Friday, October 28, 2005
- Apologies for the lack of updates this week. With the injury craziness and the addition of the mailbag, it's been a long week. We'll get back to the more regular schedule next week on the bye, perhaps with an additional mailbag or two to get you through the bye week.
- Every game in the NFL is as important as the one before it, but this one has a lot of meaning for the Rams. If they can find a way to win this game without four Pro Bowlers against a good team and go into the bye at 4-4, things will suddenly be looking up.
- Jacksonville is a good looking football team on tape. The Jaguars are as tough as can be and that's a direct reflection on their head coach. Jack Del Rio has always been a tough, fiery guy and he has players that are cut from the same mold. It would be difficult to find a quarterback or player tougher than Byron Leftwich in the entire league. The enduring image of Leftwich has always been him hobbling up the field on a broken leg while at Marshall and continuing to play. You would pretty much have to cut off his leg to get him out of a game and even then I'm not so sure he would go out.
- In addition, Leftwich has a huge arm. This week, Sports Illustrated took a players' poll of the quarterbacks with the best arm in the league. I was stunned to see that Leftwich didn't make the top five. This guy will hang in the pocket all day and fling it anywhere he wants with great accuracy.
- Fred Taylor is still a great back, but I don't believe he ranks among the elite with Edgerrin James, LaDainian Tomlinson and Shaun Alexander. Taylor, though, presents an interesting challenge because he combines power with speed and can make catches out of the back field. Greg Jones, the backup to Taylor is a huge, bruising back that is tough in the red zone.
- Jimmy Smith is the consummate professional. I'd put Smith in the same group as Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and Marvin Harrison. Smith just continues to fly under the radar and make plays. With Travis Fisher banged up and a number of other defensive backs struggling with injury, Smith could be in line for a big day.
- Matt Jones also presents a number of problems. With his uncanny size, speed and athleticism, he is the type that usually gives the Rams problems. Jones is an interesting matchup for any secondary and this one has struggled with tall receivers.
- With the real possibility that Holt, Bruce, Marc Bulger and Leonard Little are going to be out again, this week's task becomes even tougher. The Saints stacked up against the run and still allowed Steven Jackson to pick up 97 yards on 20 carries. Granted, Jackson ripped off a big run early to boost his numbers, but he was stronger at the end of the game than at any point this season. Jackson will probably get his share of carries again against Jacksonville. The Rams must be patient and do what they can to ensure Jackson stays in the game mentally and physically.
- Those two defensive tackles are as physically imposing as any players in the league. Marcus Stroud and John Henderson are matchup problems waiting to happen. Although Claude Terrell is just a rookie, his punch and power inside will be needed in the running game. He has had neck issues this week and is hoping to play, but we'll know more on his status later today.
- It does appear that Fisher will play and he should be able to help out, but how the Rams will match up with Jacksonville's receivers is unknown. It seems that Ron Bartell will get another shot to prove himself after playing so well last week. Bartell has better size and speed than most every defensive back on the Rams and, if he can avoid bad penalties, is really ready to emerge.