SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The 49ers (4-3) are coming off their bye week Sunday to take on their division rival St. Louis Rams (2-5) for the second time in three games Sunday at Levi's Stadium, where they haven't played in 28 days.
We spoke to our friend Nate Latsch of Gridiron Gateway about the Rams, who added safety Mark Barron just prior to Tuesday afternoon's trading deadline. We talk about that and more leading up to Sunday's game:
Niners Digest: Nate, why did the Rams trade for Mark Barron and what kind of impact do you envision him making in Sunday’s game?
Latsch: Rams coach Jeff Fisher called the trade for Mark Barron an opportunity to add a good football player to the roster for the future. It’s possible he plays on Sunday, especially because the Rams had two safeties get hurt against the Chiefs last week, but how much he plays and what his role will be is very much up in the air at this point.
There’s also a question about how Barron fits with the Rams since St. Louis already had an up-and-coming young strong safety in T.J. McDonald. There hasn’t been a lot of time since the trade on Tuesday and Barron arriving in St. Louis on Wednesday to try to figure that stuff out.
But the Rams didn’t give up much to get a guy who was the No. 7 overall pick just a few years ago, so it’s a trade that could have a big payoff for them down the line if Barron turns out to be an impact guy in St. Louis.
ND: When these two teams played three weeks ago, the 49ers went away from the run despite the Rams entering the game with one of the league’s worst run defenses. That was largely due to the number of times they loaded the box with extra defenders. Do you envision St. Louis sticking with that approach and forcing San Francisco to beat its defense through the air?
Latsch: The Rams have suffered some significant injuries in the secondary since the last meeting with the 49ers a few weeks ago. It made sense back then to try to limit Frank Gore’s impact on the game, because he’s been a guy that has hurt St. Louis in the past, but with the injury concerns at cornerback and safety — projected starting corners Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson both missed last week’s game — they may be willing to concede more yards on the ground rather than give up bigger gains through the passing game.
Latsch: Robinson admitted he was rusty against the Chiefs but he fared OK after moving from left guard to left tackle. The Rams lost three of their starting offensive linemen — left tackle Jake Long, center Scott Wells and right guard Rodger Saffold — to injuries in that game, so there were a lot of moving pieces.
It wasn’t a good day the St. Louis offensive line in general as they surrendered five of their seven sacks in the second half when they had already lost a few players and were forced to throw the ball to try to play catch up.
Robinson will have his growing pains because he’s a young guy (22) playing a difficult position, but taking all of his snaps in practice at left tackle this week can only help him. The guy to watch along the line on Sunday, if Saffold isn’t able to go, will be Mike Person, who will line up at left guard.
ND: What kind of steps have you seen the rookie defensive tackle Aaron Donald make, and what makes him such an impactful player at this early stage of his career?
Latsch: Donald has been an impressive guy from the start of OTAs several months back. He’s a little bit of an older rookie at 23 years old, which is just a few months older than defensive tackle and three-year vet Michael Brockers, so he’s got more seasoning on his side than say a just-turned 22-year-old Robinson or 21-year-old running back Tre Mason.
But Donald’s explosiveness off the snap has been something I’ve watched for a few months now and you see it show up often on Sundays. The Rams felt like they got lucky when Donald fell to them at pick No. 13 in the first round and it looks like that is the case. He’ll be a fun player to watch for several years.
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