Rams-Jaguars: Matchup Breakdown ..
By Nick Wagoner
ST. LOUIS -- Sunday’s game between the St. Louis Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars has plenty of intriguing matchups. Here are three to keep an eye on when the teams kick it off at 1 p.m. ET at the Edward Jones Dome.
Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins versus Jacksonville receiver Justin Blackmon
When Blackmon entered the league out of Oklahoma State, the Rams eyed him closely, even sending a contingent to Stillwater to work him out. The Jaguars ended up pulling off a draft day trade to leapfrog the Rams and grab Blackmon before he could make it to St. Louis.
On Sunday, Blackmon will get a chance to play in the Edward Jones Dome. Coming off a four-game suspension, Blackmon doesn’t represent the threat that players like Dez Bryant, Julio Jones and Larry Fitzgerald have in the first four weeks for the Rams secondary.
Still, Blackmon is a dangerous threat and gives Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert an option in the pass game capable of breaking a big play at any moment.
“He’s very explosive,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “We’re expecting the best out of him even though he’s not been on the practice field up until this week. It’s certain that he’s in real good shape, so we don’t necessarily know how they’re going to use him. We’re going to have to adjust.”
Jenkins has played better than he’s been credited for in recent weeks but has had his share of miscues as well, including some fringe pass interference calls going against him. He’s entirely capable of covering Blackmon but the Rams have been reluctant to shadow any wideout with one defender.
We’ll see how the Rams approach Blackmon and his running mate Cecil Shorts but it may serve them well to have Jenkins in Blackmon’s hip pocket more often than not.
Rams defensive end Robert Quinn versus Jacksonville left tackle Luke Joeckel
This is Joeckel’s first week back at his natural spot on the left side after the Jaguars traded Eugene Monroe to Baltimore for a pair of draft picks. Presumably, Joeckel should be more comfortable in his more familiar spot.
However, Joeckel doesn’t exactly draw an easy assignment in having to deal with Quinn. Through four weeks, Quinn has five sacks and ranks among the most productive pass-rushers in the league.
Gabbert has taken 10 sacks in his two starts and the reshuffling of the line along with the subtraction of Monroe might make things particularly difficult on Joeckel in his first start on the left side.
Rams defensive end Chris Long versus Jacksonville right tackle Austin Pasztor
OK, so maybe this is cheating a bit by offering two Rams ends against two Jaguars tackles as key matchups but it’s worth noting since Jacksonville is going through a relatively major line shakeup.
Earlier this week, Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley said Pasztor is his right tackle though Cameron Bradfield could get a look, too. Pasztor has three starts at guard in his career and Bradfield actually has 12 starts at right tackle.
Either way, this game represents an opportunity for Long to join Quinn in wreaking havoc on Gabbert and getting a somewhat stagnant pass rush back up and running.
Long has been battling a hip injury this season but has practiced all week and appears to be making strides in that regard. A big game from the tandem of Long and Quinn would go a long way toward a Rams victory.