Rams defense has skills to stop RG3

Rams defense has skills to stop RG3

Published Sep. 14, 2012 10:00 p.m. ET

You've seen the pose. You've seen it go viral. You know the one: rookie phenom Robert Griffin III sitting near an end zone at the Superdome raising his arms in joy as if he's Touchdown Jesus.

Appropriate, since he's the Washington Redskins' Hallelujah! to Rex Grossman's Heck No!

The District's darling comes to the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday, and won't this be fun? See, the ol' Ed lacked glitz in Steve Spagnuolo's farewell tour last season. Oh sure, there was the Halloween-week trick when the St. Louis Rams stunned the New Orleans Saints before a golf-clap crowd. But other than that freak show from Drew Brees and Co., the navy and gold's treats were few in a 2-14 year.

Get your Griffining on. You've heard his numbers: 19-of-26 passing for 320 yards and two touchdowns. You've seen his poise: Anyone brash enough to scribble "HEART" over the Nike "swoosh" can't be half bad. You've imagined coach Mike Shanahan's reaction to it all: "Amen for No. 10!"

What will Griffin do for an encore? Do the Rams have a prayer?

The NFL's hottest new thing lands in town.

Rise and give thanks.
How will the Rams defend Griffin?
A funny thing happened in Week 1. Some folks settled into their sofas ready to see Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson play a meat cleaver to the Rams' defense. But that didn't happen. Not close. Coach Jeff Fisher showed against the Detroit Lions that he has talent to cut into an opponent as well.
There were times in the pocket when Stafford looked like he was trying to decode the Rosetta Stone. The fourth-year player finished 32-of-48 passing for 355 yards with a last-minute touchdown, but he was also baited into three interceptions. Advantage, St. Louis.

What will Fisher slip on his hook this week? His praise of Griffin was so glowing it required Oakleys -- "His debut in the opener as a rookie, statistically, is historic," Fisher said -- but expect the defense's IQ to be higher than when Griffin last toasted a secondary. After all, the rookie's fireworks came against the guy the Rams canned in January.

No doubt, St. Louis will be stretched. Fisher's group must respect Griffin's wheels as well as his cannon. The rookie gained 42 yards on nine carries against the searching Saints. Only running back Alfred Morris (96 yards on 28 carries) had more for the 'Skins.

Yes, something unexpected happened in Week 1. But repeating it won't be a surprise.
How will Sam Bradford perform as the "other" QB?
Consider it opportunity. Consider it an opening. Consider it a chance to quiet a growing number of cackles.

The chatter Sunday will be focused on another Heisman Trophy winner from another Big 12 school. For No. 8, the situation is perfect.  

Remember, there were fringe fans who wanted the Rams to draft Griffin last spring. To them, Bradford was a faded headline, about as useful as a month-old newspaper to check the afternoon high.
That narrative was nonsense, but Bradford has something to prove nonetheless. He was serviceable, not spectacular, in completing 17 of 25 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown against the Lions. He's older, bruised and a bit more realistic than he was when he inked a $78 million deal in 2010.

Still, comparisons are too obvious to brush away. Bradford enters a telling season following a two-year stretch that can best be described as "variety." Meanwhile, Griffin has introduced a new era of Dan Snyder Football -- one in which loose-lip pundits like John Madden have already waxed the rookie's bust for the Hall of Fame.

Recall the Bradford buzz two years ago? Recall the hype?

He can make the old new again with strong play Sunday.  
What will happen?
Beware the trap. Anticipate surprise. Hear that burgundy-and-gold bandwagon rolling in from the east? It's heavy, it's haughty, it looks to hitch up Sunday and cross the Mississippi River with a second reason to keep the Beltway bumpin'.

That would be too easy. That would be too predictable. That would be too much of a yawn.

Make no mistake: Griffin could become an elite talent. He has the skill, the composure, the grounding to be great. Fisher was right: The rookie's debut was historic. It was a reason to step back, marvel at the spark and wonder how long promise will burn.

But history also produced tape. That's something Spags didn't have before Week 1. And that's something Fisher likely has made must-see TV all week.

Sure, Griffin will adapt. But the 17-year head-coaching veteran has more than one idea how to handle a rookie quarterback. He scrambled Stafford. He can do the same Sunday.

Same old Rams? Not this time, because it would be too boring to think otherwise.
Pick: Rams 27, Redskins 24
You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.