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'Great challenge' awaits Rams defense
By Jeff Gordon
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
Thursday, Oct. 30 2008
When the Cardinals and Rams play Sunday afternoon, all eyes will be on
quarterbacks Marc Bulger and Kurt Warner.
Can the current Rams quarterback regain his old Pro Bowl form and lead his team
back into the playoff race?
Can the old Rams quarterback continue his inspirational campaign and move the
Gridbirds a step closer to the NFC West title?
These two friends will provide great theater at the Edward Jones Dome. Their
performances will invite throw-for-throw analysis for days to come. The
comparisons are irresistible.
But the real key to this game will be the performance -– or lack thereof -– of
the Rams defense.
Arizona has lots of weapons. That offense presents a daunting test. The
Gridbirds just keep coming.
“I think it’s a great challenge, especially in the passing game,” Rams coach
Jim Haslett said during his Wednesday news conference. “You have a quarterback
that’s on fire, you have really good receivers, they have four really good
receivers. Good tight ends, they’re very good on the line and then the
quarterback running everything.”
The Rams defense made great strides since Haslett replaced Scott Linehan as
head coach and Rick Venturi took over as defensive coordinator. Unfortunately,
the unit has also taken some costly injury hits.
Pass rusher Leonard Little is hobbled by a nagging hamstring strain. The Rams
don’t know if he’ll play Sunday.
If he does play, how well will he play? How long will he last? And if he is
sidelined or diminished, how will the Rams apply pressure on Warner?
Defensive tackle Adam Carriker is also questionable, due to his ankle injury.
If he can’t play -– or if he can’t play well -– will the Rams' front line get
any push up the middle?
Versatile Victor Adeyanju and pass rushing specialist Eric Moore loom larger in
the Rams defensive game plan. Are they up to the challenge ahead?
Cornerbacks Ron Bartell, Fakhir Brown and Jason Craft have played well the last
two weeks. Tye Hill will return Sunday to provide depth.
“I think Ron is playing at a high level on the outside and I’m glad for him,
and having Fakhir back and Jason’s a good inside guy, good nickel, so yeah, I
think they’re playing pretty well,” Haslett said.
But these corners will have their hands full with elite Cardinals receivers
Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston. All three create major
match-up problems downfield.
Arizona sets up its passing game with the power running of veteran Edgerrin
James and rookie Tim Hightower. They aren’t flashy, but they grind out first
downs and finish well in the red zone.
“Both of them have great vision, good cut-back ability, good power, they’re
both good running backs,” Haslett said.
So if the Rams don’t sustain pressure on Warner and force some turnovers, they
could spend the afternoon in backpedal mode. Warner is playing pitch-and-catch
as well as anybody this season.
A reporter asked Haslett to compare the latter-day Warner with the guy who
directed the “Greatest Show on Turf.”
“I see a guy that’s actually probably better,” Haslett said. “I think he’s
doing a great job of running the offense, number one, he’s got 70 percent
completion (rate). I think there’s only three or four guys in the history of
football that have been close to 70 percent.
“He’s not taking sacks, he’s getting the ball out of his hands fast, he’s on
the money. Obviously he very accurate when he’s throwing it and I think he’s
playing great football.”
Can the Rams defense do the same?
Re: 'Great challenge' awaits Rams defense
We have to collapse the pocket! hope Carriker and little play and they get their hands up high! if we get the pressure we need I wouldn't be too concerned. I read on another post what concerns me and thats Bulger, but if Jax plays I really like our chances handily!LA RAMMER
It's Jim not Chris
Re: 'Great challenge' awaits Rams defense
Ball control, grind out the clock with some long, successful drives. That will be the key to killing this pass happy team. Warner will find his targets and his targets are sure handed. We just need to do everything possible to keep the ball out their hands. It's gonna be a fun game and i'm sure our boys will be ready. RAAAMS BABY!!!
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