Tomorrow evening marks the moment we Rams fans have been waiting for since that disappointing loss against Seattle in Week 17 season: the opening of the 2011/12 Rams season. The team opens the preseason schedule against the Indianapolis Colts, a team that doesn’t seem to take the preseason too seriously. There’s a chance that due to the injury to Peyton Manning, they may work a little harder this preseason to see if they can survive without him.
But that’s enough about the Colts. Let’s get back to the team we all know and love; our beloved Rams. Although this is just a preseason game, there are three things we should look for in this game, which I will highlight below. The numerous changes to the team from the new draftees to the new free agents that were signed were done in an effort to improve this team over last year’s 7-9 record, and push us over the hump into a division title and competing in the playoffs.
Just to highlight some of these moves:
- The Rams signed former Eagles safety Quinton Mikell to replace the departed O.J. Atogwe
- The team went and got one of the top guards on the market in Harvey Dahl to improve the interior line.
- The team signed three veteran linebackers in Zach Diles, Brady Poppinga, and Ben Leber to compete for OLB spots
- The Rams drafted QB Sam Bradford 3 new targets in Lance Kendricks, Austin Pettis, and Greg Salas, as well as bringing in Mike Sims-Walker.5. The team drafted UNC DE Robert Quinn to do one thing: get to the QB.
Three things to watch for:
Offense, offense, offense
Prior to the draft, the Rams brought in Josh McDaniels to fill in for departed coordinator Pat Shurmur. Coach McDaniels specializes in running a spread type offense, which should excite Rams fans who have suffered through the dink and dunk system the past couple years. In the first preseason we should be seeing a little of what this team can do with that offense. Look to see Lance Kendricks lined up all over the field: at the tight end position, in the slot, and even in the backfield.
We don’t need to see the team mastering this offense quite yet, which is to be expected as we’ve only had two weeks of camp. We do, however, need to see that Sam is starting to have a good grasp of the ins and outs of this offense, and an understanding of the concepts and the reads. I expect to see Sam possibly struggle a little initially as he sees his first action in this offense against a defense that will be actually coming to hit him.
Wide Receiver Separation
By separation, I don’t mean from defensive backs, I mean from each other. To this point, no receiver besides Danny Amendola and possibly Mike Sims-Walker have guaranteed spots on this team. We’ve all heard that Brandon Gibson has been having an outstanding camp, but we need to see that translate to the field. With Donnie Avery and Greg Salas not playing because of injuries, what receivers will step up and make a statement in this game? This game is potentially a great opportunity for Danario Alexander to really make a claim that he belongs on this team. Austin Pettis didn’t have a very good scrimmage at Lindenwood this past weekend, will he rebound?
First line of offense
One of the most important developments beginning this season will be how the offensive line gels, especially with the addition of guard Harvey Dahl. Dahl is a nasty run blocker in similar to Richie Incognito, but without the headaches. He has the potential to be one of the top additions to the team this year, helping to not only protect for our star quarterback, but open bigger running lanes than Adam Goldberg could in his dreams. What we need to see in this first game is how he fits in between tackle Jason Smith and center Jason Brown.
Prediction: I’m not going to predict a winner or loser in this game, because frankly it doesn’t matter. What we need to simply see is that this team is advancing and getting better.