1. With Shaun Hill in doubt for Sunday's game and Austin Davis possibly starting, what should we expect out of the Rams' offense?
Well if last Sunday was any indication...not much. The bigger issue was the offensive line (see question 3 for a reference here...). The Rams have styled themselves over the past couple of years to be a physical, run-driven offense. That's not to say run first, but more of an offense that uses the run game to force adjustments from the defense. That didn't happen. That meant Shaun Hill and Austin Davis were confined to a passing game without the comforts of a running game that could pull off the pre-snap attention of the defense toward the wide receivers and zones. It didn't work...at all. So while Hill and Davis are filling the void in Sam Bradford's absence all season, they're not really the issue. Bradford never elevated the offense and the Rams were able to remain competitive-ish. The Rams need the rest of the offense to step up to be competitive-ish. And that's below the pre-season expectations.
2. The Rams' defense has a terrific front, but they really seemed to struggle against the Vikings. What happened?
I wouldn't say the front struggled. It was more what the front forces. The Rams had plenty of pressure and four QB hits even though the Vikings played a quick-fire offense. It's something the Rams are used to seeing even last year as opponents recognized they wouldn't be afforded much sustained protection against seven-step drops and slow-developing offensive play schemes. As friend of TST and current ESPN Rams blogger Nick Wagoner noted, Vikings QB Matt Cassel finished with the lowest yards per pass in the air of any QB last week. Similarly, he finished with the fourth fastest time per pass delivery. So if anything, it was an indication of how good the front is.
It confines the offense to a specific approach. That's as much of a compliment as you can pay.
The bigger issues were elsewhere. The offense asked FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR too much of the offense, they compiled a handful of mistakes throughout Cordarelle Patterson's amazing 67-yard highlight TD. In small, but vital, moments, they were left lacking. Sometimes you can do 90% of the job well. The 10% can end up mattering more. That sucks when the offense isn't offering you any cover, but that's the reality for the Rams right now.
3. There were some rumblings that the Bucs might draft Aaron Donald. Obviously they didn't, but how has he looked so far?
Oh he good. He real good. Honestly at this point though, it's about opportunity costs.
The Rams are now dealing with the good kind of problem, the problem of cycling through three DTs who can all play good football in Michael Brockers, Kendall Langford and Donald. The reticence there is that in Bradford's absence and with #2 overall pick Greg Robinson among the second string last week. Sure, the Rams added an offensive lineman with a strong case to be a stud-of-the-future. And yes, Donald has impressed with his natural skills to disrupt backfields despite a lacking power game in defense. But the Rams are coming off of the worst stretch of football in the NFL in years past. They've gotten to two 7-win season the last two years. Is a long-term OL option and a rotational stud DT the best they could do with two first round picks?
Part of this is reactionary to week one and the Bradford injury (see next question). The Rams are in a bad, bad spot right now. And the cornucopia of draft picks the RGIII trade gifted us...it just doesn't feel like we're where we should be after all of that.
4. What do you think will happen with Sam Bradford after this season?
31 of 32 teams would move on. You've got a QB who is far too expensive with far too extensive of an injury history to justify resting the hopes of the franchise upon..................................................and yet...................................................(wait, I got more ellipses)..................................................(still more)................................
This is the Rams. This is the Rams who rode Marc Bulger into oblivion, a practice squad-originated field-reader who faced so much pass pressure he lost the sole tool in his toolbox. This is the Rams whose plan for a post-Bulger era was...uh...Kyle Boller and Keith Null? Go ahead and look that last one up. Then they drafted Bradford. The easy and wise, albeit insanely costly, move. And yet you get into 2013 with a backup quarterback of Kellen Clemens who you force into action for half of the season and he ends up looking like Kellen Clemens and that somehow ends up being impressive. Fine. You've got the offseason to address QB going into 2014. But when your plan is to replace Kellen Clemens with Shaun Hill and draft Texas reject Garrett Gilbert late on day 3 as the only future option, you're risking leaving fans apocalyptic if Bradford faces a long-term absence again.
Aaaaaaaaaaaand he's gone for all of 2014.
And yet, there's part of me that recognizes that the only reason this franchise has stocked up soooooo much talent elsewhere on the roster is because they put so much of their plans into Sam Bradford. So what really is stopping them from doing it again? He'll be cheaper in 2014. They can spend a second-day pick or even first-round selection if they're late in the round to back him up. Free agency is a thing the Rams do oddly.
Truth is, I don't know this early in the football calendar what the hell they're going to do. If they end up with a top pick, the easy prediction is to assume they grab a Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota. But it's waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay early. And more importantly?
This is the Rams.
5. Care to predict the game's outcome?
Not really...but fine. I know predicting a Rams win would seem ludicrous to Rams fans right now. Wait, redact that. Restart. Predicting a Rams win would seem ludicrous to anyone with a functioning neocortex, so allow me to inject the internetz with a bit more insanity.
I'll say the Rams win.
Now for that to happen, it's probably going to have to be weird. Turnovers, Fluke plays. Special teams. A ridiculously long FG from Greg Zuerlein. Busted coverage that allows whomever is at QB for the Rams at the time to heave a simple TD reception to whomever benefits from said busted coverage. I know it's odd relying on those things. But the Rams are due for any of those to go our way. Plus, I'll throw in the assumed motivation the offensive line comes into this one with knowing they HAVE to get back to their 2013 level of play.
Does it make any sense? Nah. And if the Rams match their penalty pace, which can slow the slowest of games, it's even more unpossible (yes, unpossible).
But I'm a homer. You should expect nothing less.
Rams 20, Bucs 16