The Seattle Seahawks take on the Los Angeles Rams (my first instinct was to write St. Louis and then do a strikethrough but quickly realized I’d have to be the 1000000th person to do that) this Sunday, hopefully ending their streak of losing to the crappy St. Louis Rams and not beginning a streak of losing to the crappy LA version.
The Rams lost in Week 1 by an embarrassing score of 28-0 to the San Francisco 49ers, and I think even if you thought they were gonna be bad this year that was still a surprising result. Perhaps still the biggest conundrum in the NFL year in and year out, I had to turn to a familiar friend who is familiar with the Rams. So I exchanged Qs and As with Joe McAtee of Turf Show Times and he in turn did the same. This is what I found out about the Seahawks Week 2 opponent:
Joe, I think I have a tendency to come off as "dickish" to many Field Gulls readers when you and I do a podcast together because when I'm talking about the Rams, I don't have many good things to say. So I'm going to try and not harp on the negative for too long even though as well as I know you, I know that you're even harder on them than I am.
Q: That being said, we saw Carson Wentz play well against the Browns. We saw Dallas hand the reigns over to Dak Prescott and feel pretty good about it. The Broncos could always be one play away from Paxton Lynch. But despite the worst performance of the week by any QB coming courtesy of Case Keenum on Monday Night, Jeff Fisher insists that Jared Goff is the number three quarterback. Is that the right move? Is Goff the right quarterback?
A: I've had to deal with a vein of Rams fans who insist I have been "too negative" regarding the Rams over the last two years, similar to your "dickishness." It's just a weird way to avoid the actual curve NFL teams operate on. I think part of it is the Peter King grading scale where every head coach in the NFL is great and every team is great it's just that some are greater than others. The fantasy that everything is good and even when it's not it still is and that's because the NFL is a meritocracy so anyone who has ascended into this football heaven is beyond human reproach.
Then the season starts and your team loses 0-28 to the San Francisco 49ers and Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher should be fired and Rams General Manager Les Snead should be fired and the equipment guy should be fired and everybody should be fired and football sucks, but let's be real, I was still too negative.
Look, I don't know if Jared Goff should be benched because I don't know why Case Keenum is starting or why Jared Goff was drafted or what the quarterback position is in Fisherball or what the conditions for deciding who plays and who doesn't are because the way this team has been run over the last five years doesn't make any damn sense. They went all-in on Sam Bradford and avoided drafting a backup QB and then blew the whole thing up making three moves in one season: trading for Nick Foles, trading for Case Keenum and drafting Sean Mannion. Somehow out of the three with Foles being the starter and Mannion being the _____-term solution, it was Case Keenum who ultimately won the starting job at the end of 2015 and again into 2016.
If I'm being sincere, I don't think there is a right move. Goff isn't the right quarterback because there is no right quarterback.
This is not a pipe.
Q: You're not the type to be "shocked" by anything the Rams seem to do, but what was most surprising to you about LA during their 28-0 loss to the 49ers? Specifically one player or one unit or one stat.
A: I don't know that it was surprising given that this is Year 5 for Fisherball, but the stubbornness was just...draining. Jeff Fisher has nothing if not conviction. But when things, yanno, aren't working, there's an odd hubris that he's capable of just expecting them to start. Out of nowhere. Expecting the same play that has failed all night to just work. Expecting the Niners not to shadow Cory Harkey indicating which way Todd Gurley is going to run the ball. Expecting the Niners not to take advantage of the Rams' lack of linebackers/run support shell. Expecting that success will just manifest itself out of the same failures of recent past, whether that's within a game or over a five-year course.
Q: Seahawks fans are going to be concerned about this game for a number of reasons -- Aaron Donald vs J'Marcus Webb, the fact that it's the Rams, or just a general lack of appreciation for the team as if they don't understand what you've had to go through for the last 15 years -- but for me it definitely has to be Seattle's offensive line against LA's defensive line. How did San Francisco hold Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn, and co. sackless with just a single QB hit?
A: Well, they worked around them. They ran the ball well to soften up the second tier and keep Gregg Williams non-committal to heavy blitz schemes. They passed the ball relatively quickly to avoid seven-step drops and long-developing passing routes that would have given Donald and Quinn more time. But perhaps most impressively, QB Blaine Gabbert scrambled well (really well) both in terms of awareness but also timing. That kept the defensive linemen on their toes to contain to a degree instead of just pursuing, much like how they have played and will play Russell Wilson. The line still played well, but the early scrambles and the quick-hitting passing game negated the traditional stats you expect to see from that group.
Q: The Rams gave the franchise tag to Trumaine Johnson, Hard Knocks gave a lot of "press coverage" to Lamarcus Joyner, and Mark Barron re-signed for $45 million. There was a lot of attention given to what could be expected to be a great "secondary" (Is Barron fair to call a member of the secondary?) based on that information -- how do you feel that trio did in Week 1 and were you a fan of those moves and should people believe that Joyner is a top slot guy?
A: Overall, those aren't the moves that are going to hold the Rams back. Tru's a fine corner, though I feel some folks may be overrating him. Barron's very effective for what the Rams want him to do. And Joyner is growing into the slot role as one of the most, if not the most, physical slot defender in the league. The bigger issue is the Rams' pass defense approach.
They want you to go underneath. Hell, they'll let you go underneath if you're disciplined and conservative enough to take it. Four yard pass after four yard pass after four yard pass...they want you to have it because they want to hit the hell out of you afterward. Much like body shots in boxing, they know eventually it's going to wear you down. Eventually, you'll get tired of it. You'll decide to get more aggressive and try something downfield that the Rams are positioned to defend. You'll get undisciplined and get off your designed reads. You'll be thinking about getting hit for the umpteenth time instead of just focusing on completing that four-yard hitch. And, for the non-Russell Wilson-caliber QBs, you'll just make a stupid mistake from time to time.
So there's not a ton of skill you have to rely on at these positions. It's why Janoris Jenkins' cover skills were often overlooked with the Rams -- he didn't need to employ them regularly. That being said, the Rams need to be more consistent this week especially with the Ogletree/Barron combo at keeping things in front of them.
Q: Other than Russell Wilson, who is a player on Seattle that you'd like to steal for the Rams? And if you could protect a single player from the Seahawks taking away, who would it be?
A: Earl Thomas, Earl Thomas' twin, an Earl Thomas clone and Earl Thomas' first born. Too creepy? Fine. Second born. And an uncle.
As for us, Aaron Donald is too obvious, right? I know Todd Gurley would be a popular pick, but, to borrow an advanced stat from our baseball brothers and sisters, WAR for running backs is pretty low even for the best ones. And Jared Goff...I'm not even sure what the Rams have there (hell, I'm not sure the Rams are sure what they have in Goff). I'll use my keeper on RT Rob Havenstein (have to admit a bias here that I was super high on him for years at Wisconsin). He was the only tackle in the NFL to get 12+ starts and not give up a sack. That's pretty ridiculous in general, let alone for a rookie. It's a good indication of what he's capable of though, and as young as he is, that's a piece I want around for a long time.