KNOW THY ENEMY: The St. Louis Rams

The Vikings open the 2014 season with a much-anticipated matchup against the St. Louis Rams.  The time to obsess only over our Vikings roster is over and we must now be aware of the teams that stand between us and the 2014 playoffs.

With the opener almost upon us, I asked Nathan Kearns to answer a few questions about the Rams and what we can expect to see.  Nathan is an Editor over at the Ramblin Fanas well as a die-hard Rams fan, and helps us understand our first real enemy of 2014.

I asked Nathan to make a prediction at the end of this, but first he was kind enough to answer five questions about this Rams team:

1.  Sam Bradford’s situation is unfortunate on so many levels, and even fans of other teams can sympathize with him and the Rams organization, but what can we expect to see out of the Week One passing attack with Shaun Hill at the helm?
Pop in a tape from Week 8 through Week 17 of the St. Louis Rams 2013 season and you will get a pretty solid idea. Much like when Bradford went down last season, Jeff Fisher and company will revert back to a conservative offense that relies heavily on the running game. Shaun Hill is a more accurate thrower than Kellen Clemens, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Rams take a few more shots down the field. However, for the most part, it will be a run-oriented offense, with a mix of play-action and short throws to move the football down the field.
2.  For the third season in a row, the Rams are the NFL’s youngest team, which means you are likely to have some surprise players evolve into formidable players.  Is there a current “unknown” type of player that you think has a chance to make a major impact as early as Week One against the Vikings?
I’m not sure about “unknown,” but rookies like Aaron Donald and Lamarcus Joyner will both get plenty of chances to make their presence known early and often versus the Minnesota Vikings. Donald may be particularly interesting, since being sandwiched between Michael Brockers and Chris Long should give him a number of one-on-one opportunities against a suspect offensive line.
3.  Your team continues to look for quarterback help with Mark Sanchez and Terrelle Pryor being mentioned as possibilities (Note: Circumstances changed after this question was originally sent).  Do you think the timing of this opener against Minnesota has prevented Christian Ponder talk, or do you think a trade for Ponder is not an option for other reasons?
I doubt that a trade for anyone is a realistic option for Jeff Fisher and Les Snead. They seem to like Shaun Hill, trust Austin Davis with the offense, and will keep Garrett Gilbert on the practice squad. Case Keenum was recently claimed off waivers, which should end all trade talk for the season, barring some injury to Hill.
4.  Which one-on-one matchup featured in this game will you be watching the closest and why?
Brian Quick versus whoever he is lined up against on the outside. Quick has been the “toast of the preseason,” being praised by players and coaches alike for his improvement from last year. He performed consistently well during the games where he saw ample playing time, suggesting that this could be the “breakout year” that Rams fans have been waiting for since he was drafted in the Top 50 players in the 2012 NFL Draft. Kenny Britt would be the other player to keep an eye on, potentially creating a receiving duo that could carry Shaun Hill (and the rest of the team) through the regular season.
5.  Like the Vikings, St. Louis added two first round selections to their roster this offseason.  Could you talk us through how each of them have looked leading up to September and what type of impact we can expect them to have next weekend?
Greg Robinson has struggled a bit in pass protection, rotating between left tackle and left guard, depending on the personnel grouping. He has shown some improvement, and has certainly impressed in run blocking. However, it will be hard to know his true impact until we’ve seen him in live action, with the starting offensive line, with genuine play-calling.
Aaron Donald, on the other hand, has been arguably the most impressive player on the St. Louis Rams stacked defensive line. During training camp, Donald has been utterly unstoppable, and has been a regular force in the backfield despite typically playing with sub-par talent around him during the games. With Robert Quinn, Chris Long, and Michael Brockers on the field at the same time, Donald could truly show off his pass rushing skills, particularly if the Vikings are forced into a one-dimensional offense later in the game.
20-13 Rams over Vikings.  This should be a relatively low-scoring bout between offenses that lack a “starting-caliber” quarterback. Adrian Peterson will undoubtedly get his yards, but should have trouble taking over the game against a very stout St. Louis Rams run defense. The Rams should win the battle in the trenches on both sides of the football, which will end up being the determining factor in the game.