ST. LOUIS (AP) — After practice Wednesday, St. Louis Rams outside linebacker Alec Ogletree was wearing a T-shirt with the initials “DMSU” on the front.
No, it’s not some obscure institution of higher learning or the latest nutritional concoction. The initials stand for “Don’t Make Stuff Up.”
All the linebackers have them, as reminders not to be freelancing on the field, but to stick to defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’s system. That reminder figures to come in handy for the opener when all-field threat Russell Wilson and the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks come to town.
“Coach is always joking around that if you did something that he didn’t coach, he’d say DMSU,” Ogletree said. “It’s kind of our little motto.”
Wilson blankets the top 10 in franchise history for rushing yards by a quarterback, including 106 yards on seven carries last year in St. Louis. He’s thrown 72 touchdown passes, sixth most in NFL history, and has produced 15 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime, most in the league since he broke in as a third-round pick in 2012.
Plus, he’s got a new tight end in Jimmy Graham, who leads his position in receptions the last four years and is fourth overall in that stretch.
The Rams (6-10) have high hopes for their defense, which has five former first-rounders on the front line. For the franchise to end a string of 11 consecutive seasons without a winning record, the defense must step up.
“Who better else to start with than the NFC champions?” tackle Michael Brockers said.
But they can’t afford to get carried away, and must respect Wilson.
“Russell’s very, very difficult to defend,” coach Jeff Fisher said.
What to watch for:
SUPER BOWL HANGOVER
Beyond the potential mind games lingering from Wilson’s lamentable last-minute end zone interception against the Patriots, the Seahawks open minus star holdout safety Kam Chancellor. Dion Bailey will make his NFL debut in place of Chancellor, who faces potential team fines in excess of $1 million.
“I mean, everybody’s disappointed,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “You’ve got to treat it like he’s not going to be here, because he isn’t.”
Two offensive linemen will be starting for the first time. Garry Gilliam is the new right tackle and unknown Drew Nowak won the center spot.
Because of Nowak’s inexperience, the Seahawks are asking more from Wilson in pre-snap reads and calling protections. Seattle has used the same five on the line for the last three weeks since inserting Gilliam at a tackle and shifting Justin Britt to left guard.
ROOKIE RESPONSIBILITY: The Rams have no advantage on the offensive line, breaking in rookie tackle Rob Havenstein and guard Jamon Brown. They finally settled the center competition won by veteran backup Tim Barnes just four days before kickoff.
“There’s going to be a big learning curve for our guys, and I’m sure their guys as well,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
LEGION OF WHOM: What’s long been a strength for Seattle is now a bit of a question.
Other than missing Chancellor and breaking in Bailey, Thomas is coming off left shoulder surgery and did not play in the preseason. Sherman and Earl Thomas still patrol the back end, but the secondary may not be as imposing as the past two years when the Seahawks had the best pass defense in the NFL.
HOME FIELD: Seattle has won five of six in the series, but the Rams have taken two of the last three at home. All three games have been decided by six or fewer points.
There might not be a crowd advantage in the Edward Jones Dome, given general resignation that owner Stan Kroenke intends to move the franchise back to Los Angeles after the season. For both of the home preseason games, the 66,000-seat dome was probably about one-fourth full.
FOLES DEBUT: Nick Foles got a two-year contract extension before taking a single preseason snap. He’s perceived as a better injury risk than Sam Bradford and comes cheaper, too. Foles will have to get the ball out fast given the inexperience up front, and the Rams must develop a go-to wide receiver. Brian Quick, coming off potential career-ending shoulder surgery, could be the one to step up.
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