Fans Guide: What to watch for today from Rams opener

(KSDK Sports) -- Sam Bradford and Carson Palmer square off this Sunday as a pair of former Heisman Trophy winners who were drafted first overall. Palmer was taken by the Cincinnati Bengals to begin the 2003 draft, while the Rams used the top pick in 2010 on Bradford.

Both are coming off solid seasons, with Palmer throwing for 4,018 yards and 22 touchdowns with 14 interceptions last year for the Raiders. It was his third career 4,000-yard passing season.

"He's fantastic. It's hard to go get a No. 1 draft choice like that at quarterback in the trade that we got." Arians said of Palmer. "Like I said, he can still make every throw. He's as pretty a deep ball thrower as I've ever seen. He's still got it, and he's extremely accurate. A big thing is we've got to keep him upright."

Bradford, meanwhile, had a career year with 3,702 passing yards and 21 touchdowns to 13 picks.

Both quarterbacks will be looking at improvement in front of them on the offensive line. St. Louis added four-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long to a unit that allowed just 35 sacks last year after giving up 55 in 2011.

The Cardinals won't have Cooper, but will see left tackle Levi Brown return from a triceps injury that caused him to miss all of the 2012 season. Minus Brown, Arizona quarterbacks were sacked 58 times last year.

Palmer will look to build some chemistry with Larry Fitzgerald, who finds his name throughout the Cardinals receiving records but had a done year in 2012 due to inefficiency at the quarterback spot. He has still caught a pass in a franchise-record 133 straight games and is only TD catch versus the Rams shy of becoming the only active player in the NFL with at least 14 scoring receptions against any one opponent.

Palmer has quickly become a fan.

"He's phenomenal," the QB said of Fitzgerald. "Obviously, everybody knows that. He's been doing it for a long time. He makes amazing catches, he makes the easy catches. He runs great routes, he's 6-foot-4. He plays extremely physical, he runs really well with the ball after the catch."

A running game would help as the Cardinals ranked 32nd on the ground a year ago at 75.3 yards per game.

Bradford helped St. Louis rank 23rd in the league at 314.3 yards per game and will have a pair of new targets in tight end Jared Cook, signed as a free agent following four seasons with Tennessee, and wide receiver Tavon Austin, the eighth overall pick of the 2013 draft.

"I'm ready to go. I'm ready to see these young guys out there. They've put in a lot of time. They've done a great job learning the system so far," said Bradford.

Richardson has a tall task in replacing the club's all-time leading rusher in Jackson, and averaged 4.8 yards per carry as a rookie last year.

The Rams will go up against a defense that ranked fifth overall against the pass in 2012, but just 28th in defending the run.

Arizona still has three new faces expected to start in the secondary in Bell, corner Jerraud Powers and free safety Rashad Johnson, who made three starts in 15 games last year with the Cards. Arizona does return Pro Bowl corner Patrick Peterson, who had seven interceptions last year and is also the club's fifth wide receiver this year.

The Cards' Darnell Dockett has 34 career sacks, most among NFL defensive tackles, while linebacker John Abraham joins Arizona in a specialist role the owner of 122 career sacks, highest by any active player.

Dansby also returns for his second stint with the club, but Arizona won't have 2012 breakout star Daryl Washington after the linebacker was suspended for the first four games of the season violating the NFL's Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse.

"I think that they've definitely made improvements to their defense from last year," said Bradford of the Cardinals. "Obviously, their front is pretty much the same, but some of the guys that they've added in the back end really help that group. And then obviously with a new D-coordinator, you've kind of got to expect the unexpected in Game 1."

The Rams will test Arizona's offensive line with a front four that features stud end Chris Long as well as tackle Michael Brockers and end Robert Quinn. Long led St. Louis with 11 1/2 sacks a season ago and Quinn added 10 1/2.

Ogletree was the second of two first-round picks held by the Rams this year and will start at the left outside linebacker spot next to 2012 leading tackler James Laurinaitis.

Strong safety McDonald was taken in the third round after grabbing eight interceptions during his college career at USC, while cornerback Janoris Jenkins keyed St. Louis' 14th-ranked defense last year with four interceptions and four defensive scores as a rookie (3 INT, 1 fumble).


To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment