This one won't count in the standings, but for a number of St. Louis Rams, tonight's exhibition game against the Green Bay Packers could go a long way toward determining their 2013 depth chart destiny. Tonight's game is the second of four glorified scrimmages, but unlike last week's lid-lifter in Cleveland, the Rams' coaching staff is going to begin drawing some conclusions about the final shape of the roster and depth chart.
With that in mind, here are the top questions we'll look for answers to in tonight's game:
Will Brian Quick's time with Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt begin to produce dividends? GM Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher have to be rooting for last year's second round draft choice. While they get kudos for a late round steal in Daryl Richardson, no team wants to see a high pick go bust after only two seasons.
Quick has shown progress in practice, but then again, his competitors for the third wide receiver slot, Austin Pettis and Stedman Bailey, have had good camps as well. Quick has been receiving the lion's share of tutoring from Bruce and Holt and will be given every opportunity to show what he's learned on the field. Simply put, it's time for Quick to show more than just potential. He should get that chance tonight against a decent pass defense, but a pair of rather undersized cornerbacks.
How will Jake Long fare against the Packers' pass rush? The Browns are an up and coming young defense, but their pass rush capability is nowhere near that of Green Bay's. Long will get an extended look tonight agains a pair of the NFL's best in DE BJ Raji and LB Clay Matthews. The Packers were fourth in the league last year at sacking the quarterback. Rams fans will have a good idea before halftime whether or not they need to load up on prayers in 2013 for the health of Sam Bradford.
Just how good can this Rams' defense be? Yes, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are without some of his favorite weapons, but hey, he's still Aaron Rodgers, arguably the best quarterback in the NFL. Rodgers combination of precision, arm strength and ability to escape the pocket and make plays have been taxing opposing defenses for years.
Playing in front of a nicked up offensive line and without his front-line wide receivers, the Rams should be able to get the better of this matchup. But that's on paper, and we all know how much that means once the bullets start flying. A good showing against a former Super Bowl MVP would go a long way toward boosting the confidence of this unit.
Who will step up and make plays on special teams? Special teams play is always the most spirited of the preseason because that's where most borderline players are trying to stay employed. You can give the Rams a pass for the punt return touchdown last week in Cleveland as it was their first real "live" action practicing special teams. A quick look around the league showed a number of big returns.
But having devoted an entire practice to special teams this week and a game's worth of live action under their belts, the grace period has ended. Players will be expected to show discipline in their lane assignments and make the plays when they come their way.
Green Bay's electric return man, Randall Cobb, probably won't see action tonight, so that's a break for the coverage teams. But players like Benny Cunningham might have a chance to shine with the ball in their hands and cement a spot on the final roster.
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