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Rams

Rams know neutralizing former teammate Ndamukong Suh will be a challenge

Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh
The Rams know Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will be out to get them on Sunday.
(Getty Images)

The Rams cut ties with Ndamukong Suh after one season. After paying the veteran defensive lineman nearly $15 million in salary and incentives in 2018, they let him leave as a free agent.

Suh eventually signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he will return to the Coliseum on Sunday to face his former team.

“I’m sure he’ll be wanting to get after us,” quarterback Jared Goff said Wednesday.

The Rams are 3-0 after victories over the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns. But an offensive line that against the Browns featured three first-year starters — center Brian Allen and guards Joe Noteboom and Jamil Demby — has struggled at times.

John Johnson and Eric Weddle are in unison when patrolling the Rams’ secondary even if their personalities aren’t the same.
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Guard Austin Blythe, who sat out against the Browns because of an ankle sprain, would fortify the line if he returns against the Buccaneers, who are 1-2 after a 32-31 loss to the New York Giants. The Buccaneers feature edge rusher Shaquil Barrett, the NFL sack leader with eight.

Last year as a rookie, Noteboom often matched up against Suh during practices. That experience will help, Noteboom said, but neutralizing the 6-foot-4, 313-pound Suh remains a challenge.

“He’s not like a flashy guy, but he knows how to turn it on and overpower people,” Noteboom said. “That’s his game.”

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, 37, played against Suh several times during his first 11 NFL seasons playing for the Cincinnati Bengals.

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“Super powerful, takes care of his body,” Whitworth said. “That’s kind of always been his MO — he overpowers guys a lot and has always kind of been that guy.”

The Rams anticipated good production from Suh when they signed him as part of a defensive makeover that included trades for star cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. Pairing Suh with tackle Aaron Donald, the 2017 NFL defensive player of the year, was regarded as potentially one of the most dominant defensive line combinations in league history.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh looks on during a game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 8.
(Getty Images)

But while Donald flourished, recording 201/2 sacks and winning a second consecutive defensive player of the year award, Suh’s regular-season performance was uneven. He finished with 41/2, sacks but his penchant for rushing the passer often left the Rams vulnerable against the run.

In the playoffs, Suh appeared to increase his intensity. He played well in an NFC divisional-round victory over the Dallas Cowboys and had 11/2 sacks in the NFC championship victory over the New Orleans Saints.

In May, the Buccaneers gave Suh a one-year, $9.25-million contract, with $750,000 in incentives, according to overthecap.com. He has made five tackles, one for a loss.

Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said Suh, a 10th-year pro, has brought “a professional attitude” to Tampa Bay.

“We’ve got some young players that lean on him for advice all the time,” Arians said. “Just being a pro, taking care of yourself, being ready to play and he always plays hard.

“That part of it we knew, but he’s been outstanding in our locker room.”

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Etc.

Tight end Tyler Higbee (tight end) and Blythe (ankle), who sat out against the Browns, were limited in practice but both said they were working to play against the Buccaneers. Higbee said he spit up blood after he landed on his back trying to make a catch against the Saints. “Didn’t really feel nothing crazy,” he said. He stayed in the game and caught a pass and then told trainers he needed to be checked out. “Thought I was coming back for the fourth quarter,” he said.


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