Mike Zimmer’s first regular season game as a head coach turned out to be a lopsided victory at the expense of the St. Louis Rams. This week’s matchup, however, is sure to be different for a number of reasons.
ADAM: Last time we talked, you were really high on Shaun Hill’s ability to be the starter in St. Louis. He’s now a backup in Minnesota. After our Week One win in 2014, our readers voted Cordarrelle Patterson as the “Player of the Game.” Obviously, a ton has changed since Minnesota’s 34-6 thrashing of St. Louis, so help get us Minnesota fans up to speed. What has all taken place to make this year’s version of the Rams different than last years?
NATHAN: The fact that Rams Nation was high on Shaun Hill to start last season (myself included) shows how far we’ve come in a little over a year. In terms of the roster, Jeff Fisher finally got his “Eddie George” in the drafting of Todd Gurley, who just had his jersey enshrined in the Hall of Fame for four consecutive 125+ rushing yard games. The offensive line is also (literally) completely new, with the Rams shifting from the “one-foot-into retirement,” over-paid veterans to green, recent-draftees. The change has brought new energy to the offense, including some much needed speed and versatility. Lastly, Shaun Hill and the hopes and dreams of a healthy Sam Bradford have been replaced with Nick Foles, who has been underwhelming, but efficient, so far this year.
However, the two more important changes to the “new” Rams aren’t players. Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams has now had over a full year to install and tweak his complex defense. Last time the Rams played the Vikings, the Mad Scientist had only been around for four or five months. Since then, the Rams defense has posted two shutouts (at the end of 2014), and currently have the top graded defense on Pro Football Focus (PFF), all while allowing the 4th-fewest total points in the league. Finally, arguably the biggest change to the Rams was the release of Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, and the promotion of Frank Cignetti. We’ll certainly touch on this a little more…