The St. Louis Rams played matador defense for the majority of this millennium; however, Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett finally got the defensive ship pointed in the right direction last season. The Rams rely on smaller, speedier players, much like the Indianapolis Colts. That was reflected on the stat sheet, as the Rams ranked No. 8 against the pass in 2006 and No. 31 against the run.
That is not to say the Chargers will abandon the passing game. The team's top preseason priority is getting the passing game re-synced, since one of last year's starting receivers is hurt and the other is now a member of the Houston Texans.
It has been considered a given that Vincent Jackson is this year's No. 1 receiver, but he still must prove himself worthy of that promotion. Across from Jackson, first-round pick Craig Davis and third-year veteran Malcom Floyd are battling for a starting position.
Floyd has a great chemistry with Rivers. The two worked together on the scout team in 2004 and their ascensions up the depth chart have been practically parallel. The problem is that Floyd is more of a deep-ball and red-zone specialist. He struggles to catch the ball in traffic and tends to disappear for long stretches. Nonetheless, he may be able to use his 6-foot-5 frame to abuse 5-foot-10 cornerback Tye Hill.
Davis has been one of the stars of training camp, but he has to stay healthy if he is going to get fully comfortable in the offense. Getting to play the entire first half with Rivers at the helm will give him a great opportunity to prove his readiness.
Fellow rookies Legedu Naanee and Scott Chandler will look to duplicate their successful preseason performances of week one. If they succeed, they could solidify their roster spots just 10 days before the first round of cuts is due.
The Chargers led the league with 61 sacks in 2006, which amounts to nearly four sacks per game. In the preseason opener, the defense authored just one sack and gave the Seahawks' quarterbacks too much time in the pocket. Whether they are flicking light switches, bowling strikes or busting out back-flips, somebody had better be celebrating in the St. Louis backfield.
An interesting match-up to watch will be Rams' right tackle Alex Barron against Shaun Phillips. Barron led the league last year in false start penalties with 13. Phillips, meanwhile, has a bad habit of guessing snap counts and getting drawn off-sides. This combo should keep the refs on their toes.
The San Diego secondary will try to do a better job containing Marc Bulger. When these teams met at Qualcomm Stadium last season, Bulger completed 27 of 40 passes for 327 yards and two touchdowns. Hopefully, replacing Terrence Kiel with the Eric Weddle–Clinton Hart combo will do some good.
For Antonio Cromartie, this match-up rekindles some fond memories. During last year's game, went one-on-one with Torry Holt and held the five-time Pro Bowler under 50 yards receiving on the afternoon. If he can duplicate that performance on Saturday, he may give Drayton Florence a real run for his starting position.
Darren Sproles will once again work with the first-string return units. Head Coach Norv Turner has been impressed with Sproles' work ethic and likes the idea of having a homerun threat handling return duties.
Back-up kicker Brian Monroe has plenty to play for as well. Because of his ability to handle both kickoffs and punts, he is a strong practice squad candidate. Should he make the team in that capacity, he could lighten the weekly workloads of both Nate Kaeding and Mike Scifres. Also, he took some reps at wide receiver while playing his college ball at Miami. If the Chargers lose anyone else at that position, he could wind up there as well.