PFW executive editor and resident Packers expert Dan Arkush presents the fourth of five key matchups this week in advance of the Packers' Week Six game this Sunday against the Rams at Lambeau Field.
Rams TEs Lance Kendricks, Michael Hoomanawanui and Billy Bajema vs. Packers SS Charlie Peprah
It was widely assumed that new Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was planning on borrowing a page from the Patriots' offensive playbook entering the season, with heavy usage of Kendricks and Hoomanawanui similar to the way New England head coach Bill Belichick so effectively utilized his young TE duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez last season. But repeated injury issues with Hoomanawanui, a talented pass catcher who might have the best hands of any Rams pass catcher, have thrown that plan for a loop.
Kendricks, the Rams' second-round pick out of the University of Wisconsin, displayed genuine playmaking flashes in the preseason, but he has had problems so far in the regular season holding on to passes. Kendricks has caught at least one pass in every game and had a season-high four catches for 33 yards in the Rams' last game against Washington. He has 8-102-0 receiving on the season (12.8 ypc).
Hoomanawanui has been limited in practice this week but took part in contact drills for the first time since suffering a concussion against the Redskins a couple weeks ago. He has played in only two games and has two catches for 18 yards this season.
Peprah would be making a mistake if he disregarded Bajema, who is primarily a blocker but showed last year that he could make a big play every now and then (two TDs in a Week 12 win over Denver last season). Bajema's greatest asset is his intelligence (37 Wonderlic score).
Peprah played his best game of the year by far last Sunday night in Atlanta in his third start at strong safety in place of Morgan Burnett, who has moved to free safety to replace the injured Nick Collins. Against Atlanta, Peprah had a team-leading eight tackles (five solo) and a huge interception in the middle of the field while defending Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez. Much better against the run than the pass, Peprah is extremely physical and gives his all on every play. While he can be exposed in coverage, his mistakes are minimal. He works hard, prepares well and does everything by the book.