Rams offense familiar with Jags' Bradley
By Nick Wagoner
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars haven't met in a regular-season game since Oct. 18, 2009, yet there's a surprising amount of familiarity on both sides as they enter Sunday's game.
Jacksonville named Gus Bradley head coach on Jan. 17 and instantly brought a little NFC West division flavor to the AFC South. Bradley's previous employer was the Seattle Seahawks, where he spent the past four seasons as their defensive coordinator.
When the Rams turn on Jacksonville's game film, they see a defense that they can instantly recognize.
"It's a mirror image to Seattle," Rams tight end Lance Kendricks said. "That's good for us because we have to get ready for Seattle soon. It's going to be like for us playing the same team back to back or coming up soon. It gives us a good start on looking forward to the team we play twice a year."
It also can't hurt that the Rams have the ability to look back when they look forward to this one. In Seattle, Bradley helped build a defense that is widely regarded as one of the best in the league. The Seahawks are currently second in the NFL in scoring defense and fourth in total yards allowed.
Of course, Bradley can't just go to a new place, especially one struggling as much as Jacksonville, wave a magic wand and turn the Jaguars defense into what he had in Seattle.
In terms of scheme, personnel groupings, blitz packages and other details, the only differences to be found are the uniforms and the players wearing them.
Jacksonville runs a 4-3 defense predicated on being physical and aggressive and changing looks consistently. They don't hesitate to bring rookie safety Johnathan Cyprien down into the box and load up with eight to attack the run or create blitzing opportunities.
"There's a lot of Seattle," Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "You turn on the film, obviously it's a lot of things we know from competing against Gus and those guys. They're very multiple with their fronts, so it's certainly got the Seattle touch. Then, the personnel's a little different, but you can recognize the Gus Bradley defense right away."
The results that Bradley wants are going to take time. Through four games, Bradley's charges are 30th in the league in points per game, 22nd in total yards allowed and last in run defense.
Tossing out the first three years of Bradley's tenure in Seattle (before Rams coach Jeff Fisher and the current regime arrived in St. Louis) and looking solely at last year's meetings, the Rams had a fair amount of success against Bradley's defense, though it wasn't some sort of offensive explosion.
In those two meetings, the Rams averaged 308.5 yards per game and 16 points per meeting as they went 1-1 against Seattle.
The task this week won't be as difficult without Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Chris Clemons and Bobby Wagner on the field for Jacksonville.
Although the Rams' familiarity with Bradley is a reciprocal idea, the edge would seem to go to the Rams because their understanding extends to the players rather than just a single coach.
The Rams have struggled mightily on offense the past two weeks, but the combination of Jacksonville's defensive struggles and the Rams' knowledge of Bradley's defensive scheme would seem to give them an opportunity to get going a bit this week.