Rams vs. Redskins: 7 things to watch

2012-09-16T00:20:00Z 2012-09-16T14:55:23Z Rams vs. Redskins: 7 things to watchBy Jim Thomas • jthomas@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8197 stltoday.com


The last member of the Rams' Super Bowl XXXIV championship team still active, ageless London Fletcher, has appeared in 225 straight games. That's tied for first (with Ronde Barber) among active players. "All you have to do is watch his game last weekend against the Saints," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "He's playing man-to-man with Jimmy Graham, making plays and running sideline to sideline making tackles — playing like he's in his second year. Really impressive that he's played at such a high level for so long."


Miscast as a 4-3 defensive tackle by the Rams after being drafted No. 13 overall in 2007, Adam Carriker has found a home in Washington as a 3-4 end. Since the 2010 trade that sent him to Washington for next to nothing, he has started 32 of 33 games. He registered a career-high 5½ sacks in 2011, and at age 28 has plenty of football left. "Carriker fits our scheme very well," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "Adam went from a four-man front to a three-man front — that really was good for him and good for us."


It's four seasons now since feisty Jim Haslett was Rams interim head coach. Rest assured, he enjoys sticking it to his former employers whenever possible. In his third season as Redskins defensive coordinator, his M.O. hasn't changed — he brings the heat. "Coach Haslett believes in being exotic, a lot of zone blitzes," Rams RB Steven Jackson said. "He's going to try to throw different fronts at us. He's going to test us to make sure that we're going to protect Sam." Bradford was sacked seven times in last year's game.


Edge rusher Brian Orakpo can't wait for this one. The two-time Pro Bowler had 2½ sacks and a forced fumble against the Rams last season. Washington moves him around some, especially on third down, but usually he's over the left tackle. So he'll get either Rodger Saffold, who spent part of last Sunday in a Detroit hospital. or Wayne Hunter, who's been a Ram for less than three weeks. "He's a quick guy with power," Hunter said. "So as much as you've got to watch his moves, you've also got to brace for him."


How hard did the Rams pursue free agent WR Pierre Garcon this past offseason? They were up to $8 million a year but lost out in the bidding to Washington. "He's really explosive," Fisher said. "He's a strong receiver with great speed. He's very instinctive and catches the ball well. ... He's a big-play guy." Garcon had a strong 2012 debut — four catches for 109 yards against the Saints, including an 88-yard TD before leaving because of a foot injury. His availability Sunday expected to be a game-time decision.


Even with all the buzz over RGIII, Shanahan's best teams always have featured strong running attacks. And based on the New Orleans game, the Redskins may have found something in unheralded rookie Alfred Morris. A sixth-round pick from Florida Atlantic, he entered training camp fourth on the depth chart — behind Tim Hightower (since released), and 2011 draft picks Roy Helu Jr. and Evan Roster. Morris was a workhorse against the Saints with a league-high 28 carries, good for 96 yards and two TDs.


These guys see each other a lot. Sunday marks the 12th Rams-Redskins tilt since the Rams' move to St. Louis in '95, and the teams are meeting for the fifth year in a row. Last year, a James Laurinaitis INT with 5½ minutes left gave the Rams the ball at the Washington 19 with a chance to tie. But a penalty and two sacks later they were pushed back to the 39. They ended up punting and lost 17-10. At 0-4 for the season, the buzzards started circling over coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney.

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