We’re not too far away from this week’s Thursday Night Football contest between the Minnesota Vikings and the Los Angeles Rams. Even with the condensed schedule, we still had some time to exchange some questions with our friends from Turf Show Times, SB Nation’s home for everything concerning the Rams.
Joe McAtee was kind enough to answer my questions for this week. You can see the questions I sent to him and his answers below. When TST posts the answers to the questions that Joe sent me, I will be sure to link to them on the front page, as well as do an update here.
1) The big story for this one for the Rams, at least from my perspective, is that they might be without both of their starting cornerbacks after Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib were both hurt against the Chargers. What’s their status looking like for Thursday, and who replaces them if one or both can’t go?
So Talib’s a no go. He’s going to have surgery and will be out for an extended amount of time. As for Peters, Rams Head Coach McVay said as of today(Tuesday) that he’s day-to-day. I’d expect him not to play on the short week. Were this game on Sunday, perhaps they’d push him. But I’d be surprised to see him play.
As for replacements, the cornerback depth chart is one of the better ones on the team for depth. Nickell Robey-Coleman is the primary slot corner, but he might have to move outside on Thursday. Behind him, the Rams have Troy Hill who’s been one of the more mercurial Rams of recent years. In 2016, Hill was a bit of a persona non grata among Rams fans after some shaky performances and being targeted by opposing offenses. But last year, Hill played very well down the stretch as an injury replacement late in the regular season and in the Rams’ long postseason game. Throw in a subpar preseason this year and you can see that Hill offers upside but perhaps without the consistency that would put Rams fans at ease at seeing him fill in this week. Also, the Rams added Sam Shields this offseason out of retirement. Vikings fans certainly remember him from his days with the Green Bay Packers. Obviously, it’d be a situation of somewhat baited breath to see him in extended action given that his career had already ended due to numerous concussions, but the medical staff has cleared him. He clearly wants to make a go of this. It’ll be one hell of a story. Beyond that trio, it would be DB Blake Countess who was forced into action against you guys last year when the Rams had three cornerbacks injured and...well, I’m sensing a theme.
It would be nice if when we play you guys next year, we could actually have our starting cornerbacks. K thx.
2) The Rams have been lighting up the scoreboard so far this season. We know about Todd Gurley, but who has been the go-to guy for Jared Goff thus far in the passing game?
Honestly, there isn’t a go-to guy. And there doesn’t need to be.
The Rams are three-wide (haha get it) at wide receiver with Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Last year, it was Sammy Watkins in place of Cooks, and the trio was one of the league’s better units. This year, Cooks has filled in for Watkins and it looks better. Part of that could be Woods’ chemistry with Goff, part could be Kupp’s development as a second-year pro and part could be the Watkins-Cooks switch. But coming off of Week 3 in which Goff played his best game as an NFL quarterback, it’s really his show with the variety of options around him all holding somewhat equal billing.
3) If you could steal one player from the Vikings’ roster and bring him to Los Angeles, who would you pick and why?
The obvious answer would be OLB Anthony Barr. The Rams’ linebackers are the weakest unit on the team on the starting roster, and bringing a UCLA guy back to LA would be an easy sell. And good lord would Mike Hughes make a lot of sense this week when we’re down two starting cornerbacks and having now gone through two return men. One random name I’d throw out there? Pat Elflein. The Rams have had some of the best offensive line play in the NFL through three weeks, but C John Sullivan is nearing the end of his career with his contract up after next year. Elflein would be a guy that would make sense on the roster to compete with rookie Brian Allen as his successor.
4) Give us one player on each side of the ball that Vikings’ fans might not necessarily know about that you feel will make a big difference in the outcome of Thursday’s contest?
On offense, it has to be RG Austin Blythe. A seventh-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft who came into the league with the Indianapolis Colts, the Rams scooped him up early in the 2017 offseason. As a backup, he didn’t really impress last year. This year though with Jamon Brown serving a two-game suspension to start the year, Blythe was superb in rotation to the point that Brown has since remained on the sidelines.
Defensively, there are a ton of options. The entire linebacker crew has been turned over from 2017 with ILB Mark Barron still out. We talked about the cornerback situation. And I’d be shocked if Vikings fans are talking about Rams S John Johnson III more than, well, never. So I’ll tab Johnson as the unknown quantity, but keep an eye on OLB Samson Ebukam. He’s a second-year fourth-round pick out of Eastern Washington with tons of potential yet to materialize. There’s reason to think that Defensive Coordinator will continue to press more out of him, but it might still be a bit early for him.
5) How do you see Thursday night’s game playing out? Is there any reason to think that the Rams don’t move to 4-0 in this one?
WHY YES! THERE IS!
First...it’s the NFL! For you guys to beat us this week wouldn’t be as surprising as say...the Bills dogstomping you guys in the biggest upset of the week (season?). So yes, of course there’s reason to think you guys could beat us. Yall’s defense is, well, the Vikings defense! It’s incredibly good! And on offense, you have plenty of weapons even if they haven’t gotten off.
I think the hard thing to consider here is obviously how to disrupt the Rams. They’re coming off of a wonderful game offensively with Goff having touched a new ceiling as a pro. And if we’re questioning the defense, we’d have to point to last year’s version of this contest in which the Rams were down three of their top four cornerbacks at halftime that was nonetheless tied 7-7 after three quarters.
The bottom line is that these are two good teams. If they played each other 100 times, the final record would approach 50-50. It’s why we watch.
Once again, thanks to Joe for taking the time to sit down and answer our questions about Thursday’s game. We’ll have more coverage of this one as we get closer to kickoff.