2015 season is looking more and more like his breakout year, and a big play against Washington will only further confirm that.  

    When it comes to Austin, he only needs one play to transform a game. The Washington defense is only successful if it shuts him down every single play. For Austin, he's successful if he gets just one lucky break. 

    If Austin gets that one opportunity, it could be the difference in this game. 

Prediction: Rams 20, Redskins 16

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    The Redskins played a tough game against the Dolphins, but it seems Washington will be outmatched this week. If Miami can hold the Redskins to 10 points, it's reasonable to think the ferocious St. Louis front seven will have a field day. 

    Morris had a nice 121-yard performance, and Washington can certainly run the ball. Even so, the Rams just held Marshawn Lynch to 73 yards on 18 carries, and 24 of those yards came on a single run. Washington has a better offensive line than Seattle, but it's still difficult to envision the Redskins running wild on the St. Louis front. 

    Meanwhile, Cousins hardly strikes fear in the secondary. He has just one interception-free game in his last 10 full starts, and St. Louis knows how to create turnovers. The idea of Cousins playing a mistake-free game and using his arm to carry the offense to victory is dubious at best. 

    The St. Louis offense will struggle against the Washington defense. The Rams offense might be held to one or two touchdown drives with a pair of field goals, but the defense or special teams unit will bail it out with a clutch touchdown. 

    Expect a low-scoring affair with the Rams ultimately coming out on top. 

    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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