St. Louis Rams: 5 Players Who Will Shine in Week 1
5 St. Louis Rams Who Will Shine in Week 1
The St. Louis Rams open up their regular season schedule this Sunday, facing a divisional opponent in the Arizona Cardinals. Given the difficulty that they will face competing with their other divisional foes, the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, it is crucial that the Rams succeed in their games against the Cardinals. As a group in transition following the hiring of general manager Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians, and the acquisition of quarterback Carson Palmer, the Cardinals should be the least polished team in the NFC West.
That's not to say the Cardinals will be a freebie win for the Rams, though; the group of Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett and Dan Williams may be the best 3-4 defensive line in the NFL, and Patrick Peterson is one of the best shutdown cornerbacks in the league. The Rams will need to make sure their newly reformulated offense has a good plan in order to get past the best players on the Cardinals' defense. They've also improved in several areas: their offensive line should be much more serviceable than the group that gave up nine sacks in the Rams and Cardinals' Thursday night matchup last season.
Luckily, the Cardinals still have plenty of weaknesses. They haven't brought in enough young talent as of yet, so they are still plugging many holes with veterans who have been cast off from other teams. Many of these players should be easy for the Rams to take advantage of, and several of them are likely to be targeted over and over again as the Rams aim to exploit the Cardinals' most glaring weaknesses.
Here are the five Rams who are most likely to put up memorable performances in week one.
5. Robert Quinn, DE
Last year in the Rams and Cardinals' Week 5 matchup, Quinn recorded three sacks. Granted, Quinn was going up against D'Anthony Batiste and not the more talented Levi Brown, but he has a chance to put up similar numbers this year, especially with Brown playing in his first regular season game since 2011.
4. Sam Bradford, QB
This will be Bradford's first real opportunity to prove himself in the Rams' new pass-based offensive attack, aided by new weapons Jared Cook and Tavon Austin, as well as Chris Givens and Brian Quick, who each have a year of experience under their belts. There will certainly be a lot of pressure put on Bradford, but this should be a good opportunity for him to get his feet wet, as he is facing a team that doesn't have much pass coverage talent aside from Patrick Peterson.
3. Janoris Jenkins, CB
Jenkins made his mark in last year's season opener against the Detroit Lions with a 34-yard interception return. This year, he should have an opportunity to make the same type of impact. Cortland Finnegan will presumably be covering Larry Fitzgerald, so there really is no excuse for Jenkins not to shut down Cardinals receivers Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts. In addition, Carson Palmer is probably one of the more inaccurate quarterbacks the Rams will face this year, so Jenkins should be looking to get a quick start on matching his 2012 performance, when he had four interceptions for 150 yards and three touchdowns.
2. Michael Brockers, DT
Brockers wasn't fully healthy at any point last season, but he still put up impressive numbers in his rookie season, registering four sacks from the nose tackle position. This year he should be looking to develop into one of the league's elite defensive tackles, and that will start Sunday, when he will get plenty of reps against guard Paul Fanaika, who will be making his first NFL start. He will also have to go up against Daryn Colledge, who was once one of the league's best guards, but last year Brockers dominated the 49ers' Mike Iupati, who many consider to be the best guard in the league, so he should have no problem on Sunday.
1. Jared Cook, TE
If there's any time that Cook is going to go crazy and pick up a bunch of long gains this season, it will probably be Sunday. Arizona will have their starting corners picking up the Rams' receivers, and many times they will have Chris Givens, Austin Pettis and Tavon Austin on the field at the same time. This leaves the Cardinals with the choice of covering the 6-foot-6, 248-pound, 4.49-40-running tight end with either free safety Rashad Johnson or outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander.
Johnson isn't particularly great in coverage and made several boneheaded mistakes in the Cardinals' last preseason game; Alexander is a nice success story and made the Pro Bowl as a special teamer last year, but the bottom line is that he was an offensive guard just several years ago for the Washington Redskins, and there's absolutely no way that he has the speed to adequately cover Cook. If the Rams just keep throwing it to Cook and hope for the coverage to break, he should be good for at least a touchdown in the season opener.