Protecting Against Packers a Hairy Proposition

Posted Oct 18, 2012

Through the course of a normal week of practice, it’s not unusual to see practice squad players donning a red jersey bearing the number of key players from that week’s opponent.

As the Rams prepare for Sunday’s game against Green Bay, they are taking the impersonations a step further in order to highlight the Packers most dangerous defender.

So it is that rookie linebacker Sammy Brown has spent time this week doing everything possible to mimic dynamic Green Bay pass rusher Clay Matthews. In order to get the best look at Matthews, Brown is doing much more than wearing Matthews’ No. 52 jersey.

With the Rams scheduled to be just arriving back in the United States from London in time for the year’s biggest dress up party, Brown is getting a jump start by wearing a long, blonde wig intended to approximate the flowing locks of the Packers excitable linebacker/

“Well yeah, it’s a team-issued deal,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “We’ve done that in the past, particularly with Troy Polamalu. When you’re playing great players like Polamalu and Matthews, you like to know where they are on the field and that helps.”

Brown and his teammates have been having plenty of fun with his new look and Fisher refused to reveal where, exactly, the wig came from.

“That’s really confidential information,” Fisher said. “But it is close to Halloween, so it’s not hard to find.”

While there are plenty of jokes to be had at Brown’s expense, the issue of blocking Matthews and preparing for him are no laughing matter.

Through six weeks, Matthews sits second in the league in sacks with eight. Since entering the league in 2009, he has 37.5 sacks, good for fourth in the league in that time.

“He’s really good,” Rams quarterback Sam Bradford said. “Obviously he’s a game changer. He’s someone that you have to be very aware of where he lines up. When he gets going, he’s tough to block. We can’t let him take over the game. We’ve got to make sure that he’s accounted for at all times.”

Hence the furry situation at this week’s practice. On Wednesday, Brown wore the wig but complained that it itched a bit and made him uncomfortable in his efforts to give Bradford and the offensive line a good look at what Matthews can do.

On Thursday, Brown again wore the No. 52 jersey but was sans wig after some itching issues. Regardless, getting a genuine look at what Matthews brings to the table is no easy task.

“It’s difficult, especially the tempo of practice, but you do the best you can,” Fisher said.

Unfortunately for the Rams, there is a lot more to the Packers’ pass rush than just Matthews. In fact, Green Bay has 10 defensive players with at least one-half sack in the first six games.

Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers likes to bring pressure from all over the field, making the Rams job of blocking them that much more difficult.

“They’re athletic, they play fast, they do a good job of mixing stuff up,” Turner said. “As far as the blitzes, they give you multiple looks, they give you multiple pressures. They are a game pressure team so probably what you see early, you are going to see again or see it until you pick it up. They give you multiple looks so you have to prepare for multiple things. It may just be two times they’ve run it in the course of six games but they’ve got that and they’ve got about 10 other things they do two times in the course of six games to prepare for.”

In other words, the Rams had better be on point in terms of communication and working together to keep from finding themselves in a hairy situation.

PENALTY PRIORITY: The Rams have spent plenty of time this week assessing the issues that have kept them out of the end zone and settling for field goals on a consistent basis this season.

One of those issues, unquestionably, that has continued to come up is penalties. Obviously, not all of the team’s 43 penalties have been called against the offense but the Rams sit tied for 26th in the league in least penalized teams. In other words, only five teams have been flagged more than the Rams through six weeks.

The offense has actually been penalized 21 times this season including five holding flags, eight false starts and two delays of game. The 161 lost yards from those penalties is the seventh most among NFL teams.

It’s an area the Rams know they must improve moving forward if they want to finish drives standing in the end zone rather than booting field goals.

“Penalties happen,” Turner said. “Pre-snap, post-snap penalties, you obviously have to eliminate those. But things that go on during the play; it’s a battle out there every play and so stuff like that happens. I think one of the hands to the fact call was a bad call but stuff like that happens sometimes. Holding happens sometimes. It’s not something you want but it’s something you can live with. It’s stuff like false starts or personal fouls, things like that you can’t have if you want to have success.”

GIVENS EMERGES: Undeniably, rookie wideout Chris Givens has quickly become a favorite target of Bradford’s and has emerged as the Rams top deep threat in the passing game.

After notching a 65-yard grab in the first quarter against Miami, Givens became the first rookie receiver in the league to post a 50-plus yard catch in three consecutive games since 1983 when Chicago’s Willie Gault hit the mark.

Through six games, Givens sits third in the NFL among rookie receivers in yards with 197. He’s done that on just seven catches, an eye popping average of 28.1 yards per grab.

With each passing week, Givens and Bradford have gotten a better rapport and it seems to only be the beginning.

“I would say it was probably the second or third week, after we had spent a couple of weeks together, especially after he started taking more reps,” Bradford said. “I think it was probably Week 3 before he was really in there a lot.”

Bradford particularly likes the work ethic his seen from his young teammate.

“Just the more he’s been in there at practice, the more we’ve thrown...I love him because he’s a guy that at practice, after practice, he always wants to throw,” Bradford said. “He comes and gets me and he’s like, ‘Hey, I’ve got this, this and this. Let’s get these after practice.’ If it’s not right, he stays until we get it right. We’ve spent a lot of time together and I think that’s one of the reasons that we’ve developed the chemistry that we have.”

INJURY REPORT: The Rams injury report changed slightly on Thursday as cornerback Janoris Jenkins returned to work after a day off from some back soreness.

Tackle Wayne Hunter (back) again did not participate, leaving the bulk of the left tackle work to Joseph Barksdale and Quinn Ojinnaka.

Receiver Danny Amendola (shoulder), tackle Rodger Saffold (knee) and linebacker Mario Haggan (thigh) again did not practice and are not expected to be available this week.

Of note for Green Bay, receiver Greg Jennings (groin), linebacker Nick Perry (knee) and cornerback Sam Shields (ankle) did not practice.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers (calf) was upgraded to full participation from limited on Wednesday. Defensive tackle B.J. Raji (ankle) was limited after practicing Wednesday.