As the St. Louis Rams face the Green Bay Packers in their second preseason matchup of the year, they’ll be moving forward and trying to get more ready for the regular season. With several of the starters who sat out last week’s game with injuries returning this week, it will give us a solid look at some guys who are expected to be significant contributors to the team this year. Here are four key things to watch for when the Rams take on the Packers Saturday afternoon.
1. Cornerback Play- After giving an extended look last week to several guys who are battling for spots on the bottom of the roster—E.J. Gaines, Darren Woodard, and Marcus Roberson—the Rams will definitely get back Trumaine Johnson and Brandon McGee tomorrow and may have Janoris Jenkins in the lineup as well. With the cornerback position perhaps being the most uncertain of any on the Rams’ roster, it would be nice to see some good things from Johnson and Jenkins, and more significantly, McGee. McGee, a fifth-rounder a year ago, hasn’t necessarily progressed as expected, and it’s possible that he could be passed by Gaines on the depth chart if he doesn’t start showing some skills.
2. How Does Bradford Perform?- Starting quarterback Sam Bradford will be getting his first official on-field action since he tore his ACL last October. Besides judging how comfortable he is moving around after suffering such a serious injury, it should be interesting to see how he works with his receiving corps. Based on how Bradford’s performed in practice, expect Stedman Bailey and Austin Pettis to get significant opportunities if they’re on the field with him Saturday.
3. Defensive End Battle Continues- A week after defensive ends Michael Sam, Ethan Westbrooks, and Sammy Brown showed some positive things in the Rams’ preseason opener, they’ll all be looking to impress once again in what figures to be a battle for a single 53-man roster spot.
Sam could stand to polish things up a bit in all areas of his game, and in particular should strive to improve his work on special teams. With that said, he seemed to get near the quarterback more than the others. Westbrooks needs to continue to show that he can be effective from both the defensive end and tackle positions, while working on his ability to pressure the pocket. Brown, who put himself a bit behind in the battle with a slightly less impressive performance than his competitors in week one, needs to provide more physicality on a consistent basis and get some pressure.
4. Which Young Receiver Steps Up?- It’s possible that the Rams will keep a sixth receiver to start the season with Stedman Bailey on the shelf for a PED suspension. Even if they don’t, they are still likely to have one or two wideouts on the practice squad. The guys who are battling for those potential spots include Emory Blake, Austin Franklin, Justin Veltung, and T.J. Moe. Blake and Franklin are both very young and probably have the greatest potential to develop into consistent NFL receivers. With that said, Veltung can serve as a punt returner, and Moe seems to be progressing nicely as a special-teamer, and those factors could make them desirable. Unless the Rams are afraid of losing Franklin or Blake on waivers, Moe and Veltung’s ability to make more immediate contributions could give them better chances to start the year on the 53-man roster.