IRVING, Texas – Here are some thoughts on the St. Louis Rams from the film room:
The loss of offensive tackle Rodger Saffold to a knee injury is a big blow to this Rams offense. Saffold for such a large man is an outstanding athlete. He is a right tackle with left tackle feet. In the Arizona and Atlanta games to start the season, I felt like he was better than Jake Long on the left side Saffold is a hard guy to play because he is so long and it was rare to see him out of position run or pass. Joe Barksdale replaces him who they got off waivers from the Raiders. Barksdale is a large man himself but he tends to be very slow out of his stance and will give up the edge much too often.
These Cowboys safeties will have their hands full in coverage with tight end, Jared Cook who will line up all over the place in these Rams formations. I have seen him play as the inline “Y” and arc release up the field against the Cardinals, snatch the ball and head for the goal line with a burst of speed. Would be interested to see if these defensive coaches would try and match up against him more with size than speed. This could be a game where we see Barry Church or maybe even J.J. Wilcox, line up across from him then try and bang him down the field. Will Allen could cover but I don’t believe is physical enough to handle the job.
Michael Brockers was a draft candidate for the Cowboys, two seasons ago as a defensive end in the Rob Ryan 3-4 scheme. For the Rams, he plays as a load inside at tackle. There is a great deal of power in his game and when he is on the move can be trouble to stop because of his strength. Brockers’ best trait is his strength and power but his weakness is that he doesn’t have many pass rush moves. In the Arizona and Atlanta games, there were times on pass plays with he was stuck on blocks and it was difficult to disengage and work toward the ball. Kendall Langford who plays tackle next to him does a much better job of getting up the field and being disruptive from that stand point. He doesn’t have the power of Brockers but he does a much better job attacking the blockers.
Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was a first round talent that scared NFL teams away from him because of some serious off field character concerns. Jenkins started his career at Florida and was only one of two freshmen to ever start at cornerback there but was kicked off the team after he was found with possession of marijuana. There was a thought that Jenkins might try for the Supplemental Draft but instead transferred to North Alabama for his senior season and he finished his career there. At the time of the draft, the Cowboys front office had Jenkins completely off their board and was not considered a draftable player. The Rams took him in the 2nd round and he has been their starter the last two seasons. He is one of those cornerbacks that has tremendous skill and talent. He tends to play with feel and he is not afraid to take a risk or two because he knows that he can recover if he makes a mistake. He likes to gamble for the big play and he can pull it off. He wants nothing to do with the physical side of the game when it comes to tackling but you have to be cautious when you attack him because he will make you pay for a mistake.
Last week against the Chiefs, I thought their linebackers were an outstanding group as a whole and were really the difference in that football game. This Rams group is not as good as the Chiefs but they are better than the Giants. James Laurinaitis, Alec Ogletree and Will Witherspoon are active and will find the ball on the move. Where I feel this group struggles at times is when they have to take on blocks. Their defensive line is an attacking one and get up the field quickly and it tends to expose these linebackers to some blocks. There were several times where they were bounced around one-on-one and were washed out of the play. I didn’t see the stoutness that I saw from the Chiefs who were outstanding playing with this hands, controlling blockers and making the secure tackle. Where this Cowboys offensive line had to biggest issues in the running game was not getting blockers consistently to the second level and securing those blocks. Unblocked defenders tend to lead small gains in the running game. I believe that these Rams linebackers will struggle badly if they have someone in their face the entire game.