By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
09/24/2005


In the trenches

Ryan Pickett was a beast last week against Arizona, and so were his fellow Rams defensive tackles Jimmy Kennedy and Damione Lewis. But that was against a young, beat-up interior offensive line in Arizona. Can they do it again this week against an experienced Tennessee offensive line?

The Titans have only five players remaining from their Super Bowl XXXIV squad, but three of them are offensive linemen, including Pro Bowl left tackle Brad Hopkins, who's still playing at a high level in his 13th NFL season.

"They're well-coached, and they don't make a lot of mistakes," Rams defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson said. "You don't see a lot of blown blocks. You don't see them on the ground a lot. And that's the mark of a good offensive line. ... You're going to have to beat 'em with good, sound technique and brute force."

The one weak link could be rookie right tackle Michael Roos, who at 6 feet 7 can be susceptible to speedy rushers such as Rams DE Leonard Little.

In the trenches II

Tennessee defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth isn't expected to play because of a knee injury. If he's out, that completely changes the dynamics of the Titans' front four. Haynesworth can be a strong, disruptive force in the middle - a difference maker. Without him, the Titans will go with Rien Long, who's more of a pass rusher than a run stuffer.

Former Arizona Cardinal Kyle Vanden Bosch had a career game against Baltimore last week with three sacks. He'll be lined up most often against Rams RT Blaine Saipaia. Vanden Bosch is an "effort" player who doesn't give up on plays.

Corner market

Former Pro Bowler Samari Rolle now plays in Baltimore; 2004 interception leader Andre Dyson now calls Seattle home. That leaves Andre Woolfolk and Tony Beckham as the Titans' starting cornerbacks. They had seven NFL starts between them entering this season. No. 6 overall draft pick Adam "Pacman" Jones made his NFL debut last week, splitting time with Beckham. But Jones missed 31 practices before signing his contract and remains rusty.

Their challenge Sunday is to slow the NFL's career leader in reception yards among active players (Isaac Bruce) and the NFL's leader in reception yards since 2000 (Torry Holt). Not to mention young rabbits Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald. Good luck, fellas.

The Rams have to feel they can exploit Tennessee's inexperience at cornerback.

On the receiving end

Drew Bennett had a breakthrough season for Tennessee last year, with 80 catches for 1,247 yards and 11 TDs. But that was as the team's No. 2 receiver behind Derrick Mason. Mason now plays in Baltimore, and the 6-foot-5 Bennett has struggled somewhat making the transition from No. 2 to No. 1. He also has been slowed by a foot injury but is expected to play.

"He's a big, tall, physical guy and has a lot of ball awareness," Rams CB Travis Fisher said. "He is a guy who can stretch the field. I think most people who play against him kind of underestimate his speed up and down the field. Because he's a tall guy, he has a longer stride."

Brown & Henry

Despite a slow start this season on the ground, the Titans love to run the football. So the Rams' third-ranked rushing defense figures to get its biggest test of the young season against Tennessee backs Chris Brown and Travis Henry.

"It's no secret they're going to come in and try to work those guys because they haven't been getting exactly what they wanted out of the run game those first two games," Jackson said. "And I think they're going to try to get it established against us."