The Los Angeles Rams continue the season in Week 2 with their first road game of the season. The Rams will head to Indianapolis to play the Colts. The Colts are a well-coached team by Frank Reich and should bring a larger test than the Chicago Bears in the opener. Here are three key matchups to keep an eye onl.
1. Aaron Donald vs Quenton Nelson
What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? We should find out Sunday when Aaron Donald goes up against Quenton Nelson for the first time in his NFL career. The Colts are also the only team that Donald doesn’t have a sack against in his career with the Los Angeles Rams.
It is not clear how often Donald and Nelson will be lined up against each other, but analysts and fans alike are salivating over the two titans engaging in the trenches. Both are the top players at their position with Donald being the best defensive player, if not the best, player in the NFL.
However, Nelson missed practice due to a foot/back related injury. This does not bode well for an offensive line which gave up three sacks and ten quarterback hits last week to the Seattle Seahawks. Two of the three sacks came on third down and another on fourth down. Also, according to PFF, Wentz was pressured on 58% of his dropbacks – totaling 27 pressures from the Seahawks defense.
How much of a factor the injury will be for the 3x first-team All-Pro remains to be seen. Last week against the Bears, Donald won eight pass-rush reps and recorded one sack. If Nelson is limited in any capacity, then it will be another long day for Carson Wentz and the Colts’ offensive line.
ADVANTAGE: Aaron Donald
2. Los Angeles Rams Wide Receivers vs Colts’ Secondary
Not only was the offensive line a disaster for the Colts, but the secondary was just as dreadful. Sunday is another opportunity for the Los Angeles Rams to pick on the opposing secondary. Xavier Rhodes did not play, which was a huge loss for that secondary. Khari Willis was constantly picked on by Russell Wilson. In the first quarter, he gave up a 23-yard TD to Tyler Lockett.
After a penalty late in the second quarter, the Seahawks were up against a 2nd-and-20. Willis was torched by Lockett again and gave up a 69-yard TD. Lockett had 4 catches for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns. Most of Wilson’s damage came in the first half, but he finished the game with 254 yards on 18/23 attempts, four touchdowns and a passer rating of 152.3.
Sounds familiar, right?
This is eerily similar to what the Los Angeles Rams did to the Bears’ secondary. Led by Cooper Kupp’s 7 catches for 108 yards and a touchdown, the Rams wide receivers looked as explosive as ever. Kupp hauled in a 56-yard touchdown and Van Jefferson’s touchdowns was 67 yards. Stafford threw for 321 yards with three touchdowns and a passer rating of 156.1. Look for Stafford to target Willis downfield in similar ways to the Seahawks.
The key here is who lines up in the slot against Kenny Moore II. Moore II is one of the elite slot defensive backs in the league. Since Kupp makes his living in the slot, this is the matchup to look for. Robert Woods could get looks in the slot as well.
While the Rams do not have a receiver with the same raw size and speed of Metcalf, Kupp’s crisp routes create their own headaches out of the slot. Expect to see a similar performance from the Rams’ WR’s relative to Week 1.
ADVANTAGE: Rams Wide Receivers
3. Austin Corbett vs. DeForest Buckner
DeForest Buckner can be a game changer. Much like Aaron Donald, he’s a one-man wrecking crew. Los Angeles Rams guard Austin Corbett will have an uphill battle with Buckner lining up against him most of the game. The one-on-one matchup can get dicey. Buckner had a sack, three pressures, and six tackles in Week 1 against the Seahawks.
Corbett played well in week 1. According to PFF, he played 52 offensive snaps with no penalties and gave up zero sacks. PFF graded Corbett at 69.2 overall. This is a small sample size since we are only one week into the season. However, he’ll have to play at a higher level to keep Buckner out of the backfield and away from the most important piece on offense – Matthew Stafford.
Buckner is equipped with an arsenal of moves. At 6’7, 300 pounds, he’s blended with power and athleticism. Buckner is known for his overpowering swim move and it’s his go-to move, which results in most of his sacks. He also uses a “double-hand swipe” which consists of swiping the OL’s hands and ripping through. His speed and power also make his bull rush extremely lethal. This is an extremely difficult matchup for Corbett and plays into the hands of Buckner.
ADVANTAGE: DeForest Buckner