For the best insight you can find anywhere on the web, I reached out to Will Horton over at RamsHerd.com. We traded off five questions apiece on the Bears and the Rams. Here's what Will had to say about the Rams coming into Chicago this weekend to try and knock off the Bears.
1. Sam Bradford enters his third year in the NFL, first year was good, second year was a bit of a sophomore slump. Is Bradford ready to bounce back and be a franchise QB in the NFL in year three?
That is the burning question in St Louis. Unlike some fans, I don't consider 2012 to be "make or break" for Bradford, where the Rams would be forced to draft a new quarterback if he showed signs of struggling. Given the fact that he's working with his fourth offensive coordinator in four years (counting college) and that his most talented receivers (Brian Quick and Chris Givens) aren't good enough to get on the field yet, I was ready to be patient with his development for another year.
But that said, I wanted to see fundamental improvement, and we are seeing that. And then some. He's doing a much better job in two areas - recognizing and beating the blitz with quick and/or smart throws, and targeting receivers beyond the dump-off depth. Bradford is suddenly able to stretch defenses in a way that he wasn't in his rookie year, and has been able (so far) to avoid taking the big hits that killed his second year. So now I'm thinking "screw patience, let's see what this kid can really do."
2. Danny Amendola is off to a hot start at wide receiver for the Rams, as teams start to shift their coverages to slow him down, what other players can step up and be productive for the Rams?
Danny's production - and his ability to be productive on more than just short crossing routes - makes the whole receiving corps more dangerous, opening things up in particular for other receivers willing to work the middle like Lance Kendricks and the newly returned Austin Pettis. On at least one occasion last week, the Rams ran Danny on a deep post from the slot, which the Redskins DBs had to react to. It opened up a huge soft area for Steve Smith to roll into for a first down catch.
3. What has been the biggest difference with the arrival of Jeff Fisher in St. Louis?
Well, the chippier attitude and borderline "dirty" play of the team is one marked difference that is getting a lot of media attention right now, which is amusing, but it overshadows the real differences in this team.
Game management and team management have taken a huge leap forward. Fisher is the best organizer of men and manager of the flow of the game that we've had here since Dick Vermeil. He personally runs a very laid-back practice, putting a lot of faith in the experience of his assistant coaches to take care of their units.
He also drills relentlessly on game situations, and on specific play situations He spent an entire segment of practice, for example, running Bradford and his receivers through a drill on back-shoulder throws. Similarly, he ran another segment with pairs of defensive linemen running twists against pairs of offensive linemen, rather than just drilling one-on-one. This kind of attention to detail was simply missing in the past.
4. On defense the Rams were scheduled to have Gregg Williams as their defensive coordinator, but he's now suspended indefinitely. Through two games the Rams don't appear to be running the same type of defense that Williams would be running, but something far more conservative. Is there a reason the Rams are going more conservative with their offense instead of the more aggressive style that Williams runs?
Personally, I'm not upset that Gregg Williams is not here. His defensive schemes were failing in New Orleans, and his motivational tactics had almost become a parody of themselves. Interestingly, his son Blake is now making defensive calls during the game, though I imagine he is leaning heavily on assistant head coach Dave McGinnis on the actual coordination of the defense.
As far as the conservatism of the defense, that has probably been dictated by game situation and personnel. The Rams blitzed Matt Stafford twelve times (not a high number) in week one, but only blitzed RG3 six times in week two. But blitzing a mobile quarterback is dangerous, because it opens up huge holes in the second level. And frankly, we don't have a player among the linebackers or safeties that I'd consider to be a very effective weapon in the blitz.
We may see that approach change against Jay Cutler, though, who appears to really struggle against extra-man rushes.
5. Chris Long has become a strong player on defense, what other player(s) do you expect to emerge on defense for the Rams to succeed?
We are already seeing the impact of Cortland Finnegan on this defense. He has become an immediate playmaker, and he has been mentoring rookie corner Janoris Jenkins as well. Jenkins is an extremely talented player that I expect to begin making headlines. Most importantly, both of these players have the ability to create turnovers, which has been the key to the Rams' competitiveness in the first two weeks of the season.
Robert Quinn is another player that I expect to emerge this season. Quinn is a classic DE in the University of North Carolina mold, like Julius Peppers on the other sideline but not yet as complete. He already has two sacks in two games, and that rate will increase when Michael Brockers returns to the DT spot next to him. Brockers naturally attracts double-teams, which puts the left tackle on an island against Quinn's frighteningly effective speed rushes. We could see more sideline drama for J'Marcus Webb and Jay Cutler, if Quinn brings his A-game.
For the five questions Will asked me check my answers out over at RamsHerd.com