It might seem like the key for the St. Louis Rams in their Week 1 matchup with the Arizona Cardinals should be blanket Larry Fitzgerald or something of that nature, but the truth is Fitz isn’t a factor if his quarterback doesn’t have any time to throw him the football.
Last year the Rams made a habit out of putting whoever was playing quarterback for the Cardinals on the turf. When the two teams met in Week 5 last season, St. Louis threw then Cards QB Kevin Kolb on his back nine times. The offensive line for Arizona was a mess last season, and they tried to clean it up coming into the 2013 campaign. Unfortunately injuries have played a role in destroying that effort for the Cardinals as first round rookie Jonathan Cooper is out for the year with a broken leg, and pretty much the same cast of characters is in place to protect Carson Palmer to start the season.
Obviously even Palmer can’t complete passes from his backside, so the best defense for the Rams against the aerial attack featuring Fitzgerald and company is to make the man under center uncomfortable. Clearly Chris Long and Robert Quinn are quite adept at doing just that to opponents having each racked up double-digit sacks last season. Don’t expect anything less from that duo in 2013 as Michael Brockers figures to be a force in year two at defensive tackle with Kendall Langford fully acclimated to the 4-3 system in his second season with the club as well. Those two will only further aid the cause for Long and Quinn to do their thing off the edge.
This really seems like bringing a knife to a gunfight for the Cardinals as their protection has not gotten any better and the Rams’ rushers have only gotten one more year of experience under their belts. Now Eric Winston will help a bit on the right side of the Arizona line, but Levi Brown is basically just a pylon for either Quinn or Long to run around en route to Palmer.
At the end of the day, the Rams could easily have another nine sack performance as a team in the season opener at the Edward Jones Dome. The fast track indoors was the scene of the crime last season when St. Louis beat Kolb to a pulp, and the Cards may need to provide Palmer with some assistance to get off of the field this year as well. Look for the Rams to torment the Arizona quarterback early and often on Sunday as their pass rush takes aim at the all-time sack record in 2013.