To preview this weekend's NFC West tilt between the Seahawks and Rams, I traded scouting reports with Turf Show Times' Joe McAtee (aka 3k). Joe's one of my personal favorite writers on the SB Nation network so a huge thanks goes over to him for the breakdown.
My questions in bold, his replies follow:
1. With Sam Bradford out for the season, the Rams first went to Shaun Hill and now have run with Austin Davis at QB. Describe his skillset and style, and how has he fared thus far? Is he a long term answer at QB?
He's definitely more of a gunslinger type than we've had in a while. The comparison I've heard tossed around that seems to give people the right idea is Drew Brees. Davis doesn't possess many of the physical qualities that you look for (height, arm strength, athleticism), but he's wily enough with what he does have to work every part of the field with the entirety of his receiving corps. He's not the kind who gets locked in to his favorite one or two guys and just leans on them throughout the game. He's willing to go through his read progressions and take what defenses give him.
2. What's the story with the Rams' offense this year? What are the weaknesses and strengths? Who are the main standouts that Seattle needs to worry about?
Woof, I don't even know. The run game is a mess. It's a change week to week that includes medium-sized portions of Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham with a touch of either Trey Watts or Tre Mason to ensure nobody ever gets in a groove or can get a feel for the defensive line they're facing. Last year on Monday Night Football against you guys, the Rams nearly won the game on the back of Stacy's 26 carries. In fact, he averaged 20.75 carries in the 12 games he started. This year, he hasn't hit 20 in a single game.
The Rams have instead opted to lean on Davis and the passing game, and it's certainly been a revelation. In the four games he's started, he's averaging 293.25 yards per game on 40.5 attempts. And after his first game and a half in which he threw no touchdowns and a interception in the second half of week one, he's thrown for 7 touchdowns and just three interceptions, all late in games when he's pressured to make something happen. He doesn't turn the ball over early in games, which has helped build the early leads against Dallas and San Francisco. The team is just too sloppy to hold on to them, which is painful because we haven't had an offense this productive in a while.
3. The vaunted Rams' defensive line has only one sack thus far this year. Tell me why, and also please tell me they won't break out this week against the Seahawks (or, I guess, how can they break out this week?).
I think it's a couple of things. For one, everyone knows of the supposed "vaunted" part, and that goes into gameplans. So teams are running more often than passing (though the Rams have actually done well against the run), and when they do pass, they're keeping it quick. That negates the pass rush from really having an effect because it's just too quick to actually do much more than collapse the pocket or pressure the QB to abandon his reads.
The real problem is that as the game wears on, those quick passes allow the offensive line to get comfortable and the Rams haven't adjusted to it well at all. So into the second halves of games, the four-man line isn't getting anything. Then Gregg Williams dials up a blitz, as he is wont to do, but that's part of the week's preparation for opposing offensive lines, and they're just cleaning it up (see this GIF from week 2). And I'll link to this just to show it's not just Rams fans saying it, but Robert Quinn gets held all the effing time. For whatever reason, it's not getting called. I don't really understand why. I mean, when this isn't getting called...
4. The Rams seem to have struggled against the pass - what are the main issues there in your opinion?
So I have to refer you to this, because I tried to answer that question as comprehensively and as competently as I can in that TST piece. It's misexecution from the secondary. It's a lack of a pass rush. It's coaching and playcalling. It's also about underdeveloped players. The most tenured of our defensive backs are just in the their third year. I'll say that again. Every member of our secondary is either a rookie, in their second year or in their third year.
Earl Thomas or Kam Chancellor would be old men among the Rams' DBs. So it's not really a single factor, as tends to be the case with football. The problem for the Rams is that in all four of those areas, they're failing. :(
5. Who are a few under the radar Rams players the keep in mind going into this week's NFC West tilt?
Well, I'd point to any running back not named Zac Stacy. WR Brian Quick is having his best year ever as a Ram. Rookie DT Aaron Donald is fun to watch. He's not a classic big body, power DT, but he's quick and he finds ways to wiggle (accurate word choice) through offensive lines in ways I haven't ever really seen. He's a different kind of DT, and it's great.
Here's a 20-odd minute podcast of Joe and I chatting on Turf Show Times Radio.
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