Rams-Ravens Preview

Josh Hull (Getty/G Newman Lowrance)

The St. Louis Rams close out the preseason schedule with a game against the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night at the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams are coming off back-to-back victories in Cleveland and New England and have several unanswered questions going into Thursday's game.

Here are some things to keep an eye on:

Sam Bradford. The rookie quarterback followed up two shaky performances with an impressive effort against the Patriots last week. In three preseason games, the No. 1 overall pick has completed 55.1 percent of his passes (27 of 49) for 270 yards and two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 84.6.

Another good preseason performance will make it a lot easier for the Rams coaching staff to name the University of Oklahoma product the team's starting quarterback for the regular season.

No. 3 quarterback spot. After Bradford finishes his night the game will belong to back-ups Keith Null and Thaddeus Lewis, the two youngsters still competing for the third-string quarterback spot.

Lewis, a rookie free agent from Duke, looked good in the Patriots game and has completed 16 of his 20 passes (80 percent) for 166 yards, with one touchdown and one interception, this preseason.

Null, the second-year quarterback who gained considerable experience a year ago, has not put up good numbers this preseason — he's completed 10 of 27 passes (37 percent) for 101 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions — but did help piece together game-winning drives for the come-from-behind victories over the Browns and Patriots.

Running backs. It's not known how much standout Steven Jackson will play on Thursday, but its safe to say fans will get a good look at the three running backs still trying to solidify their spots on the roster: Chris Ogbonnaya, Kenneth Darby and Keith Toston.

Toston, an undrafted rookie free agent from Oklahoma State, leads the Rams in rushing during the preseason with his 80 yards, but his 2.8-yards-per-carry average is far from impressive. Darby, one of the primary backups a year ago, is averaging only 2.9 yards per carry. And Ogbonnaya is even worse as his 39 yards on 20 rushes equals a paltry 2.0 yards per carry.

Wide receivers. The season-ending injury to starter Donnie Avery has opened up opportunities for the younger wideouts on the Rams roster, but there are still a lot of questions to be answered.

Laurent Robinson looks like he could be an effective starter on the edge and Danny Amendola is effective as the team's slot receiver and possibly as the second starter opposite Robinson. Mardy Gilyard, the team's fourth-round draft pick this spring, has shown flashes of his potential.

But the Rams need some of the other guys — Keenan Burton, Brandon Gibson, Jordan Kent and undrafted rookies Dominique Curry, Brandon McRae and Danario Alexander — to step up and show that they deserve a spot on the regular season roster.

Defense. The Rams starting defensive unit doesn't figure to play long on Thursday night, which will give the back-ups plenty of playing time to try to make one more lasting impression.

There are a lot of players on the bubble along the defensive line, with the linebackers and the secondary that need to show something in the final preseason game.

The cuts at linebacker will be interesting. James Laurinaitis, Na'il Diggs and Larry Grant have established themselves as the three starters, which leaves everyone else fighting for a few spots. Among those players are Bobby Carpenter, David Vobora, Chris Chamberlain and rookies Josh Hull, Cardia Jackson and Devin Bishop.



Nate Latsch is the publisher of GridIronGateway.com. For subscription information visit GridIronGateway.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/natelatsch

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