The 2009 NFL season kicks off Sunday at Qwest Field for the Seattle Seahawks as they will host NFC West divisional foe, the St. Louis Rams.
Both teams will sport new head coaches after the Rams and the Seahawks went 2-14 and 4-12 last season, respectively.
St. Louis’ new head coach is Steve Spagnuolo, the former New York Giants defensive coordinator.
Seattle’s new head coach comes as no surprise to Seahawk fans. Jim Mora Jr. takes over for legendary coach Mike Holmgren after the team named him Holmgren’s successor over a year ago.
Unfortunately for Spagnuolo, the game Sunday could get ugly, and in a hurry, for the Rams.
Injuries have already reared their ugly heads, causing several important positions to be played by backups during the preseason.
The team’s star wideout, Donnie Avery, is coming off a stress fracture in his left foot. There was a chance that the third-year receiver could have missed the first week or two of the regular season after missing a substantial portion of the preseason, but Avery was able to recover quicker than most expected. It’ll be interesting to see how well Avery is in his first full game of the year.
The guy throwing the ball to Avery missed the entire preseason except for the Rams’ first game, a 23-20 road win at the New York Jets. Good news for Rams fans is that Marc Bulger recently told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he’ll play in Week One.
Helping Bulger keep his jersey clean will not be easy for the Rams’ offensive line courtesy of the injury bug. Three of the team’s starters missed at least one game during the preseason.
Even the team’s fullback, Mike Karney missed time this preseason, having to sit out two games due to a nagging sprained ankle.
In order to keep themselves in the game Sunday, St. Louis’ game plan will consist of getting running back Steven Jackson the ball early and often either via handing the football off to him or passing it to him from out of the backfield.
In four games at Qwest Field, Jackson has had pretty good success, averaging 4.65 yards-per-carry.
This preseason, St. Louis ran the ball 122 times compared to 123 pass plays. The running play total was the second highest for the Rams during the preseason since 1995.
If St. Louis can establish the team’s ground game, they can potentially get Seattle’s defensive unit to over commit and bite on play fakes, thus allowing Donnie Avery to work on finding weaknesses in Seattle’s uninspiring secondary that gave up more passing yards than any other team in the NFL last season.
To make things worse for the Seahawks, the team will be without starting cornerback Marcus Trufant. Trufant was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list with a back injury when the team made its final roster cuts on September 5. Because Trufant was placed on the PUP, he will not be able to play in any games for the Seahawks until the team’s seventh game of the season, a road game in Week Eight against the Dallas Cowboys.
Unlike Seattle’s potentially lackluster defense, the Seahawks’ offense should have a field day.
The Rams gave up way too many long plays during the preseason.
Seven run plays went for 22 yards or more, with three of those plays going for at least 40 yards. In St. Louis’ final preseason game, a home tilt against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Rams gave up longs of 41 and 70.
Through the air this preseason, St. Louis gave up five plays of 40 yards or more.
Look for Matt Hasselbeck and TJ Houshmandzadeh to pick up in Week One where the two left off during the preseason. Houshmandzadeh hauled in 11 balls with two of them resulting in scores. What’s interesting about the two touchdown receptions is that they both came from within eight yards of the goal line, with one coming as close as two yards out. It appears that new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp might rely more on Houshmandzadeh for short-yardage touchdown production than the team’s running backs.
Speaking of Julius Jones and Edgerrin James, I think they’ll collectively have an excellent day against a Rams team that gave up over 140 net rushing yards in three of the team’s four preseason games. Jones enters the game as the Seahawks’ starter, but something tells me that, before long, Edgerrin James will prove to be the team’s best option at running back.
The only knock on Seattle’s possible ground production is that they’ll be running behind a patchwork offensive line that will be missing all-pro left tackle Walter Jones and center Chris Spencer.
Seattle’s defense will look to disrupt Marc Bulger’s rhythm and don’t be surprised if Aaron Curry or one of the Seahawks linebackers tries to rough up Bulger’s right pinkie and send the veteran quarterback to the sidelines for the rest of the game.
I think Steven Jackson has a great game Sunday, with around 100 total yards and a score. Much of his rushing yardage though should come early in the game before Seattle is able to put up the majority of its points.
Seattle gets onto the scoreboard early and often, beating Jackson and the Rams by over two touchdowns.
Seattle 27 St. Louis 10