When you are 0-3 almost any game has to be considered a must win. When you combine that with a week off next week and then having to face the last two Super Bowl Champions and a potential Super Bowl team in 2011 during the next month, you realize how important this next game is. The 2-1 Washington Redskins visit the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday and bring with them the most realistic opportunity for the Rams to win a game in the next month. If the Rams lose on Sunday, 0-4 can balloon to 0-7 real quick. It is that desperate of a situation for the Rams.
Here is a look at how Sunday’s game will breakdown.
When the Rams have the ball
The Rams offense has been horrible through the first three weeks. It simply must be better on Sunday. The Rams offensive line has not been able to keep Sam Bradford clean and the Washington Redskins will do everything they can to continue that trend. As I wrote about earlier in the week, former Rams Head Coach Jim Haslett is the defensive coordinator with the Redskins and would love nothing better than to stick it to the Rams. Haslett loves to blitz, as evidenced on Monday night against the Cowboys, and he will challenge Bradford and the Rams to beat them deep.
The Redskins have had good success getting after the quarterback with Brian Orakpo and first round draft pick Ryan Kerrigan. I was a big fan of Kerrigan’s in college and wanted the Rams to select him with their pick in the first round. Kerrigan is a relentless pass rusher and is good against the run. He is very similar to how Grant Wistrom was during his time in St. Louis. The Rams will also have to watch out for Adam Carriker, the former Rams 1stround pick. Jim Haslett has him back out at defensive end in a 3-4 where he looks more comfortable than at any time in his career. Carriker would also like to show the Rams up on Sunday.
In the secondary the Redskins will most likely play a lot of man to man. Up the middle the Redskins have LaRon Landry who is a special safety. At the other spot is former Rams safety O.J. Atogwe. Atogwe looks to be comfortable in his new surroundings as well, and is always a danger to cause a turnover. At cornerback is where the Rams can make some moves. DeAngelo Hall has been struggling on one side and Josh Wilson has been just OK. The Rams will need to get over the top if they expect to win this game.
On the run the Redskins have been very average this season. London Fletcher is still in the middle for the Redskins at linebacker and remains to this day very productive. It remains the dumbest free agent move the Rams have made during their time in St. Louis. How in the world the Rams thought Jamie Duncan was going to replace Fletcher is beyond me.
When the Redskins have the ball
Mike Shanahan was widely blasted this offseason with the quarterback decisions he was making. They let Donovan McNabb go and they looked like they might be going with John Beck. Instead Shanahan decided to go with Rex Grossman who has been nothing but great through the first three games. Shanahan has clearly figured out how to use Grossman. The quarterback has thrown for over 250 yards and thrown for a touchdown in every game this season. He is not making mistakes and playing smart football. The Rams are going to have to get in his face and force Grossman to make throws he is not comfortable with. It would be nice to see Chris Long, James Hall or Robert Quinn make a big impact in this one.
The wide receiver corps has had a great start in 2011 for Washington. Santana Moss remains the top option for Grossman. Jabar Gaffney has had a nice start and seems to have a comfort factor with Grossman. Where the Rams could be in big trouble is in covering the tight ends. Fred Davis has emerged as a prime target and the Redskins still have Chris Cooley who is dangerous. The Rams linebackers will have to have a good game to shut down those two.
The Redskins have done pretty well running the football in 2011. Former Arizona Cardinals running back Tim Hightower is the Redskins main option. Hightower has had a few 100 yard games against the Rams in the past and hopefully that will not happen on Sunday.
The Rams are still a mess in the return game. Until there is some stability at the position with the return of Danny Amendola, the Rams will not be a threat to return a touchdown. For the Redskins Brandon Banks handles both duties and is a threat for a big return. Banks has been great returning punts in 2011, and the Rams will have to be extra careful.
Graham Gano handles the kicking for the Redskins and has already missed three field goals this season. Punter Sav Rocca has been great at downing the ball inside the 20 this season and helps the Redskins win the field position battle.
There is no question the Rams need this one. The problem is that I think the Redskins are a pretty good football team and definitely better than the Rams this year. Until the Rams offensive and defensive lines decide to show up this season it is difficult to see them winning a game. Redskins 17 Rams 13.
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