After watching the St. Louis Rams get home on the pass rush time after time in Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals and still get toasted through the air, the focus shifts from pressuring the quarterback to covering the guys he’s trying to throw it to this week. That will be a tall order considering the weaponry at Matt Ryan’s disposal with the Atlanta Falcons, but their top two options in particular need to be on lockdown.
After seeing limited action in the opener, Roddy White is still missing practice but is expected to play this Sunday. He is the more understated of the Falcons’ top two wideouts, but White is quietly effective year after year. His veteran savvy is a tough matchup for any corner, but putting a veteran like Cortland Finnegan on him makes the most sense for St. Louis this week.
As for Julio Jones, well Janoris Jenkins will have the unenviable task of mirroring him when the Atlanta offense is on the field. Jenkins was schooled by Larry Fitzgerald a few times in the opener, but he is still the most gifted corner the Rams have by far and will have to step up his play against Julio. Jones has the speed to break routes deep with the strength at 6-foot-3 220-pounds to ward off defenders as well. He too is hobbled by a knee injury, but all indications are that he will suit up come Sunday.
He may be the forgotten man, but Tony Gonzalez also warrants a watchful eye defensively this weekend. At 37 years of age, the guy can flat out get it done as he proved with his three catches for 36 yards and a touchdown last week. Linebacker Alec Ogletree is the perfect weapon for the Rams to use in coverage against any and all athletic tight ends. He may still be green as a rookie, but Ogletree makes for his lack of experience with superior athleticism that will allow him to stick to Gonzalez like glue.
There’s no doubt Jeff Fisher’s defense will have its hands full on Sunday trying to contain a Falcons passing attack that has been prolific in recent years. Some would argue that their weaponry is unmatched throughout the NFL in terms of proven talent, so the Rams will be thoroughly tested after getting scorched through the air in the opener.
Steven Jackson matching up against his former team may dominate the headlines coming into the game, but the battles on the outside are worth keeping an eye on. If the Rams can limit the damage done by the Atlanta receivers they will be in the thick of things come crunch time.