The most enticing matchups in Sunday’s season opener
Football is a game won by a team and not an individual, but it is still the individuals who are so much fun to watch. And without good players, you won’t have a good team, so that’s why the Los Angeles Rams paid such a high price to have players like Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, and an array of weapons for Matthew Stafford that is headlined by Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and DeSean Jackson.
There is nothing like Ramsey shutting down an opposing teams best receiver, or watching Donald completely manhandle a human being bigger than him on his way to the quarterback. Every key player on the Rams will have an important matchup on Sunday Night Football this weekend against the Chicago Bears, but these might be the three most important.
Aaron Donald vs Bears Interior Offensive Line
We might as well just put a permanent place holder for Donald in every game this season because he will be the focus of every offense he faces. In this case though, Donald is going against what could be one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL, as they were ranked as the 28th-best unit headed into the season by ProFootballFocus. We don’t know yet how Chicago’s offensive line will actually perform in 2021, but the players who will be facing Donald do not all have stellar resumes.
Or resumes at all.
Though Donald tends to move around on the defensive line to expose better matchups, the majority of the night he may be facing off against Bears center Sam Mustipher.
The standard side-by-side door stainless steel refrigerator stands 71 inches tall and weighs 285 pounds. Aaron Donald is listed at a comparable 73 inches and 284 pounds.
Chicago’s offensive line has to TRIPLE team him in pass protection pic.twitter.com/plhGtE1tYl
— BroBible (@BroBible) October 27, 2020
Mustipher won the starting job at center this season after going undrafted in 2019 and spent the entire season on the Bears practice squad. Last year, the center played in nine games and started in seven of them. Even though his story from undrafted rookie to being the starting center is a classic underdog tale it will not help him much against possibly the best defensive player in the NFL.
As goes most games for Donald though, Mustipher will not have to face 99 by himself.
He will need as much help he can get from left guard Cody Whitehair and right guard James Daniels, who both have just a bit more experience starting in the NFL than their center. Whitehair was drafted in 2016 and started all 16 games as a rookie and he was named to the Pro Bowl in 2018, but he hasn’t been a consistent player since Chicago picked him in the second round five years ago.
Daniels is returning after missing all but five games in 2020. The 2018 second round pick is turning 24 the day after the game, so at this point his career could still go in any direction. Daniels was even credited with having a solid game against Donald as a rookie three years ago.
So we just gonna forget James Daniels held his own vs Aaron Donald in 2018, gave no sacks, most impressively he was a rookie
— MonstaOfDaTriState (@scar179nyc) September 7, 2021
I wonder if Donald remembers that?
Mustipher will bring Whitehair and Daniels to the party to attempt to slow down Donald, but who is going to take care of Sebastian Joseph-Day and company?
Jalen Ramsey vs Allen Robinson
Ramsey did not let many receivers catch passes last season, nor were there many quarterbacks willing to throw his way, but in Week 7 against the Bears it was Robinson who walked away with four receptions that went for 70 yards. Robinson only had three catches for 27 yards prior to a late fourth quarter bomb from Nick Foles in a game that LA was winning handsomely.
— NFL (@NFL) August 24, 2021
Robinson finished the 2020 season with 1,250 yards receiving and six touchdowns on 102 receptions, but his longest catch came against Ramsey. We have yet to see Andy Dalton take a snap under center for the Bears, but more than likely he will not challenge Ramsey much on Sunday night. Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris talked very highly of Chicago’s number one receiver in a press conference on Thursday:
(18:38) “You talk about Allen Robinson, a premier receiver in this league for a long time. He does some things very very well. He’s a great isolation player he is a great player on third down, he’s been a great player for a long time for two different teams now. He’s one of those guy you got to prepare for. You know he’s going to move around, they’re going to try to get the ball in his hands, particularly in third down situations. It’s nice to have player like a Jalen Ramsey to be able to have a guy… that you can matchup with him.”
Though we may not see Ramsey matchup with Robinson the whole game, we can be confident that when they do all eyes will be on the duo—except for maybe Dalton’s.
5 Qs, 5 As with the Chicago Bears blog had more on these matchups too.
Bears secondary vs Rams receivers
Chicago’s secondary is headlined by safety Eddie Jackson and second-year cornerback Jaylon Johnson. This issue for the Bears is that outside of Jackson and the other safety, Tashaun Gipson, Chicago’s secondary players haven’t had much success at the NFL level yet; Johnson is a promising second-year player but still young and 2020 fifth round pick Kindle Vildor seems more of a starter by default.
LA’s deep receiver core that features Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, DeSean Jackson, and Tutu Atwell will be a great test to see where Chicago’s secondary stands this season.
Cooper Kupp was a mismatch for the Saints D pic.twitter.com/qclaZJqKYd
— Def Pen Sports (@DefPenSports) May 23, 2020
It will also be a great test for the Rams receivers as they take the field for the first time with Matthew Stafford in charge. Can they make plays happen around an untested Chicago secondary whenever the LA offensive line allows for Stafford to get those opportunities?
Since coming to the LA Rams four years ago, Robert Woods is 10th in the NFL in targets, receptions, and yards
— TurfShowTimes (@TurfShowTimes) September 10, 2021
With so many weapons on the offense, the question will be who will have the bigger game for LA, and who does Bears coach Matt Nagy plan on isolating? The matchup between Chicago’s secondary against LA’s pass catchers will be fascinating to watch, mostly because it will be the first time we see a Stafford throwing to them this season.
What matchups are being overlooked right now?