Take 2: Rams vs. Buccaneers
By Scouts Inc

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Earlier this week, our scouts filed their advance scouting report on this week's matchup between the Rams and Buccaneers. Now they're back with a second look.

Matchup to watch
Tampa Bay CB Ronde Barber vs. St. Louis WR Torry Holt
Holt has about a three-inch height advantage on Barber and the Rams are apt to try to take advantage of that mismatch. With the running game going nowhere in the early part of this season the Rams are going to have to rely on the passing game more than they'd like to, but if Barber is able to get his hands on Holt to jam him at the line of scrimmage or re-route him into a different area it will really throw off the timing of the passing game.
On the other hand, Holt is one of the best receivers in the league at getting off the press and into his route with as little wasted time and motion as possible. He is a seasoned veteran who can read coverage and is consistently on the same page as QB Marc Bulger. If Holt is able to catch some balls on Barber they could turn into long gains as Barber is not a great one-on-one tackler and Holt is a very effective runner after the catch.

Will the Rams running game get untracked this week?
Steven Jackson has rushed for a a meager 118 total yards in two games and is averaging just 3.0 yards per carry, and in order for the passing game to really click those numbers will have to improve. As of now opposing defenses don't need to concern themselves much with the running game and that has to change. Head coach Scott Linehan knows he has too many weapons in the passing game to keep banging his head into a brick wall trying to run the ball, but at the same time he has to keep defenses at least somewhat honest.
Some feel that Jackson not playing at all in the preseason means he is not yet in football shape and not in the flow of the game, and that could be part of the issue. The offensive line has also been shuffled due to the season-ending triceps injury suffered by LT Orlando Pace, but this week we should see more two-TE sets from the Rams in order to create running room and spark Jackson. This should be the week we see the old Jackson return for St. Louis.

Can Tampa Bay keep QB, Jeff Garcia healthy enough to finish the game?
Garcia has struggled to stay healthy the past few years and has not played a full 16-game schedule since 2002. That is due in part to his competitiveness, as he is apt to lower his head or turn upfield in search of extra yards when he should simply slide or step out of bounds. He has also played on poor teams in Cleveland and Detroit in recent years, meaning he has taken a lot of sacks, and he has already been dropped five times this season.

The offensive line must hold its blocks longer this week to allow deep threat WR Joey Galloway to get down the field. If that doesn't happen, Garcia will likely look to dump the ball underneath quickly to TE Alex Smith, who is a good receiving tight end and runs routes that develop quickly. Of course, the best way to keep Garcia healthy is to run the ball effectively with RB Carnell Williams, who would like to be more involved in the offense. Look for head coach Jon Gruden to use that strategy to keep Garcia upright.

Can the Buccaneers secondary keep the Rams wide receivers under wraps?
As much as the Rams want to run the ball more effectively, they know that their strength lies in starting WRs Holt and Isaac Bruce along with third receiver Drew Bennett, who led the Titans in receiving last season. Starting Tampa Bay CBs Barber and Brian Kelly are both under 6-feet tall and can struggle against bigger wideouts, though in defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's Tampa 2 defense they don't mind employing the bend-but-don't-break philosophy.

The Bucs have only one interception thus far -- by ILB Cato June -- so look for St. Louis to throw the ball often to get the ball into the hands of Bruce and Holt. Tampa's corners must jam them at the line and throw off their timing to have a chance to stop them.

Scouts' Edge

The Scouts Inc. Position Advantage

After noosing their first two games in the comfortable climate of their home dome the Rams now face the daunting task of winning their first home game of the season in the heat of Tampa. Linehan would love to get his running game going but he also realizes that he has to get his passing game up to full speed to move the ball against the Buccaneers defense.

Tampa Bay has yet to get Williams and its running game in sync as well, but the biggest difference is that Gruden does not have the talent at wide receiver that the Rams have. He also needs to be a little more concerned about keeping his quarterback healthy. If either team is able to establish a solid ground game they will definitely have an edge in this game as that will loosen things up for their passing attack. But Tampa Bay is on a roll after a big win over the Saints and should be able to handle the Florida heat better than St Louis.

Prediction: Buccaneers 20, Rams 17

My prediction ... RAMS 20 .. TAMPA .. 13