Rams-Falcons: Matchups breakdown

September, 14, 2013
9/14/13
12:00
PM ET
ATLANTA – Sunday’s game between the St. Louis Rams and Atlanta Falcons contains plenty of intriguing matchups, making it difficult to boil it down to just a few. Here are three to keep an eye on when the teams kick it off at 1 p.m. ET at the Georgia Dome.

Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins vs. Atlanta receiver Julio Jones

Jones
Jenkins
It’s a matchup that fans of the Southeastern Conference have seen before and one that Jenkins undoubtedly is anticipating.

Jenkins was at Florida at the same time Jones was at Alabama. The final two times their teams met, in 2009 and 2010, Jenkins won their battles by unanimous decision -- helping to limit Jones to a combined six catches for 47 yards.

Although the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Jones has a clear size advantage against the 5-10, 198-pounder, Jenkins found ways to slow Jones in their college meetings by forcing him to work other routes than the basic deep ones that are Jones’ calling card.

“He’s a vertical threat, the deep guy, the home run guy,” Jenkins said. “He basically bangs 8s [routes] and digs. I have just got to play cornerback on him. I know he can’t get out of his breaks as fast as I can, but they love going deep so I have got to be prepared to go deep and just study his film.”

The Rams generally prefer not to shadow any one receiver, and they didn’t do so last week against Larry Fitzgerald. Still, should Jones play through a knee injury (he's listed as questionable), he and Jenkins should see plenty of each other Sunday afternoon.

Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis vs. Atlanta running back Steven Jackson

Jackson
Laurinaitis
Earlier this week, Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan joked that Jackson’s top target when he gets the ball will be Laurinaitis. Really, matching up with Jackson figures to be a total team effort, but Jackson has always enjoyed measuring himself against opposing middle linebackers.

Laurinaitis and the Rams never had to tackle Jackson in live game action during his nine years with the team, and they've all made it clear they are expecting Jackson to bring a little something extra Sunday.

“Jack is going to be trying to truck-stick whoever he can on this defense,” Laurinaitis said. “That’s the nature of playing him. He’s a competitor anyway, but players seem to play their hardest against teams they were just on. Steven is a competitor in his very nature anyway. That’s the way he is. He’s playing against the team that he used to play for; he’s going to play extremely hard. It’s a huge challenge.”

Jackson had just 11 carries last week against New Orleans, but the Falcons will probably look to get him more involved this week.

The Rams' offensive line vs. Atlanta DL Kroy Biermann

Biermann
In watching the Falcons' defense, it’s hard not to notice the constant movement and various places Biermann lines up. The veteran lineman makes appearances as an edge rusher, a linebacker, inside, outside, just about anywhere one could imagine.

Last week against the Saints, Biermann was all over the place in posting five tackles, including one for loss, and a pair of quarterback hits.

The Rams' offensive line did not allow a sack last week against the Cardinals, the third game in a row they've accomplished that feat dating to last season. Arizona threw a variety of stunts and blitzes, but the Rams picked them up well as the Cardinals hit quarterback Sam Bradford just six times.

“Kroy, for most of his career, was an edge rusher and a very good one,” Fisher said. “He’s a high-motor guy. He’s lining up all over the place. He’ll match up outside on a back and end up playing the corner spot in their zone concept. So he’s obviously very intelligent and a high-motor guy. He’s a big-play guy.”

Nick Wagoner

ESPN St. Louis Rams reporter

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