The first matchup between the St Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks matches up two teams so badly ravaged by injury that they are barely recognizable. By the time they meet on ESPN's Monday Night Football, the network programmers might just as well play the first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan. The visual result will be little different.
Here's a comparison of the carnage, unit by unit:
- LT Rodger Saffold done (torn pectoral), replaced by former Pats backup Mark Levoir.
- C Jason Brown benched, replaced by former Niners backup Tony Wragge.
- RT Jason Smith out (concussion), replaced by Adam Goldberg.
- TE Michael Hoomanawanui done (ACL), replaced by former Cardinals starter Steven Spach.
- RG John Moffitt done (ACL), replaced by former Raider backup Paul McQuistan.
- RT James Carpenter done (ACL), replaced by backup Breno Giacomini.
While it's terrible to pile on players who are injured, both teams are positioned for some addition by subtraction here. Carpenter and Moffitt were badly overmatched on the right side of the line, even with TE Zach Miller staying in to help block on most snaps. The two combined to allow 9 sacks, 16 QB hits, and 39 pressures.
Saffold has also struggled badly to protect his interior in the Rams' zone-blocking scheme. By himself he has allowed an astounding 11 sacks, as well as 2 hits and 17 pressures. Subtracting him from the line may benefit the Rams' offense.
Meanwhile, Jason Smith's injury has been a blessing in disguise, as Adam Goldberg has been steady in replacement. Smith may be a lost cause as a Ram, unless he can make a Robert Gallery-esque move to guard. Given his propensity to play above his opponent's pad level, keeping his well-bruised brainpan out of the fray as much as he can, I doubt that will happen.
The question for each team is the capability of their backups. Goldberg has already proven himself, and Levoir is fresh-legged and comes from a compatible offensive system in New England. The elder McQuistan is an unknown, but Giacomini struggled badly in his small amount of work this season.
The injury that most hurts the Rams is to Hoomanawanui, who had been playing well, particularly as a blocker. Stephen Spach is a block-first TE, but didn't distinguish himself on an Arizona that struggled to establish the run for years.
Both the Rams and Seahawks have edge rushers primed to take advantage of these losses. However, the Rams' rushers -- Chris Long, James Hall and Robert Quinn -- are better (and more numerous) than the Seahawks' threats, Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock. We can expect both teams to take to the run game to try to neutralize their opponent's pass rush.
- Danario Alexander (hamstring) is doubtful, and Mark Clayton (achilles) is limited, replaced by Brandon Gibson.
- Greg Salas (ACL) and Danny Amendola (elbow, triceps) are out, replaced by Austin Pettis.
- Lance Kendricks (foot sprain) is questionable. No replacement on the roster.
- Cadillac Williams (calf) is out, Jerious Norwood or Quinn Porter will step in.
- Sidney Rice (concussion) should play
- Doug Baldwin (concussion) should play
We will see how much playing time these head-rattled receivers get for Seattle, but the bad news for St Louis is that there is more depth available with Big Mike Williams, Ben Obomanu, and Golden Tate ready in the wings.
The Rams' dogpile of receivers at least has a lead dog now, with Brandon Lloyd asserting his presence in the team's offense. Gibson is a known commodity at this point, a receiver equally capable of making or dropping a big pass, but is at least physically durable. Mark Clayton is the team's X factor here, but it would be a bad idea to count on him to be a difference maker at this point.
- Too many cornerbacks to list are on the IR. Al Harris (ACL) is the latest, replaced by former Packer Josh Gordy.
- Justin King (concussion) is doubtful, and could be replaced by newly signed rookie Nate Ness.
- Darian Stewart (neck) should play.
- Brian Kehl (ankle) should play.
- Kam Chancellor (concussion) should play.
It's incredibly bad karma to hope for injury to your opponent's key players. But that said... I wouldn't have minded if Seattle had taken a bit more of a cautious approach with second-year safety Kam Chancellor, who has arguably been the team's biggest impact player on that side of the ball.
Meanwhile, the Rams' injury parade continues at cornerback, with Justin King suffering a relapse of symptoms from a so-called "mild" concussion suffered last weekend. This is the second time King has been felled by minor injury, as he falls victim to the Rams' curse of 300 snaps. While Josh Gordy has played well, Rams fans can't be comfortable with him at the #1 corner spot.
Seattle built an upset of the Rams last year by simply chucking the ball deep and hoping for the best. Unless our replacement-of-the-replacement corners step up, another frustrating upset could be in the works.