I reached out to Jeff Roman, editor of RamsGab.com, to find out his thoughts about the Seahawks and the Rams. We exchanged questions, and here are the results. To see the questions Jeff asked me, and my answers, take a look here.
HAWK BLOGGER: I continue to read stories that the team is having trouble selling out the game on Sunday, and that a blackout is likely. How long do you think it will take for the fans to get back on board with the Rams? I've heard it is a distant second to Cardinals baseball out there, even during the Super Bowl days. Is there a buzz building yet with the improved play?
JEFF: There is a much improved buzz this season and that can be traced back to week 3 of the preseason when Sam Bradford started playing well. Rams fans (righfully so) knew that there was finally some hope that they had a signal caller who brought some excitement. But, trained by the past few years, Rams fans are skeptical. They have set TV records over the past few weeks, but they aren't quite ready to shell out $100+ quite yet for the Rams. But, if they win, the fans will come sell out the Dome. And as long as Sam Bradford continues to play well, that is not far off.
HAWK BLOGGER: What are Rams' fans perceptions of the Seahawks over the years? Has it been a heated division rivalry, or just an obligatory one? I'd be curious to know where the Seahawks rank in the division for "hated" Rams opponents. I'd also love to know the Seahawk you most respected/feared over the years.
JEFF: I think the Rams/Seahawk rivalry was at its height in the early 2000s when the Rams were starting to head back to Earth and the Seahawks were ascending. All the Rams rivalries are fairly new because they moved to St. Louis before the 1995 season and started a heated rivalry with the Saints, who were promptly moved out of their division. The Seahawk I most respect is Matt Hasselback, because he continues to get the job done with less skill layers, fighting of age and injury. He always seems to get the ball off right at the last second to make the big play against the Rams.
HAWK BLOGGER: I've studied the Rams box scores, and it is very hard to understand how they are so close in all these games. They are forcing lots of turnovers, but also giving a lot away. Their best playmaker, Stephen Jackson, has not really gotten untracked with a running game that has averaged less than 3.6 yards-per-carry in every game. They are giving up lots of big 20+ yard running plays and lots of yards. Does it just come down to holding teams to field goals? What's making the Rams competitive, especially with all the injuries?
JEFF: The Rams offense is solid so far, but lacks that big-time playmaker to go to in the Red Zone. When the Rams get close to the Red Zone, their reliance on Steven Jackson becomes a burden and then the offensive coordinator tries to get too cute and before you know it the field goal team is on the field. Also their offense is young and inconsistent. As soon as they get a drive moving, a fumble, a drop or INT will quickly kill the drive. Sustaining successful drives is something the Rams finally broke through a did against the Redskins and were rewarded with a win.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Rams play a high-risk, high-reward style of defense. They will pile up the QB hits and sacks, but also give up their fair share (and more) of big plays because they are leaving themselves vulnerable in the secondary. (Check out D.McNabb's TD pass in Week 3 for an example) The Rams have had trouble getting their blitz to the QB in the past, but have had more success this year. The Rams defensively have worn down in the 2nd half of games when the offense does not keep the ball long enough. They are prone to turn a close game into a blowout if they are on the field too long - also due to their high flying scheme.
HAWK BLOGGER: What's your take on Spags?
JEFF: I love Coach Spagnuolo as a person, but I still have some doubts about him as a head coach. He's great with the players and has put his stamp on the team and it has stuck from the stars to the role-players. The Rams will work hard and keep a low profile, just like their coach. Week 3 was the first time we have seen Spags's schemes really have an offense on the wrong foot as he had the upper hand and left an offensive genius in Mike Shanahan his dust. He has only coached 19 games as a head coach and I think it is fair to say that he is improving.
HAWK BLOGGER: Who should Seahawks fans look out for that they may not have heard of? It would be great to get a name on offense and defense.
JEFF: On offense, I'll throw out WR Brandon Gibson (as Danny Amendola has been getting some pub lately). Gibson is as capable of making a flying one handed catch in the back of the end zone as he is forgetting to get his hands up and letting the ball hit him in the face. He's got a huge upside, but is still very young and inconsistent. He has all the skills, but with more playing time, he hopefully will be able to put it together.
On defense, it is Bradley Fletcher, the CB#2. He was drafted in the 3rd round of 2009 and lost half of 2009 to injury just as he started to come on. He is left on an island a lot by the Rams blitzing tendencies, but he is more than up to the task. He will get burned because of that, but he's solid in run defense and can cover all receivers unless they have elite speed.
HAWK BLOGGER: I don't know much about the Rams defense. Are they a blitzing group, or do they typically try to get home with four lineman? What kind of offenses challenge them the most?
JEFF: I probably answered this mostly in the above questions, but the Rams play a very blitzing defense, but sometimes they hold back against certain offenses. But, they are at their best when they are able to man up the receivers and bring exotic blitzes. The Rams have had trouble in the past with teams with an elite playmaker at the WR, TE or RB position. Their LBs are not known for coverage and have been vulnerable to the athletic seam TE. Their corners are good, but not great and can be beaten by a WR that can dominate 1 on 1 coverage as their safeties don't bring much in coverage. Also, a RB that can take a quick pass over the blitz and make people miss brings a lot of trouble for the Rams defense.
HAWK BLOGGER: Who are you picking to win the division at this point? Can the Rams rise up and surprise people by staying in the conversation?
JEFF: At this point, with SF basically discarded, I think that Arizona probably has the muscle memory to get it done as long as they can get enough out of their QB spot. The Rams were left for dead after week 2, but their week 3 performance has a lot of people looking at the standings for once. (And in this case, not for draft picks for a change.) This Seattle/Rams series may go a long way to see who it going to be challenging for the division crown, because so far it looks like a wide open race, even for the Rams who are even thinking about a worst to first run. Wouldn't that be something.