The Green Bay Packers return to the field this Saturday evening to take on the St. Louis Rams, so we tracked down Joe McAtee of SBNation's Rams blog, Turf Show Times, to swap questions about our respective teams. Here's what Joe had to say about St. Louis, and hop over to TST to see our responses to their questions about the Packers.
APC: From an outsider's perspective, Sam Bradford has had a turbulent three seasons in the NFL. After earning NFL Rookie of the Year honors in 2010, Bradford lost his offensive coordinator and proceeded to struggle during his second season. While he rebounded last year, most would agree his return hasn't matched the Rams' investment of a first overall pick. How do you forecast Bradford's career? Is he another Alex Smith, is he three years into an Eli Manning-esque career trajectory, or is the truth somewhere in between?
TST: Can I vote for all three? Honestly, the turbulence among the coaching staff obviously hasn't helped. His first three years in the NFL included two head coaches, three offensive coordinators and three quarterbacks coaches (if you include "none" as an option at QB coach). And while the previous front office was largely focused on building a defense for former Rams HC Steve Spagnuolo, they provided little support for Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson in the form of offensive line talent or options at WR.
That being said, things look good in year four for him. For the first time, he's had no turnover between HC/OC/QB Coach. The Rams have added massive talents through free agency (Jake Long, Jared Cook) and through the draft, most notably in Tavon Austin. So I think if we're going to have to put him on the Alex/Eli scale, this year will give us the fairest approximation thus far as to where he sits.
APC: On the second play of the Rams' first preseason game, right tackle Roger Saffold sustained an injury to his left shoulder. Will Saffold play Saturday against the Packers, and if not, how long is he expected to be out?
TST: He's not expected to play. He dislocated the shoulder, though they were able to pop it in. He's likely out for the preseason as a precaution just to get him healthy for week one. It does raise concerns though as he's been consistently nicked his whole career. He started all 16 games his rookie season in 2010, but dealt with a half dozen various knocks that had him on the injury report pretty much all season. In 2011, he tore a pec and missed nearly half the season. Last year, a knee injury sidelined him for a significant amount of time. So while the shoulder in and of itself isn't the biggest concern, the totality of his injury history has Rams fans worried he'll never be reliable enough to get through a season with 16, or closely thereof, starts.
APC: This offseason, longtime Rams stalwart Steven Jackson voided his contract and entered free agency. After a dalliance with the Packers, Jackson signed a two-year deal with Atlanta. What can be expected of the 30 year old running back entering his tenth year in the NFL? Also, which Rams running back had the more impressive showing in their game against Cleveland, Daryl Richardson, Zac Stacy, or Isaiah Pead?
TST: Well, he's not the Steven Jackson of 2007, but I won't win any awards for that critical analysis...I'm interested to see what he does in an offense as well-staffed as Atlanta's. I'm sure you guys are, let's see..."not fond" of the Falcons, but I'd hope even you guys would agree their offense has plenty of firepower.
As for Saturday, you'd have to go with Daryl Richardson. He's not a phenomenally talented back, but he's quick and he commits to the lane on the snap. You won't see him dancing around or juking anyone. At the same time, you won't see him busting open long runs for himself or juking anyone...
Pead fumbled his first carry and is starting to irritate Rams fans at this point. He was drafted relatively highly last year ahead of a really underrated WR Chris Givens, starting CB Trumaine Johnson, K Greg Zuerlein (who is going to kick a 70-yard FG in his career) and Richardson. So the expectations were always there. He never clawed his way into much playing time, with just 10 carries last year. He certainly didn't enjoy it, and his comments about his "miserable" season didn't sit well with everyone. And getting suspended for week one for a weed charge certainly isn't going to help your cause.
As for Stacy, I'm eager to see more of him this preseason. He tore up the SEC at Vandy of all places, and if you can run with SEC defenses, your body's going to hold up. I expect to see him get more playing time as the preseason wears on, especially if Richardson holds his spot atop the depth chart.
APC: While the big story in the NFC West has been the arms race between the 49ers and the Seahawks, the Rams quietly signed left tackle Jake Long and tight end Jared Cook. With these additions, how does St. Louis stack up against the rest of their division? What needs to happen for them to earn a playoff berth?
TST: It's not the NFC West of a couple of years ago, that's for sure. I think we're still playing catch up to degree to Seattle and San Fran. They're dealing with more significant injuries in Percy Harvin and Michael Crabtree though, so it should be interesting to see their offense take shape this month. And playoffs? Playoffs? Sorry, I think I'm legally obliged to Jim Mora that question. No, I think the Rams have a shot as this is the NFL and parity begat parity and all that. I think for that to happen, either Seattle or San Fran has to cave in (which I don't see happening) or the Rams have to get to 9 wins which is going to be very tough with their schedule this year.
APC: As has been well documented, the NFL is still looking for a team to place in Los Angeles. The Rams current lease with the city requires the Edward Jones Dome to remain in the top quartile of NFL stadiums, yet the stadium requires upgrades to meet those obligations. With the Rams and the Convention and Visitor Center several hundred million dollars apart, do you believe a deal will be struck or will the team relocate to LA?
TST: I think it's too early to guess one way or the other. But I'd say that without a finished NFL-ready stadium in LA, it's just so speculative it's not worth anybody (except for Florio and St. Louis-area traditional media) getting worked up over. The Rams brought a lowball offer to the table and the Rams responded by demanding a moonbase and sharks and lasers that approach your crotch really slowly until a swift karate chop at the last second frees you...I think they were watching too many old Bond movies. Missouri's governor, Jay Nixon, is pretty cozy with the Rams' owner, Stan Kroenke, and recently said publicly the ball's in the Rams court right now. So they'll bring a proposal up that's one notch below James Bond in-mountain lair and the CVC will offer them a muddy field near the water treatment plant and so on.
It's gonna take some time.
We'd like to thank Joe and Turf Show Times for joining us. Be sure to check out our Q&A session over there as well as their fantastic coverage of the Rams. As always, keep your internet machines tuned to Acme Packing Company this Saturday for gameday coverage.
Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Co. He has previously written for Lombardi Ave, College Hoops Net, LiveBall Sports, and the List Universe. He is also currently a senior writer for Beats Per Minute, an indie-music webzine. Follow him on Twitter: @JBHirschhorn