Buffalo Bills vs. St. Louis Rams Game Day Preview

RAMS OVERVIEW (2008 RANKINGS)

The rankings are listed below, but these are the only numbers you’ll need to know how bad the situation is in St. Louis:

Eagles 38, Rams 3
Giants 41, Rams 13
Seahawks 37, Rams 13

The Edward Jones Dome used to be the home of the “Greatest Show On Turf.” My, how times have changed.

OFFENSE (#31 total yardage, #32 rushing, #27 passing, #31 scoring):
Pick a stat, any stat, and you’ll more than likely find the Rams at the bottom of the league rankings. Offensive touchdowns? A grand total of two in three games. First downs? Averaging just shy of 12 per week, a number most high school teams can match. Rushing yardage? 169 after three weeks ... or 51 fewer yards than Michael Turner piled up in Atlanta’s season opener.

Seeking a way out of the team’s disastrous start, head coach Scott Linehan pulled the trigger on a quarterback switch on Tuesday, benching Marc Bulger in favor of 38-year-old (and oft-concussed) Trent Green. The savvy veteran does know the system, and word is that Bulger was starting to look a little gun-shy. But the last time we saw Green, he was being wheeled off the field in Houston. Bulger was sacked 11 times in the first three games. Do the math, and hope for Mr. Green’s continued good health.

Steven Jackson is off to a slow start after holding out well into training camp, averaging just 3.1 yards per carry. Of course, because the Rams have been outscored 38-0 in the first quarter and 61-12 in the first half so far this season, opportunities to run the ball have been scarce. He also leads the team with 15 receptions. Antonio Pittman is out with a cracked fibula, so Brian Leonard returns from the inactive list (after missing time with a sprained shoulder) to back up Jackson, who’s been limited in practice this week with a sore groin muscle. Former Steeler Dan Kreider is now the fullback.

By now, Torry Holt has to be wishing that his old running mate, Isaac Bruce, was still in St. Louis. With Drew Bennett and Dane Looker starting across from him, the seven-time Pro Bowl receiver has been seeing plenty of double-teams. Holt has a current run of eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, but with just 11 catches for 122 yards in the first three games, that streak is definitely in danger.

Looker started the last two games after Bennett broke his foot in the opener, but the Rams are making the move to second-round pick Donnie Avery this week. The top wide receiver selected in the draft, Avery has blazing speed, but we’ll see how well he’s picked up Al Saunders’ complex offense. Looker, Dante Hall, and Eddie Kennison will see time in multiple-receiver sets. If Randy McMichael isn’t held back to block on every play, he’s a decent downfield threat at tight end. Anthony Becht and 2006 second-round pick Joe Klopfenstein are the other TEs on the roster; neither has caught a pass this season.

Left guard Jacob Bell was brought in from Tennessee to help shore up a line that saw 13 different players start at least one game last season, but immediately fell victim to the Rams’ injury curse, missing the last two games with a bad hamstring. Adam Goldberg started in his place, but Bell is optimistic about playing this weekend. The Rams could certainly use him lining up next to future Hall of Fame tackle Orlando Pace. They’d love to see Pace return to his pre-injury level, as well – after playing only eight games in 2006, a torn rotator cuff and labrum in the second quarter of Week 1 cost him almost all of last season. He’s already dinged again this season, though; he’ll play on Sunday despite a nagging groin injury. Former Cardinal Nick Leckey starts at center, with guard Richie Incognito and tackle Alex Barron lining up on the right side.

DEFENSE (#32 total yardage, #29 rushing, #30 passing, #32 scoring):
The massive upheaval continues on the other side of the ball, where the Rams are giving up over five yards per carry, have yet to force a single turnover on defense (their one fumble recovery was on a muffed punt), and allowed opposing quarterbacks to torch the secondary for seven touchdowns and an unbelievable 123.6 passer rating.

Latest word out of St. Louis has Clifton Ryan taking over for veteran La’Roi Glover at the tackle spot next to Adam Carriker and run-stuffer Victor Adeyanju lining up at left end, sending top draft pick Chris Long back to the right side and James Hall to the bench. The normal left end, Leonard Little, may also be back for this game; he’s been out since the opener with a sore hamstring.

Will Witherspoon is a quality middle linebacker; last season, he led the team in both tackles and sacks, an unusual combination. Weakside ‘backer Pisa Tinoisamoa will be joined in the starting lineup by Chris Draft, who takes over for second-year player Quinton Culberson. They’re steady, but average.

The team’s No. 1 pick in 2006, cornerback Tye Hill, is looking more and more like another bad draft-day decision. He was benched for Fakhir Brown, but will apparently regain his starting job after Brown – arguably the team’s best corner, although that might not be saying much – was inexplicably released at the beginning of the week. Former nickel back Ron Bartell starts on the other side, and Jason Craft was signed to fill Brown’s roster spot. Corey Chavous and O.J. Atogwe remain at safety.

SPECIAL TEAMS:
Jeff Wilkins decided to call it a career at the end of last season, so the Rams brought in Josh Brown to replace him. So far, so good. The ex-Seahawk has provided most of the team’s offense this year, converting all five of his field goal attempts. He’s never been afraid to try the long ones – two more 50-yarders this season have tied Brown with Neil Rackers for the most among active kickers, and only Jason Hanson has a better success rate from long distance.

Miami may have made a mistake when they let Donnie Jones get away. He’s absolutely crushing the ball, averaging a league-leading 51.9 yards in gross punting average, and even a mediocre cover team isn’t enough to drop him below fifth with a 42.2-yard net. Of course, with the Rams rarely crossing midfield these days, he’s free to boom away without much fear of finding the end zone for a touchback.

Dante Hall handles both punt and kick returns, but his “Human Joystick” days in Kansas City are well behind him. Hall is averaging south of 20 yards per kick return, and has yet to break one for longer than 30.

OUTLOOK:

Will all the lineup changes help? Maybe, maybe not ... but at this point, things can’t get much worse, can they? Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz recently nominated the current Rams as the worst professional football team in St. Louis history, calling them “lifeless, helpless, hopeless.”

The Seahawks, the same team Buffalo pounded in the opener (minus even more of their top wide receivers), ran all over the Rams last week. The old “on any given Sunday” axiom aside, there’s little reason to think the Bills won’t do the same.

LINKS

Rams depth chart | 2008 regular-season stats
Bills depth chart | 2008 regular-season stats

Page 2 of 2 « Previous Page


09/08 New England Patriots 1:00 pm
09/15 Carolina Panthers 1:00 pm
09/22 @ New York Jets 4:25 pm
09/29 Baltimore Ravens 1:00 pm
10/03 @ Cleveland Browns 8:25 pm
10/13 Cincinnati Bengals 1:00 pm
10/20 @ Miami Dolphins 1:00 pm
10/27 @ New Orleans Saints 1:00 pm
11/03 Kansas City Chiefs 1:00 pm
11/10 @ Pittsburgh Steelers 1:00 pm
11/17 New York Jets 1:00 pm
12/01 Atlanta Falcons (Tor) 4:05 pm
12/08 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1:00 pm
12/15 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 1:00 pm
12/22 Miami Dolphins 1:00 pm
12/29 @ New England Patriots 1:00 pm

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