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Rams vs. Seahawks preview

The St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks are both coming off bitter defeats against top contenders in the NFC in the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys, respectively.

Of course, the Rams are coming off three consecutive defeats and are reeling at 1-4 while the Seahawks sit at 3-2 and facing questions about their ability to defend their championship.

Both teams are in need of a victory and the Rams have been a handful for Seattle in St. Louis recently, splitting their last four meetings at the Edward Jones Dome.

Rams reporter Nick Wagoner and Seahawks reporter Terry Blount discuss this week’s matchup:

Wagoner: Terry, it's not often anybody asks about how the Seahawks are going to rebound after a loss, but that's the situation they're in. Of course, that makes for a tough challenge for the Rams. After that dominant season-opening win against Green Bay, the Seahawks seem like they've been a little up and down. What's the reason for the inconsistency?

Blount: Too many reasons to list here, but it boils down to this: They don’t have the depth they had a year ago. The Seahawks lost 11 players that had a total of 58 years of NFL experience. Entering this season, no one really thought it was a big deal because most of the starters were back and the Seahawks had younger players ready to step in who were seen as having more talent than many of the players who left. It hasn’t turned out that way, at least not yet. They don’t have the pass rush they had a year ago and they don’t have the depth in the secondary to make up for the injuries they’ve suffered.

Nick, you’re probably getting this question every week, but people here in Seattle are wondering what in the world has happened to the Rams’ pass rush? They had 53 sacks a year and only one so far this season. What gives? And how is it Robert Quinn doesn’t have a sack?

Wagoner: I think the Rams are wondering what in the world has happened to their pass rush. There are a number of reasons for it, including the loss of defensive end Chris Long to an ankle injury but that’s far from the only issue. Part of it has been a failure to get home on blitzes. Gregg Williams has long been a fan of dialing up the blitz but many of those attempts this year have been poorly conceived, poorly timed, poorly executed or a combination therein. They’ve also struggled to stop the run, which hasn’t given them many opportunities to rush the passer. In fact, they’ve been thrown against the fewest times of any team in the league.

But the bottom line is, whether the Rams are blitzing or not, they simply aren’t getting the job done. Teams are throwing everything at slowing Quinn and that’s worked and the others haven’t been able to generate push on a consistent basis. They’ve been close at times but this isn’t a game of horseshoes. No points for being close.

It's obviously not to the level of the Rams but the Seahawks' pass rush hasn't produced as expected yet either. Why the drop-off and what can they do to improve in that regard?

Blount: The Seahawks lost three players from last year who accounted for 11.5 sacks and 90 tackles in defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald. No one has stepped up to replace them. Seattle drafted Cassius Marsh of UCLA as a pass-rushing specialist, but he has no sacks and no quarterback hits. Defensive end Cliff Avril hasn’t adapted well to playing more snaps. He had eight sacks and five forced fumbles in 2013. He has one sack and no forced fumbles in the first five games. Defensive end Michael Bennett, with three sacks, is the only player with more than one sack. Other than blitzing more with their outside linebackers, the Seahawks need Marsh to grow up fast and Avril to start playing at last year’s level.

Nick, the nation got a chance to watch quarterback Austin Davis play Monday night, with mixed results, but he’s still pretty much an unknown around here. What kind of a guy is he and how do you think he has played overall under such difficult circumstances?

Wagoner: The Monday night game was Davis' first chance to play a top-tier defense. I had a feeling that would lead to a regression to the mean -- not that I was going out on a limb there -- and that certainly seemed to be the case despite a hot start. The Rams haven’t helped him with their persistent protection issues, either.

All things considered, though, Davis is a tough, smart young quarterback with some athleticism and a fiery approach that his teammates appreciate. His physical skill set will always be a bit limited compared to other quarterbacks and it’s probably wishful thinking for anyone to hope that he can develop into more than a solid long-term backup. But even if he just becomes that, it’s a nice find given he came in as an undrafted rookie.

Much was made of receiver Doug Baldwin's comments after the loss to Dallas. But I assume he wouldn't have made those comments if there weren’t some truth to them. The run game is still rolling but I think many of us expected more steps forward in the passing game. Why hasn't that part of the game taken off and have you seen the progress from Russell Wilson that you expected?

Blount: There’s a lot of truth to Baldwin’s comments about not playing up to their potential, but Baldwin is a factor in that, as well. He hasn’t played as well as everyone hoped he would in moving outside to replace Golden Tate at split end. Things started off great with Percy Harvin healthy and playing full time, but opposing teams have caught on to what the Seahawks are doing with Harvin on hitch passes, bubble screens and the jet sweep. For example, the Cowboys loaded up on the perimeter at the line of scrimmage and shut down Harvin. They practically dared the Seahawks to throw downfield and it worked except for one long pass to Jermaine Kearse in the first quarter. But the last person to blame is Wilson. He single-handedly won the Monday night game against the Redskins and he engineered the 80-yard drive in overtime that beat the Broncos.

Nick, people here on the West Coast have a lot of interest in whether the Rams will leave St. Louis and move back to Los Angeles. The Seahawks would be all for it because it would give them another game in the Pacific Time Zone and an easier trip. What’s happening on all that? Is it just rumors or is there some truth to it?

Wagoner: Deciphering what’s real and what isn’t at this point is an exercise in futility. Rams owner Stan Kroenke isn’t talking about the subject publicly and it’s hard to believe anyone who says he's doing so privately either. I'm of the belief that everything is still on the table. Is Los Angeles a possibility? Until the Rams have something set in stone in St. Louis, I believe the answer is yes. But it’s not like L.A. has its stuff together for a new stadium yet either. There are so many moving parts to the whole thing it’s hard to imagine that a decision has been made. And even if it has, it would require approval from the other owners to get done. We're not there yet. But I do think it’s safe to assume that the speculation and rumors are just getting warmed up as the Rams head toward the expiration of their lease at the Edward Jones Dome following the season.