With a majority of the focus for the Los Angeles Rams heading into Week 2 on the play of the offense, the performance on the other side of the ball holds just as much or even more importance.
The Rams are set to face one of the best teams in the league in the Seattle Seahawks, who have been in the playoffs in five out of this last six years including four straight double-digit win seasons. In the last three years, the Seahawks have developed one of the most productive and efficient offenses in the NFL behind their hard-nosed rushing attack.
In fact, Seattle has ranked inside the top five in total rushing yards in each of the last four seasons. Quarterback Russell Wilson has been a main cog to all of that since he entered the league three years ago. Although Wilson is currently dealing with a sprained ankle that he plans on playing through, Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is game planning as if the three-time Pro Bowler were 100 percent healthy.
“Here’s what we do with that is, we’re assuming he’s fine because I have a lot of respect. He has a lot of great instincts of an athlete; things you can’t coach. So, we’re going to be assuming that he’s fine," Williams said. "In the course of the game, we have to be able to adjust to whatever is going on. We’ll see on how it goes, but he’s very, very intelligent on how he goes about running the game.
"I’ve had an opportunity to coach against a lot of quarterbacks that are in the Hall of Fame, marquees guys, and I think Russell is one of them. I have tremendous respect for him for coming out and answering the bell after the injury anyway. That’s what tough guys are supposed to do.”
What has also made Wilson more of an offensive factor is the vast improvement in his passing that saw him put together an impressive second half of last season. He broke several NFL records such as becoming the first quarterback to throw three-plus touchdowns with no interceptions in five consecutive games while also holding a passer rating of 128.3 or higher over that stretch. Wilson was also the first player in league history to record more than 4,000 passing yards, 30-plus passing touchdowns, and more than 500 rushing yards in a single season.
That said, Los Angeles is well aware of the type of dynamic quarterback that the 27-year-old has become given that he's a divisional opponent that they face twice a season. Williams is hoping that this familiarity playing against Wilson will give his defense the edge they need in order to minimize his effectiveness on the field.
“There’s a familiarity, obviously, when you play somebody twice a year. Our guys have their own scouting report on people that their playing against," Williams said. "We have a lot of respect. I have a lot of respect for (Offensive Coordinator) Coach (Darrell) Bevell who runs that up there. I’ve followed him for a long time. He’s been brought up in all the great offensive staffs in the year. And what I’ve seen him do up there is that, similar to what we try to do, I see him fit the offense to the skill set of the players there. They do a good job of matching the skill-sets, schemes, to their players. Hopefully, we can have some good recognition things, and make it a good ball game.”
The Rams were able to keep him under wraps for the most part last year limiting him to fewer than 300 passing yards in each game while picking him off twice, including the only interception that he had during that record-breaking stretch in the final seven games of the season. They were able to etch a pair of wins behind their pass rush that sacked him at least four times in each contest with 21 total hits on the quarterback over those two games.
Head coach Jeff Fisher realizes the importance that the pass rush will have in limiting Wilson's effectiveness and providing his team with a better chance to grab their first win of the 2016 season.
“We’ve had success in the past putting pressure on them," Fisher said. " We’ll just have to adjust things depending on their plan – that’s what we usually do."