St. Louis Rams (0-1) at Oakland Raiders (0-1)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
SURFACE: Natural Grass
TV: FOX (Ron Pitts, John Lynch)
PREDICTION: Raiders 24-19
KEYS TO THE GAME: On the road in what can be a noisy venue, the Rams offensively will likely try to establish RB Steven Jackson early and often. Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha is one of the best in the NFL, and the noise could also affect the pass protection with a rookie quarterback and rookie left tackle. Right tackle Jason Smith had three starts on the road in 2009, his rookie season. Defensively, the Rams will be challenged because of a shortage of cornerbacks, and will have to find a way to keep QB Jason Campbell in check.
FAST FACTS: The Rams averaged 62.6 offensive plays per game over the last three seasons. Of the 48 games, they had 18 with fewer than 60 plays. Sunday, against Arizona, the Rams had 81 plays, the highest total since the start of the 2007 season. ... The Raiders have 11 losses under coach Tom Cable by at least three touchdowns (18 points).
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
St. Louis Rams:
For some high-profile young offensive players, Sunday's game in Oakland will present some challenges.
The Rams' "triangle" that includes quarterback Sam Bradford and tackles Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith will have to contend with the noise that occurs for road games as well as the unique atmosphere that exists at Raiders games.
Said Bradford, "I actually talked to (running back) Steven (Jackson) a little bit about it. He said he played there once earlier in his career and he said it was a very hostile environment. The fans are loud, they yell some improper things, I guess, at times. But at the same time, he said it was a fun environment to play in - that's part of the game. Any time you have the opportunity to play on the road in front of a crowd like Oakland's you have to embrace the opportunity and look forward to it, which is what I'm doing."
Saffold joked that his father told him "to keep your helmet on."
The rookie left tackle got solid reviews for his first start last Sunday against Arizona.
Said coach Steve Spagnuolo, "He had a couple issues where he misfired, but for a rookie going in there and playing left tackle, I thought he did a pretty good job."
Saffold said, "I thought I did pretty well. I definitely think there are some things I need to work on. There are a lot of shifts, a lot of movements that came that I needed to attend to the next day in the corrections meeting and now I just feel better about playing next week. I think I got a good view of how to play throughout a game not just the first half or first series."
In addition, Saffold had to make adjustments, which was a significant learning experience.
"(There were) a lot of people in different positions," he said. "So I was going against everybody and making sure that I understand the full, big picture. That's the only way to be effective because sometimes you have got to be able to grab things on the run, especially safety blitzes and things like that."
Asked what made the biggest impression on him, Saffold said, "How physical it. I got up Monday morning and felt like I got hit by a truck."
Despite Oakland's 38-13 loss to Tennessee, the Rams know they will be in a for a fight in the Raiders' home opener.
"As a team, and especially on defense, they're really fast," Spagnuolo said. "Across the secondary, really up front and at linebacker. This will be a challenging defense for us just like last week was."
Said Bradford, "You know, they're going to challenge us. They're going to get in our face, they're going to play a lot of man coverage. Obviously, Nnamdi (Asomugha) is one of the best corners in the league so we have to be very careful in the way we plan to attack them. But if they do come up and play man, we have to be able to beat their coverage."
Here we go again.
That seemed to be the prevailing opinion from a restless fan base that has seen the Raiders defense be a sieve against the run for the past seven years.
Chris Johnson led a 205-yard effort by the Tennessee Titans with 142 yards as the Raiders were beaten 38-13 in the opener, and concern was already growing for the challenge in Week 2 even though the opponent is the St. Louis Rams.
The last time Steven Jackson played at the Coliseum in 2006, he rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns as the Rams won 20-0.
It makes him part of the endless parade of successful runners against a team that hasn't fared better than 22nd in any season against the run since the start of the 2003 season and had ranked 29th, 31st and 31st over the past three seasons, having surrendered 68 rushing touchdowns in 48 games.
The Raiders made run defense an offseason priority. The first two draft picks, middle linebacker Rolando McClain and defensive end Lamarr Houston, became instant starters. They traded for Cleveland strong-side linebacker Kamerion Wimbley and moved defensive end Richard Seymour inside to tackle.
Those moves, plus the signing of free-agent tackle John Henderson, were all made with stopping the land rush.
On a play-by-play basis, the Raiders' performance against the Titans wasn't all that bad. The figures were inflated by a 76-yard run by Johnson on a draw play. Johnson had 20 carries of four yards or fewer, and seven of those were for one yard, zero yards or lost yardage.
"We played well on Johnson for most of the game and he had that one big run that helped his average out," Wimbley said. "Facing Jackson, he's not necessarily as fast as Johnson, but he still has a lot of stuff you have to be aware of and be careful about."
Coach Tom Cable described Johnson as being like the Raiders' Michael Bush, a heavy-legged runner who is difficult to stop once he gets going.
And the coach wanted no part of the "if only you erased the 76-yard run it wouldn't be that bad" way of thinking.
"This is the mode we have to get out of around here," Cable said. "This is not good enough. We have to stay with the vision that we have. The big play counts. We knew we had to stop it."
- DT Clifton Ryan spent Wednesday night in the hospital and did not practice Thursday. Ryan woke up with headaches and didn't feel so right, so he went to the hospital where he was undergoing a battery of tests.
- DT Darell Scott injured his knee during practice Thursday, and had an ice pack on his leg as he watched the remainder of practice. He walked off the field afterward without the ice. He returned to practice on Friday.
- RB Steven Jackson, who missed practice Wednesday because of a slight knee problem, practiced Thursday and did not have his reps reduced.
- WR Laurent Robinson, who missed practice Wednesday because of an ankle injury, practiced Thursday.
- CB Justin King (hamstring) did some work in individual drills Thursday and has a chance of being able to play Sunday against Oakland.
- CB Jerome Murphy is working as the nickel back in practice with Kevin Dockery and Justin King not participating in team segments.
- CB Kevin Dockery missed his second day of practice because of a hamstring injury and is doubtful for Sunday's game in Oakland.
- LB Bryan Kehl, claimed on waivers from the Giants Wednesday, practiced Thursday and said he expects to play at least on special teams Sunday against the Raiders. Kehl was waived Tuesday despite having three special teams tackles in the Giants' game against Carolina. However, he did miss a block on what turned out to be a blocked punt.
- TE Michael Hoomanawanui won't need surgery to repair his high ankle sprain, but he is in a boot and the recovery time has been set at six-to-eight weeks.
- LB Josh Hull is lost for the season after suffering a torn ACL in practice Wednesday. A seventh-round pick this year, Hull had two special teams tackles in Sunday's loss to Arizona. He was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.
- C Jared Veldheer started against Tennessee in Week 1, but coach Tom Cable wouldn't commit to him as the Week 2 starter.
- LG Robert Gallery did not practice with a hamstring pull but won't be ruled out unless he can't practice Friday.
- DT Richard Seymour did not practice because of a hamstring pull, but is more likely to play even if he doesn't practice.
- CB Nnamdi Asomugha was limited Thursday with a groin injury, but is expected to face St. Louis.
- WR Jacoby Ford, a fourth-round draft pick out of Clemson, will return kickoffs against the Rams, with Johnnie Lee Higgins taking over as the punt returner.
- RB Michael Bush was limited in practice after practicing in full the previous day and will likely be a game-time decision.
- S Hiram Eugene was limited in practice with hamstring pull after missing practice the previous day.
- CB Chris Johnson was limited with a stinger.