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Browns vs. Rams: Getting to Know the Enemy With Turf Show Times

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Joe McAtee from Turf Show Times exchanged five questions with us, discussing how we can expect the Rams to utilize Tavon Austin, why St. Louis has struggled to score points in non-divisional games, some underrated players on the club, and more.

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This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the St. Louis Rams in Week 7 of the regular season. To help preview this week's game, I reached out to Joe McAtee from Turf Show Times and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!

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Chris: "The Rams are one of the few teams in the NFL that I feel like I haven't had a chance to watch much of their games over the past couple of years. What type of offense will we generally see the Rams operate from?"

Joe: "The 'no offense at all' offense. The yards are dumb and points are meh scheme.

Look, the Rams have struggled big time to get things going on the offensive side. In their three losses to Washington, Pittsburgh and Green Bay, the Rams scored a total of 26 points leaving us 31st in points per game going into this weekend ahead of just the 49ers. Part of it is scheme. The Rams are built on the running game in a passing era. That struggled early on in the season making it difficult to get to the second half of the playbook built on the back of some successful running plays. Even in Todd Gurley's debut against the Steelers, the Rams couldn't develop any of their passing schemes built on the run with Gurley gaining just nine yards on six carries.

The last two weeks were different, but they showed the limitations of Gurley's production. Against Arizona, Gurley was largely unproductive through three quarters. He exploded in the final 15 minutes to help ice the game. In Week 5, he had his best overall performance spreading his 30 carries and 159 yards out across the game...and the Rams still scored just 10 points while Gurley didn't even see the end zone. Gurley helped the Rams to halftime at a 10-14 deficit in Green Bay, which isn't all that bad. The Rams' passing offense, though, was dismal and didn't see anything positive in the second half (save for a garbage time 68-yard run after the catch by Stedman Bailey).

So what offense will you guys see the Rams operate from? One that leans on the run early to try an open up space for Tavon Austin while hoping Nick Foles has windows for his targets, none of which are world beaters."

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Chris: "Although WR Tavon Austin still seems like a novelty player, this year, he seems to be a successful novelty player, having logged five total touchdowns. When he rushes the ball, what type of plays are they on (i.e. end-arounds, normal running back spot, Wildcat)?"

Joe: "So there's some variety here. He's got some history running out of the backfield as a a traditional running back. The Rams do use him often on the end around as well as a decoy in the same manner. No wildcat or any kind of direct snaps, but Rams Offensive Coordinator has voiced a dedication to using Tavon regularly and in varied fashion. So yeah, expect some novelty with him especially by design. A screen here, an end around there, a trick play somewhere in between...it's all part of the Rams' repertoire."

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Chris: "Do the Rams have a motivational problem? How is it that they are 2-0 within their division, but have averaged just 8.67 points per game in their other three contests?"

Joe: "The thing is, this isn't new. The Rams went 4-1-1 in the NFC West in 2012 beating the Niners at home and tying them in San Fran. The Niners would go on the Super Bowl. St. Louis finished the season with 7 wins. It's not really a divisional issue though as the Rams have fared much worse in the last two years with the ascendancy of the Cardinals. It's just that the Rams can't find any consistency in their performances. They played a near-perfect game against Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Week 11 last year in a huge home win. In Weeks 13 and 14, they blanked the Raiders and Washington in back-to-back shutouts. Sounds like a team finding its groove, right? Right. A rams groove. They went on to lose the final three games of the season including two home games.

Go back to Week 2 of this season. The Rams are coming off of a huge home win over the Seahawks who have been to the last two Super Bowls. That's not an easy team to start your season off with. The Rams then head to Washington, perhaps the most dysfunctional team in the league this year (ok, perhaps every year as long as Dan Snyder is steering the ship, but I digress). How do the Rams respond? A stinkfest on offense coupled with a collapse of their rushing defense. Against Washington.

Sigh."

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Chris: "We know the Rams' defensive is stacked, but if you had to pick one or two weak spots on the team as a whole, what spots would those be?"

Joe: "Coaching and wide receiver.

The Rams' inconsistency in their performance, continued lax execution and poor focus (read: bagillions on quadrillmafillions of penalties) is down to Head Coach Jeff Fisher. And it's not going to change. It's part of his approach. It comes with the rest of it. It's a feature, not a bug.

As for the roster itself, the Rams need talent at wide receiver badly. Tavon Austin can't work downfield against NFL secondaries. Stedman Bailey's a solid component, but he's not a WR1 or close to it. Kenny Britt's in the same boat. And Brian Quick is running out of time to develop into something coherent as an NFL WR. With the influx of big time talents at WR the last few years, the Rams have certainly missed out on a huge opportunity to bolster their targets. They'll have to hope they can strike in the 2016 NFL Draft where other teams have upped their WR stables in the last two-three years."

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Chris: "Tell us about a player who Browns fans might not have heard of but who could have a big impact on this Sunday's game."

Joe: "Jamon Brown. He looks like the standout lineman among the brigade the Rams brought in this offseason to remake the offensive line. An offensive tackle out of Louisville, the Rams stuck him at RG throughout training camp and the preseason. Then without warning ahead of Week 1, the Rams moved Brown over to LG and veteran Rodger Saffold to RG. It's worked well enough for Brown, though you can make a fair point the Rams offensive line woes this season weren't helped by switching things around so late in the offseason. He's handled things well though, so it's a compliment to his versatility.

I'd also point at the Rams' safeties: T.J. McDonald, Rodney McLeod and Mark Barron. The former two are the Rams' starters, though they essentially play the same role. Neither is spectacular in pass defense, but if you can get off a deep pass against the Rams' defensive line and blitz schemes, you deserve to take a shot at them. Barron is more functional in run support and has seen his role increase in the absence of OLB Alec Ogletree who stands to miss at least another month following ankle surgery.

The Rams aren't really a surprising team. They're physical, sometimes too much so. They're direct, sometimes too much so. They're not explosive...uh, always not enough so? So if there's going to be a major impact, there's only so many candidates...which is kind of the problem."

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Thanks again to Joe for taking the time to answer my questions.