Eagles Opposition Report: Rams Offense

Eagles Opposition Report: Rams Offense

Here's a look at some of the St. Louis Rams' key offensive players ahead of this Sunday's Eagles opener. We'll try to do some iteration of this before every Birds game this season.

RB Steven Jackson
SJax is ready for another bell cow season in StL, where he's topped 1,000 yards in each of the last six campaigns. Unfortunately, the Eagles face the Rams before Jackson's annual spate of injuries has set in, and he could be a handful on Sunday. The emergence of Sam Bradford and implementation of new OC Josh McDaniels' offense should help lift the boulder off of Jackson's shoulders in time, but he'll still get plenty of touches both rushing and receiving, particularly early on before the Rams have had time to implement a new offense with a second-year QB. Jackson poses a matchup problem for the weakest element of the Eagles defense and could rattle off a few long carries or YAC after dumpoffs when Bradford is blinded by the site of the Birds' swarming secondary (and hopefully the pass rush). Despite his usually pass-heavy attack, McDaniels will probably look to get Jackson rolling early in hopes he'll keep the Mike Vick and company off the field.

The Eagles did shut down Jackson in the 2008 season opener, but that was an entirely different defensive unit and a different Rams offense as well. Jackson is backed up by Cadillac Williams and Jerious Norwood this season, and we're somewhat interested to see how they mix them in after seeing 39 dominate the St. Louis backfield for so long.

QB Sam Bradford
The face of the franchise and 2010's first overall pick broke the NFL's rookie records for pass attempts and completions, and with Bradford under center, the Rams moved from a putrid 1-15 record to a 7-9 mark that was nearly good enough to make the playoffs. Bradford enters his sophomore season hoping to be the next QB to thrive in the McDaniels offense, and while the names on the backs of most of his targets' jerseys aren't exactly household, they should be good enough as a unit to put together a few scoring drives against a talent-heavy defense that is nonetheless on the field for the first time in its current iteration.

Bradford's protection kept him upright last season, when, according to Football Outsiders, they allowed the team's lowest sack total since 1999. Sounds like a good test for the Eagles' new pass rush, who will have the benefit of Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie blanketing Bradford's receivers.

WRs Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola
Victims of the Eagles' depth at the WR position over the past few seasons, Gibson and Amendola are talented if lesser known receivers, and while the Rams offense has run though Steven Jackson for years, these guys are examples of a deeper unit that can hurt defenses in a variety of ways. Amendola caught a lot of balls in 2010, and that was before the slot-loving McDaniels came to town. It will be interesting to see how Juan Castillo sets up his DBs against this unit, which also includes the former Jags #1 below.

WR Mike Sims-Walker
Cut loose from Jacksonville, MSW is a boom or bust deep threat that could find new life in McDaniels' offense, not unlike Brandon Lloyd did in Denver, where he came out of nowhere and led the league in receiving yards last season. Or, MSW could be just another 700 yard/5 TD guy at best, a chirpy injury casualty at worst. For Sunday's sake, he's going to draw some heavy coverage no matter which weapon Castillo puts on him. We'd be surprised if the Eagles can't neutralize the Sims-Walker, who managed only 34 yards against them in week 2 last season, albeit in a decidedly different offense. Then again, we were surprised when Lloyd topped 100 yards in the Broncos' 2010 season opener and five other times over the course of the season. None came against Oakland, interestingly enough.

TE Lance Kendricks
Raise your hand if you've seen the Eagles' D get gashed by some middling tight end or have cold sweats when you hear the name Jason Witten. Over the last two seasons, no team has given up more fantasy points to the TE position than the Birds, who were #1 in that distinction in 2010 and #2 in 2009 according to FantasyGuru.com's calculations. Last year, three tight ends topped 100 receiving yards against Philly, and three others topped 60. The Eagles gave up 11 TDs to TEs, including a pair of two-score performances.

Forty days into his second offense as a pro, Bradford will need to rely on his short and intermediate guys, and rookie Kendricks was a prime target in the Rams' preseason action, finishing sixth in receiving yards and touching pay dirt three times, per Matthew Berry of ESPN. Kendricks is a big target at 6-3, 247, and the Rams selected him out of Wisconsin with their second round pick. McDaniels doesn't involve the tight end as much as some other pass-happy offenses do, but at least early on, Kendricks looks to be active here. With the big 3 likely focusing on Amendola, MSW, and Gibson, the task of containing Kendricks will fall mainly on the linebackers and safeties.

As you can see, the Rams have some talent on the offensive side of the ball this season, as well as a new coordinator who knows how to put defenses on their heels. But while the same can be said of Castillo's defensive unit, this offense hasn't had much time to gel, and it's led by a second-year starter under center. It's easy to get caught up wondering who will cover whom, but it will take some solid scheme work on the part of Castillo in order to close all the windows listed above.

Kulp will be up next with a look at the Rams' defense, which will obviously have its hands full. How many of the guys listed above would you rather have over their counterparts in Midnight Green?

Photo: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

NHL Notes: Islanders fire head coach Jack Capuano

NHL Notes: Islanders fire head coach Jack Capuano

The struggling New York Islanders fired coach Jack Capuano on Tuesday, ending his tenure in the middle of its seventh season.

General manager Garth Snow named assistant GM/coach Doug Weight as Capuano's interim replacement. Snow told reporters Tuesday that the Islanders weren't where they wanted to be in the standings and that everyone's disappointed in their performance his season.

"At the end of the day organizationally I don't think Jack was probably going to be a coach that we were going to bring back," Snow said, adding that the team will begin a full-time coaching search now.

Snow said the halfway point of the season played a role in the timing of firing Capuano a day after beating the Boston Bruins 4-0. The Islanders were 17-17-8 and are in last place in the Eastern Conference with 42 points.

Capuano had been behind the Islanders bench since 2010 and was the fourth-longest tenured coach in the NHL behind Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins, Joel Quenneville of the Chicago Blackhawks and Dave Tippett of the Arizona Coyotes. Capuano's 482 games and 227 wins rank second in franchise history behind four-time Stanley Cup-winning Hall of Fame coach Al Arbour.

"I don't know that Jack fell short of expectations," Snow said. "When you're a coach in this league sometimes you're a victim of different circumstances."

Snow signed Andrew Ladd to a $38.5 million, seven-year contract in July and the winger has been a disappointment with 12 points in 41 games. The Islanders have also dealt with some injuries and waived veteran goaltender Jaroslav Halak to send him to the minors.

The Islanders under Capuano went 227-194-64 and made three playoff appearances. They have not lived up to playoff expectations this season and new majority owner Jon Ledecky is expected to consider major organizational changes this offseason.

Snow said he takes "100 percent" responsibility for the underachievement but that he doesn't worry about his own job security. He said he has full confidence in Weight, the coaching staff and players to "turn this ship around."

Weight, 45, has been with the Islanders in an executive and coaching capacity since retiring in 2011. Snow said his relationship with all players, including Ladd, was positive and that he called captain John Tavares and others to inform them of the "organizational decision" to fire Capuano.

Snow said assistant coach Bob Corkum would move down from the press box to the bench as part of the restructuring.

Mike Tomlin: Antonio Brown 'foolish, selfish' for locker room live stream

Mike Tomlin: Antonio Brown 'foolish, selfish' for locker room live stream

PITTSBURGH — The father in Mike Tomlin regrets the language he used to describe the New England Patriots during the postgame speech Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown's opted to livestream on social media after a taut playoff victory over Kansas City.

The coach in Tomlin has just as big an issue with one of his team's biggest stars forcing the Steelers to talk about something other than trying to find a way to finally beat Tom Brady when it counts.

A characteristically blunt Tomlin called Brown's decision to broadcast more than 17 minutes of Pittsburgh's giddy locker room to the world -- a move that caught Tomlin using a handful of profanities -- over Kansas City "foolish," "selfish" and "inconsiderate."

"Not only is it a violation of our policy, it's a violation of league policy, both of which he knows," Tomlin said Tuesday.

"So there are consequences to be dealt with from his perspective. We will punish him. We won't punish us."

Tomlin took responsibility for his choice of words, though he was unaware of being filmed as he spoke.

During Tomlin's brief remarks he attached an expletive to the Patriots, who earned a full day's head start on the Steelers by virtue of beating Houston on Saturday night, 24 hours before Pittsburgh outlasted Kansas City 18-16.

"The responsibility associated with being in this thing, just from a role model standpoint, it's something that I personally embrace," Tomlin said.

"It's something that we as a team and organization embrace. So that's why the language, specifically, in terms of the content, is regrettable."

So too is the action of the talented if sporadically diva-like Brown. The former sixth-round pick has evolved from raw project into one of the NFL's best wide receivers.

This season he became only the second player in league history to post four consecutive 100-catch seasons.

His work ethic is universally lauded even as his Q-rating has skyrocketed. Brown can be found on TV pitching everything from soda to credit cards to video games.

The player who -- for reasons he hasn't yet disclosed -- occasionally refers to himself as "Ronald " also has a devoted social media presence, with more than 1.5 million following on Instagram and another 650,000 on Facebook, many of whom got an eyeful and an earful as the Steelers celebrated their first trip to the AFC title game in six years.

While Tomlin has "very little concern" about the content of the video, he has plenty of concern over Brown's lack of judgment.

"You wear on your teammates when they routinely have to answer questions about things that aren't preparation or football-related," Tomlin said.

"It's our desire for him and for everyone to be great teammates, as well as great players. He is a great player. He is a hardworking player. He is respected, largely, in the locker room for those things. But incidences such as this, don't help him in that regard."

The Steelers have grown accustomed to Brown's flights of fancy, whether it's posing for the Mannequin challenge while meeting with reporters, wearing eye-opening (and fine threatening) cleats or his over-the-top touchdown celebrations.

The fallout this time around has been mixed. Long snapper Greg Warren said Monday "AB is AB, he can do what he wants to do."

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger expressed disappointment in Brown during Roethlisberger's weekly appearance on 93.7 The Fan.

Either way, the fact they were forced to respond to questions about Brown before the biggest game of the season only reinforces Tomlin's point, though Tomlin stressed Brown is hardly the only athlete capable of becoming a distraction.

"Those things don't apply exclusively to Antonio," Tomlin said. "It's a global thing in regards to professional sports. I think that's why oftentimes you see great players move around from team to team.

"And I definitely don't want that to be his story. I am sure he doesn't want that to be his story. So, he has to address these things that put him and us in positions from time to time, in settings such as this, where it needs to be addressed."

Tomlin didn't outline the internal discipline Brown faces other than to say it will not affect his availability this weekend.

New England (15-2) pulled away from the Steelers (13-5) in the second half of a 27-16 victory in Pittsburgh on Oct. 23, a game Roethlisberger missed while recovering from surgery on his left knee.

Roethlisberger will be around this time. And so will Brown, who will almost certainly have his phone turned off late Sunday evening regardless of the outcome.

"He has to grow from this," Tomlin said. "He has to."

Notes
LB James Harrison is dealing with shoulder and triceps injuries and could be limited early in the week. ... TE Ladarius Green remains in the concussion protocol more than three weeks after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit against Cincinnati.