Blogging The Boys: What's the status at QB, Shaun Hill or Austin Davis? And give us what type of player we'll face in Hill or Davis.
Turf Show Times: Nothing screams "stable franchise built for future success" like a QB controversy, amirite? Ugh. The Rams are now dealing with a battle between the #2 QB on the preseason depth chart and the #3 two weeks into the season which is one of those scenarios nobody talks about as a possibility in July or early August but is exactly what we're facing with the Rams. Hill was pulled in the season opener at halftime because of a hamstring injury despite showing no signs of wear, leading to Davis taking over in the second half of the Minnesota loss and then reversing course to lead the Rams to a win in week 2 against Tampa.
I think it's tough to give you a sense of what type of player they are only because we've seen so little of them. A year ago at this time, Davis was a coaching assistant at Westminster Christian Academy. So it's not like we've got a ton of tape to go through. Still, between his time at Southern Miss and the practice reps prior to these last two weeks, he's an active guy. Can make some deep throws and doesn't look uncomfortable moving around. He doesn't have the biggest arm, but he's shown impressive poise the last two weeks in his decision making.
BTB: The Cowboys got a cornerback back in Orlando Scandrick, the Rams got a receiver back in Stedman Bailey. How much can he help the Rams on offense?
TST: Quite a bit. Bailey's got a sizeable contingent of Rams fans who think he could be one of our more productive wideouts. The timing's fortunate for him as well since Tavon Austin might be sidelined this week. I think the question is if he gets into any kind of rhythm with Austin Davis. Right now, it's Brian Quick and everyone else as the targets. If anyone is to rise out of that fray, it's likely going to be whomever establishes that trust with Davis where he knows that if he anticipates a move or a defensive read, his receiver will too. I would think Bailey's one of the few realistic options to earn that trust with Davis.
BTB: Many Cowboys fans were salivating at the thought of drafting Aaron Donald. You guys did draft him. Has he had much impact yet, what is being said about him?
TST: Blurjhgrkhlkj, he's good. That's really the kind of analysis I like to give on Donald, because you kinda want to mash your keyboard. He's not, I guess I'd say, a traditional tackle. He's not great in the power game and he isn't really going to bull rush. But he's sooooooooo quick. He has so many moves with his hands that as he gets of the line, he's already halfway around a blocker sometimes. When you see him just toy with Logan Mankins, a 6-time Pro Bowler, you know he's special. It's just strange to see a DT that's quick. And not quick for a DT, but just quick.
BTB: The Cowboys are making their living running the football right now, can they run on the Rams defense?
TST: I'm torn. On one hand, DeMarco Murray has destroyed the Rams in our last two meetings. Throw in the Chris Long injury, as a DE who anchors against wide runs well, and there's reason for Rams fans to worry. On the other hand, the Rams were 9th in the league in rushing yards allowed, and that's including the 175 Murray pasted us with. And despite the fact Bobby Rainey was allowed to churn out 144 last week (something the Rams were schematically fine with), they held Adrian Peterson to just 75 yards on 21 carries in week one. I think the difficulty is for DC Gregg Williams to decide how he wants to play the Cowboys' offense.
I think they could bottle things up like they did against the Vikings and limit Murray's production, but I worry that would leave huge lanes behind the LBs for Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and the other downfield threats you guys have. If they try to play the defensive shell they did against the Bucs and force everything underneath through the middle of the field...Murray's better than Rainey. So it's a bit of a whack-a-mole issue, but it's strength on strength. I think the key is the first two or three series to see what gets established. If Murray can break off a first down run of 10+ yards early, the Rams may clamp down on things. If they stop Murray and the offense writ large the first few times, they may be willing to make some adjustments that ease off the run and let Williams dial up some of his wackier blitzes.
BTB: If the Rams win on Sunday, what will be the script they use to do it?
TST: Oh man, it's hard to say right now. A week ago, I would have said a strong running game that allows them to take advantage of K Greg Zuerlein's top tier range and a defense that can force turnovers in the pass. After the win over Tampa, I have to wonder how much more Austin Davis can do. The Rams kept it incredibly simple for him for the majority of the game. I think there's a chance they try to catch the Cowboys off guard and let Davis take some shots early. On the other hand if I were betting, the Rams loooooooooooove boring, conservative, straightforward football. I could totally see them reverting to the preseason makeup of pounding Zac Stacy on defenses and winning by attrition.
As I said on the BTB podcast this week, I think this game could be one that's determined by big plays. Big weird plays. A fumble returned for a TD or a special teams play or something out of the ordinary big drive after big drive. I'm just hoping we're the ones who benefit from it...the last two Rams-Cowboys games have been tough to stomach.
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