When the Rams dropped their preseason opener with a lackluster 27-19 effort at Cleveland last Thursday, Jeff Fisher did not seem too bothered. He chose to spin the subpar effort as an opportunity.
“As coaches, you’d rather have it that way than the other way where you play a perfect game and you just move on to the next one,” he said the day after.
Well, the next one is almost here. The Rams will host the Green Bay Packers at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Edward Jones Dome. Besides looking for a lot of green and yellow in the stands, here are four other things to watch:
Tavon Austin and Jared Cook
Between them, the twosome most expected to put some show back in the offense had one ball thrown their way at Cleveland. And it sailed through Austin’s hands. While Sam Bradford since has assured us that he is “very confident those two are going to touch the ball plenty” in the regular season, it’d be nice to see the newcomers get a little chance to show us what all the fuss is about.
“It would be nice to get them some touches just so they could get used to it,” Bradford said.
The Rams’ front-liners aren’t expected to play a full half, but they are expected to play more than they did in the opener. Although Fisher says the offense will not go out of its way to get Austin or Cook the ball, don’t be surprised if Bradford aims a couple of passes their way and Austin gets to return a couple of punts. If so, he hopes the results will be better than in Friday’s practice, when he muffed a punt in a special teams drill.
Defensive front seven
With double-digit sackers Chris Long and Robert Quinn on the ends, defense is supposed to be the strength of the team. The first unit didn’t look too strong against the Browns.
The only sack was recorded well after the regulars were resting. The Rams forced no turnovers and made the mediocre Browns first-team offense look impressive. Long and Quinn combined for a total of four tackles and linebacker Alec Ogletree looked just short of lost. Fellow rookie T.J. McDonald also played like he was in his first NFL game.
Veteran Will Witherspoon will get his first start at right outside linebacker, where he figures to play the first four games because of Jo-Lonn Dunbar’s suspension.
Maybe it’s good the Rams will be staying simple after an error-filled effort at Cleveland that included six penalties, two interceptions and a fumble on Isaiah Pead’s first carry. A basic plan should allow them a better chance of reducing the mistakes.
“Biggest thing for us is executing whatever our game plan is,” Bradford said. “We need to go out and execute and be clean. Picking up the blitz, executing side adjustments, hot routes, protection calls, the simple things. They’re details, but they make a difference between winning and losing in a game in the regular season. Those are the things we need to take care of.”
Bradford said he expects “Green Bay to throw us a few more looks than we saw last week in Cleveland.”
At least he hopes the Packers do.
“That will be good for us to go against something new, stuff that we don’t see everyday in practice from our defense,” Bradford said.
You will need to get there early to see Aaron Rodgers, and you can expect a lot of Packers fans visiting the Dome to do just that. Sometime after Rodgers departs, the Packers will put in Vince Young, who was drafted and spent five seasons with Fisher in Tennessee.
Young, cut by the Bills last preseason, hasn’t played in a regular-season game since 2011. He got in last week’s opener for the Packers and completed one of three passes and rushed twice for 12 yards in a 17-0 loss to Arizona.
“I was happy that he got a chance,” Fisher said. “I know he’d been working out and he must have gone in and impressed them. He went in the game last week and did a nice job considering he’d only been there a short time.”
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.