Game four of the NFL preseason is usually the biggest joke in all of sports. The starters don’t play the backups want to stay healthy and the coaches like to pretend there are jobs on the line, when in reality most jobs have already been settled on by the time the game kicks off. The fans don’t care and are ripped off by the owners. The coaches and players don’t want to be there and for the most part it shows.
This year is a little different though. With the NFL Lockout changing the rules there are going to be a few different wrinkles for Thursday night’s game for the St. Louis Rams against the Jacksonville Jaguars. We will see the starters for at least a little while which is a radical difference. Meanwhile the backups can’t afford to rest either because they need reps too and there are probably a few spots that are truly up for grabs.
With all of that as the backdrop here is a preview of what to watch for in the Rams vs. Jaguars preseason game.
#1 The Wide Receiver Battle Comes to an End: The Rams added Mark Clayton to the roster on Wednesday and that signals to me that the coaching staff knows exactly where they are headed with the roster. That doesn’t mean though that everything is settled. The Rams still need to figure out if both Austin Pettis and Greg Salas truly are worthy of a roster spot. Does Mardy Gilyard do enough on special teams to warrant a spot? What about Danario Alexander? The Rams know what they are doing already, I think. Watching how those players are used may give us the final answers we are looking for.
#2 The Outside Linebackers: The Rams let Na’il Diggs go this week and it has become clear that Ben Leber and Brady Poppinga have won the two outside linebacker jobs. While they look to have the jobs wrapped up they by no means have a stranglehold on the job. Both played well against the Chiefs and hopefully that will continue this week against the Jaguars.
#3 Eugene Sims and George Selvie: These are both two players that showed a lot of promise in 2010 and both have had decent camps. But, the roster is getting better and spots are tight. These two might be playing for one spot on Thursday night. I like both, but if I were to handicap I would say that Sims has a slight edge over Selvie right now.
#4 Thaddeus Lewis: The Rams may or may not be interested in carrying a third quarterback into the season. While there is talk that Lewis is pushing A.J. Feeley, which I don’t believe, there is a question as to whether or not Lewis will garner a roster spot. I would expect to see a lot of Lewis in the second half and he might be playing for a spot as well.
#5 The Perfect Preseason: I know it doesn’t mean anything, but it would be nice to see the Rams finish out the preseason perfectly. That does not mean they need to win the game for it to be perfect. What I would like to see is for the Rams to look good while the starters are in. Also, and probably the most important part, is that you want to see the Rams finish the preseason healthy. The Rams have had a great training camp and have stayed very healthy. Keeping the starters “clean” is the best possible thing that can happen for the Rams on Thursday night.
The Rams and Jaguars get going a little earlier than normal with a 6:30 pm CT start. This is the final tune-up before the real deal against the Philadelphia Eagles on September 11. More important than anything in this game is health. Let’s hope the three hours gets done quick for the Rams and they can move on to more important things like worrying about the Eagles.
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