3k: Well it's tough not to jump straight into hyperbolic superlatives with this matchup. Robert Quinn and Chris Long are one of the best pass-rushing tandems in the league, evidenced by the Rams' 52 sacks last season tied for the league's highest with the Denver Broncos. Quinn, the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for week one, had three sacks and two forced fumbles against the Cardinals. He's a pure pass rusher, but he's a phenomenal talent and one that has improved year after year now into his third NFL season. On the other side, Chris Long is more of a throwback end. He's tenacious without being incredibly athletic. If you think that's an insult, it's really not. Besides, any time an opposing NFL coach calls you "a rolling ball of butcher knives", that compliment outweighs anything I could offer. Overall, the defensive line is the best unit on the team. They're eight deep, and we saw that verified on Sunday with backups DE Eugene Sims, DE William Hayes and DT Matt Conrath all making key plays. More assuring for Rams fans, every D-lineman is signed through 2014 and all but backup DT Jermelle Cudjo are signed through 2015. The entire defensive scheme is set up on the D-line, and for good reason. These guys can play, and they're not going anywhere.
DC: We talked about this a little bit on your podcast, but how do you expect Jared Cook to be utilized? The Falcons have had struggles covering tight ends in the past.
3k: There's still a bit of an unknown. Jared Cook has only played one regular season game with the Rams, so I don't know that we can say with much certainty what we'll see from him. Given his performance last week and your guys' TE issues, I expect this to be something both teams are preparing for extensively this week. What we saw though was something the Rams have been searching for for some time: the athletic pass-receiving TE. We've gone through the bruising big bodies in guys like Brandon Manumaleuna and Michael Hoomanawanui. Randy McMichael and Daniel Fells were more the bigger receiving types, but neither stood out. And one of the worst draft picks of the last decade was TE Joe Klopfenstein, a 2nd round pick who lasted all of four years in the NFL... They tried to make a play for a basketball PF-turned-TE in Fendi Onobun, a sixth round pick in 2010. He played college basketball at Arizona and offered unique athleticism, but his lack of football skill hasn't allowed him to pierce the fringe of the NFL. He's on the Bears' practice squad right now. So having drafted Lance Kendricks in 2011 in the pick following Robert Quinn, the Rams picked up a solid possession TE target who offers plus blocking skills. Make no mistake - Jared Cook's not here to block. At Tennessee, he lined up at WR more often than at TE. So he's got the skill to use his straight line speed to good effect. The big question for me is playcalling. When Cook's in, it's going to signal pass. How the Rams disguise this and play with personnel formations (including the RB position where starting RB Daryl Richardson has shown to be a minus pass blocker setting up a similar personnel-driven play suggestion situation) will be key.
DC: The Falcons may be utilizing a limited Roddy White, or White may not play at all. Can Janoris Jenkins stop Julio Jones, thus limiting a pretty potent passing attack?
3k: Well, I was a vocal fan of Julio Jones as early as his freshman year at Alabama. So if you're expecting me to say Jones can be "stopped", you're asking the wrong person. That being said, no one person is bigger than a scheme. So with White limited or spectating on Sunday, I could see the Rams offering some help to Janoris to limit Julio. The scheme is designed to take away the edges of the field: the sidelines and the deep ball. But Julio's always been perfectly suited to work deep over the middle, so it's going to be a great battle to watch play out.
DC: How do you get Sam Bradford off his game? Is he noticeably worse under pressure?
3k: At this point, I wouldn't say noticeably. Ironically, you could make the case that having played behind some porous offensive lines in his career has helped him improve in that area. What's odd about Sam Bradford is I don't know that we've seen him play to his capabilities week in, week out yet despite the fact he's in his fourth year. He's had turnover at head coach, offensive coordinator and QB coach each of his first three years, so this is the first season we can throw that variable out. He's dealt with some undertalented WR units which not only hampered his growth in all likelihood, it's developed an overused proclivity to check down and play into a very short passing game. I don't know that most teams have need to put him off his game as his own WRs have done that plenty often in his career...so at this point, I think he's still not the player he can be. It's largely on the targets he's dealing with.
DC: Your prediction for the game, and whether your kicker will boot a 70 yarder.
3k: Man, I'd love to call a win for the Rams. It's been 7 years since we started the season with a win, and we haven't opened 2-0 since the end of the GSOT in 2001. But there were too many questions in week one (understandable given the key personnel turnover and youth of the team as they're the youngest in the NFL) for me to make that call. So I'll cede you guys a win...but even then, I'm hoping it's a contest to the end. And yeah, as for Greg Zuerlein, he's going to do it. He's had kicks in games that had the distance to clear a 70-yarder. He kicked four field goals including the game-winner last week, so he's not just a boot either. He hit a 60-yarder and a couple of 50+ FGs last year, and he's got the leg to go 70. It's going to be one of those situations where the half is ending or the Rams are up by seven or eight points at the end of the game and it's worthwhile to give him a shot. It'll be fun to see.