It’s September folks, and that means one thing for football fans. The return of real NFL action. Fantasy football. Sunday couch days. Morning church prayers for a good game. Late morning scrimmages in the backyard. The cold air moving in and leaves falling from the trees. Baseball enters its final stretch and hockey skates are strapped on, but football truly takes over America in September.
The Rams have their sights set on Minnesota in the first week and while it’s an ordinary wish to bring home a winner, I think the need for St. Louis to see something great in Week 1 is more evident than previous seasons. The lease issue looms over the team, with the current lease running out after this year and the moody and silent Stan Kroenke making waves by saying absolutely nothing on his future plans for the team. The city didn’t want to invest in improvements made to the stadium and Governor Jay Nixon hasn’t shown any interest as of yet. So the need to start great and have a good year is important in St. Louis. The fans have never left, but the city isn’t pushing any funds to the team at the moment and other cities are barking for a team, so another 7-9 season wouldn’t look too good.
The Rams could be without Sam Bradford after this season unless they want to invest another 16 million in his feeble knees. The Rams could then be a team towards the bottom of the NFC and without a quarterback or face of the franchise. With the lease issue not going away(a year to year lease is possible but not exactly desired) and the state of the team in flux, Jeff Fisher and company need something to happen in 2014. A division title is far fetched, but the playoffs aren’t a pipe dream either and this team needs to light up North City. With that being said, here are a few hopes for Week 1 with the Rams.
Shaun Hill Shows Hopes At Quarterback
Overall, I am not hoping for Hill to turn into Tom Brady. He is 34 years old and looking at the end whether than starting something incredible here. Hill, does have a better overall record than Bradford. He has never started 16 games in a season. In 2010, he passed for 2,686 yard and threw 16 touchdowns while starting 10 games for the Detroit Lions. His career completion percentage is 62 percent. On the bright side, he has always thrown more touchdowns than interceptions in a season, whether being a starter or a backup. He isn’t going to sling passes into tiny windows like Brett Favre. He is a chain mover and a clock managing quarterback. With a solid young running fleet behind him in Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham, Hill doesn’t have to dazzle. He simply has to keep his mistakes down and make key completions. He has big men in Brian Quick, Jared Cook and Kenny Britt to throw to. I expect good things out of the veteran. He has never gotten a full season to show what he can do. 2014 gives him that chance. He is a perfect quarterback for Jeff Fisher football.
Run, Baby, Run
Unleash Stacy and Cunningham. Mix in Tavon Austin. Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and Fisher shouldn’t be tricky in their game plan this week and pretty much every week. Hand the ball off to the tailback 30 times a game and pound the crap out of the offensive line. Keep doing it and doing it. Stacy may have sneaked up on defenses last year with his abilities but I think he has a legit shot to rush for 1,000 yards and Cunningham is a perfect foil. I want this offense to mix up the formations and run wild this season. Have Hill set up in shotgun and use your big bodies on the offensive line to clear holes. The Rams are a running team. That was with Bradford and even more so now without him. Establish that identity week one.
Tall task and not for the faint of heart, but I have a feeling Gregg Williams is licking his chops this week at the thought of taking on the most productive running back in recent history and one of the best of all time. Adrian Petersen doesn’t wear down defenses. He tears them up early and often. He will run for a 60 yard gain if a defense is napping. Williams has multiple toys at his disposal. Rookie Aaron Donald and one year vet Michael Brockers are your right tackle beasts waiting for Petersen on the inside, but for me it’s Alec Ogletree’s task to contain Petersen when he runs around that left corner. James Laurinaitis is in the middle if Petersen manages to get past our stiff front four brick wall, and I have confidence in this unit as a whole to limit(not stop) Petersen. You need bodies off the bench and backups behind the starters to throw at this beast, and it could decide the game.
Cornerbacks Get An Open Look
When they aren’t running down Petersen on a big gain, Janoris Jenkins and rookie E.J. Gaines will be watching Matt Cassell. The veteran arm isn’t going to beat you with his arm often. At least, not with this Vikings game plan. He is going to pick his spots to attack and complete the big pass and this is where Gaines and Jenkins can have a field day. With Trumaine Johnson out most likely with an injury, Gaines gets his spot and I am excited to see what this high round draft pick can do. The cornerback position hasn’t been a great spot for this improved defense lately. Takeaways weren’t a highlight for this team last year. Every defense works off a cumulative effort. All ends needs to contribute. If the corners can squeeze Cassell into turnovers, the deficit gets larger for the Vikings to come back and hopefully he throws more. If not, Petersen gets more bodies to deal with. The corners can take away the passing game and allow the front 7 to handle one man.
Earth to Brian Quick
Kenny Britt was a nice addition, but I want to see what this Appalachian State product can do with more playing time. He has only started 6 out of 31 games played during his first two years, but Quick improved a bit in 2013. He caught 18 passes for 302 yards and 2 touchdowns. Fisher didn’t put him out there as much as I thought he should have. Quick has digested the playbook for three years. He has some company now. He has a quarterback who has thrown to the likes of Calvin Johnson. Quick’s time to impress is here.
Where’s Greg Robinson?
Davin Joseph is decent, but where the hell is Robinson on this starting offensive line? Is this a joke. First round draft picks who happen to be 6 foot 5 and 332 pounds of steaming “I will knock your frigging head off” thunder need to start. Robinson played in an NFL style offense at Auburn and shouldn’t be on the bench while Joseph starts. Fisher is going with experience with Joseph’s 8 years of NFL work. That is fine. Still, not getting Robinson in there somewhere for Game 1 is disappointing. However, Rodger Saffold is scheduled to get hurt within a quarter or so I will expect to see Greg tomorrow.
Look folks, this is week 1 of a long and painful season. Every NFL season asks as much of the fans as it does of the players. Endure. Wait. Be patient. The Rams can’t afford to be mediocre again and need to strive for at least improvement, which would an 8-8 season. This is Jeff Fisher’s third season as a Rams coach and it has never hinged on one quarterback, so something good must happen this year at the Ed Dome in downtown St. Louis.
Ready or not, Rams fans, the season begins tomorrow. Get your hard hats ready! The 2014 season will be anything but boring.