What to watch in Rams' exhibition opener
August, 14, 2009
By Mike Sando | ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Six hours of NFC West football awaits NFL Network viewers Friday night. Among the things I'll be monitoring while watching the Rams against the Jets at 7 p.m. ET:
- Offensive tackles in pass protection. Alex Barron's move to left tackle is an important one for the Rams. Let's see how he looks in live action. Let's also see how first-round choice Jason Smith fares at right tackle once the starters come out. The Rams can't succeed this season without better protection for Marc Bulger.
- Jason Brown's run blocking. The Rams feel as though Brown's addition upgrades all three interior spots on the line while guarding against a quarterback's toughest opponent, pressure up the middle. I'll be watching to see how Brown clears running lanes for Steven Jackson. The Jets will be without nose tackle Kris Jenkins, recovering from a calf injury, so Brown should have an easier time.
- Wide receivers. Laurent Robinson has a chance to prove he belongs in a Rams rotation that will surely miss injured starter Donnie Avery. Any receiver making a positive statement in this game stands to benefit. I'll also be watching to see how Derek Stanley fares in the return game.
- James Laurinaitis. The rookie middle linebacker's development is critical for the Rams. In the 2008 preseason, the Titans rushed for 340 yards against a weak and injury-depleted group of Rams linebackers.
- Chris Long and the pass rush. Leonard Little and James Hall are in their 30s and likely cannot carry the pass-rush load for a full season. The Rams used the second overall choice for Long. They need to see improvement from him.
- Cornerbacks other than Ron Bartell. Watching the secondary on TV can be difficult because the cameras tend to focus on the football. It's also impossible to know for certain each player's responsibility within a specific coverage. I'll be watching to see how Tye Hill and others play the football.