To prepare for Sunday's Chiefs-Rams game, we spoke with Turf Show Times, SB Nation's Rams blog. We asked about a few lesser known players Chiefs fans should know about as well as who in the heck their new quarterback is.
Thanks to Turf Show Times for the Q&A. Head on over there for your Rams news this week.
1. Who is one player on the Rams defense we don't know but should?
If you haven't picked up on Aaron Donald yet, the train's leaving the station. PFF has him graded out as the second best DT in the NFL. To me, he's a new kind of DT that eschews the traditional power, hole-plug responsibilities (and at 6'1, 285 pounds isn't really built for it anyway) in favor of traits not normally associated with defensive tackles. He's quick. Really quick. And his hands are constantly in motion off the line whipping arms and slapping his opponents' hands. It's weird to see a tackle that active while engaged, but it works for him. He's just able to get by his man so often and so easily, it's just uncanny.
2. Who is one player on the Rams offense we don't know but should?
Earlier in the season, I might have nominated third-year WR Brian Quick who was off to his best season ever, but he's cooled off recently facing tough defenses from San Francisco and Seattle. So instead I'll put RT Joe Barksdale in the spotlight. Barksdale was a third round pick for the Raiders in the 2011 NFL Draft who was released prior to the 2012 season. The Rams snatched him up and couldn't have been more fortunate. He picked up some spot duties on the line in 2012, but his career took off last year after filling in at right tackle when oft-injured Rodger Saffold went down. He's been pretty much inarguably the best offensive lineman this season.
3. What are the Rams plans for stopping Jamaal Charles? How have they done against great backs?
The plan for stopping Jamaal Charles is to stop Jamaal Charles. That will ensure they stop him.
The Rams have done really well against running backs this year, but the gameplan requires a heavy dosage of OLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar and I'm a bit worried about his health. He really labored to get through Monday Night Football against the Niners two weeks ago thanks to a thigh injury, and he was listed with a toe issue on the injury report after Wednesday's practice. So not great news.
That aside, the Rams do have a good track record in 2014 with starting running backs. In their seven games, the Rams are averaging 80 yards allowed from the starter and have only given up one rushing TD to them all year. The numbers look even better if you take into context the Week 2 game in which the Rams were more focused on the Buccaneers' passing game, allowing Bobby Rainey to rack up 144 yards. Other than Rainey, the Rams did well against Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy, did very well against Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch, and kept DeMarco Murray to his lowest rushing day in 2014.
I'm more concerned about Knile Davis and Alex Smith taking off into space, something the Rams have struggled with evidenced by Russell Wilson's 100-plus yard rushing performance last week.
4. I know nothing about Austin Davis. What do I need to know about him?
He's not bad. Which is good. The popular comparison is Drew Brees for the skill set, but obviously some people are a bit put off when you throw out a future HOFer. Then again, he's already won over Brett Favre ...
The things I'd relay to Arrowhead Pride readers about Davis is that he doesn't get tunnel vision in any area. He's not specific to one side of the field or to one level, he doesn't zero in on his main receiving option and he doesn't get stuck on his first read. He's a plus game manager who takes what the defense gives him. It's how you post the highest completion percentage of any QB against the Seahawks ever throwing for a whopping 155 yards ... he's just savvy enough to not get rattled into trying to take more than what's there.
One big drawback is his arm strength. It's definitely a minus, but again, he's smart enough to know when not to test it. He anticipates WRs well so that he's not late enough on his throws where the lack of arm strength becomes a big issue. Accuracy and mobility are a plus too.
So overall, he does a lot of things well. What's helped him be so successful since he got the starting job is avoiding the things he doesn't do well. He's much more mentally in tune with the game than I expected.
5. The Rams were supposed to have a great pass rush. Then they didn't. What in the world happened?
Ya know, it was just a weird funk. To have that much talent and yet post the least sacks through five games of any NFL team ever is one of those things that's really, really hard to explain. Part of it was not getting any holding calls. Things avalanche one way or the other. When you get that call, it opens up the blocker for the defender a bit. When you don't, they're going to latch on tighter. The Rams just weren't the recipient of many calls early.
More importantly, because blaming referees is never the main issue, was / is that offenses are starting the game avoiding the 7-step drops to make sure QBs get the ball out early. It negates any chance of a sack and helps the offense get in rhythm. The problem for the Rams is that when they haven't gotten pressure early in the game, DC Gregg Williams starts dialing up the blitz with more frequency and the opponents have just blocked it too well. It's frustrating to only send four and have them blocked and then send seven or eight and see them blocked properly too. In any case, hopefully the three-sack performance against the Seahawks is an indication that the pass rush is on the right track.
Bonus: Prediction for the game?
I gave a 30-13 Chiefs win in our staff picks based solely on random chaos for parity's sake, so I'll stand by it.