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  1. #1
    Nick's Avatar
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    In the Line of Fire - Nick's Take on the Rams' Offensive Line

    In the Line of Fire
    Nick's Take on the Rams' Offensive Line
    by Nick Seiler
    7/21/06

    People don't choose to be part of the offensive line because they want glory. They don't choose to be part of the offensive line if multimillion-dollar endorsement deals is something they crave. No one joins the offensive line because they think it's going to get them all the girls.

    But despite all of this, a team's offensive line may in fact be the most important cog in their offensive system.

    A good offensive line means solid pass protection for your quarterback, allowing him the time necessary to scan the field and deliver an accurate pass. A good offensive line means opened holes for your running back so he can get by the line of scrimmage and gain positive yards.

    Cliché or not, games are won and lost in the trenches. Thus, as the 2006 season approaches, I find it important to take a look at the St. Louis Rams offensive line and see exactly where this team stands.

    It's no secret that the Rams have struggled to field a consistently effective offensive line for years now:

    • In 2002, fans groaned through the John St. Clair era of watching unrelenting pressure come from the right side of the field. St. Clair, a natural interior lineman, now is a back up in Chicago after a short stint in Miami.
    • In 2003, the Rams offensive line finished strong but certainly didn't start that way, with early cohesion problems contributing to the opening game injury of starting quarterback Kurt Warner.
    • 2004 saw starting right tackle Kyle Turley placed on injured reserve because of continuing back problems and an all-too-public feud with then head coach Mike Martz, escalating in an office showdown.
    • While the Rams improved their unit at the right tackle position by drafting Alex Barron in the 2005 NFL Draft, the interior of the offensive line had its ups and downs as both guard positions left something to be desired.


    So now, entering the 2006 season, the question remains... have the Rams made improvements to their line, or is this still an area of concern?

    Let's examine the line piece by piece.


    Tackle

    The Rams have a very strong duo at the tackle positions. Orlando Pace is not only a consistent Pro Bowl player but also perhaps the best player at the left tackle position in professional football. He anchors the left side of the line with excellent feet/movement and uncanny awareness to react immediately to whatever a defensive end is bringing at him.

    On the other side, Alex Barron stepped into the starting line-up a few games into the 2005 season and immediately impressed everyone with his dominant ability to shut down the opposition. He had some growing pains in the penalty department as the season went on, but Barron is still learning the right tackle position and there's no reason to think he won't improve and become an excellent player.

    Behind the two starters on the depth chart are veterans Todd Steussie and Blaine Saipaia who provide solid depth but hopefully will not be called upon to start for any extended period of time.


    Guard

    This is the biggest area of concern, in my opinion. Claude Terrell filled in quite a bit in his rookie year, but was inconsistent at best, struggling with various injuries for most of the year. He showed up to offseason minicamps overweight and hefty, and has lost any edge he may have had in the battle for the left guard spot.

    The current favorite to man the position seems to be Nebraska lineman Richie Incognito, drafted in 2005 after being out of football for quite some time. He's impressed the coaching staff both with his results in the weight room as well as his versatility on the line, and barring any major setbacks, should be working with the first team when camp rolls around.

    The right guard position remains manned by savvy veteran Adam Timmerman, who is recovering from some knee problems but is expected to be at full strength when the season rolls around. "Long in the tooth" as a description for Timmerman is the understatement of the year, and I would not be shocked if this is not only his last season starting for the Rams, but if he gets replaced sometime during the season. His play in 2005 was solid but not at the level we're used to seeing from him, and on top of that he was even benched at one point in favor of the younger Terrell.

    The Rams have a number of young intriguing interior lineman who could make a push for Adam's job. Those include back-ups such as rookies Mark Setterstrom and Tony Palmer, both drafted with good value late on the second day. Don't rule out Saipaia as an option at left guard, where he's looked more promising than at tackle.


    Center

    Like Adam Timmerman, you have to wonder how long Andy McCollum is going to continue starting at center. Having just turned 36-years-old, the veteran differs from Timmerman in that his play remains rather efficient. McCollum is a smart lineman who really is quite the leader, making accurate calls when necessary. He may not have the speed that he used to have, but he takes good angles and plays smart. The problem at center is that there really isn't much depth at the position.

    The Rams brought back Larry Turner near the end of the season, and remains in a battle for the back-up job with rookie Donovan Raiola, who went undrafted in April. Raiola, whose brother Dominic plays for Mike Martz in Detroit, resembles McCollum in that he's not the fastest moving lineman but takes solid angles and has a good head on his shoulders. He might not be the best athlete but he has the intelligence to earn a spot on this line if he can somehow beat out Turner for the back-up job.


    When it comes down to it, the Rams offensive line looks to be starting one new player from the group that was featured last season. Pace, Barron, McCollum, and Timmerman all look to be returning to their starting roles, with only the left guard job up for grabs. In some cases, such as Pace and Barron, this is clearly a good thing. In others, such as Timmerman's, perhaps not.

    If the Rams are able to get more consistent play from their interior lineman, including a solid young player to fill the left guard position with at least some kind of reliability, then we should see the continued efficiency of the Rams offense. But don't underestimate the problems that will be created for this team if the line struggles as it has so many times in the past few years. This offense will only be as good as the five men up front protecting the skill position players. For our sakes, let's hope they're ready to be thrown in the fire.


  2. #2
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    Re: In the Line of Fire - Nick's Take on the Rams' Offensive Line

    Great write up man. I couldnt agree more. I think featuring more two TE sets is really going to help the O-Line. I also think Incognito is going to have one hell of a year. He's probably our most athletic lineman and I believe he has as much upside as any lineman in the league.
    The Roman and The Prince. Playmakers until the end.


  3. #3
    r8rh8rmike's Avatar
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    Re: In the Line of Fire - Nick's Take on the Rams' Offensive Line

    Good breakdown Nick. My concern with the line is consistency as a unit. Hopefully, we can avoid any serious injuries and keep the starters, whoever they are, intact and on the field together so they can mesh into an effective run blocking/pass protection machine.

  4. #4
    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: In the Line of Fire - Nick's Take on the Rams' Offensive Line

    Very nice piece Nick. I'm anxious to see how Barron does this year ?

    :ramlogo:

  5. #5
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    Re: In the Line of Fire - Nick's Take on the Rams' Offensive Line

    great job as always nick,this unit if it stays healthy plus the edition of the 2 tight end set could provide a very explosive running game and if we get that holt and bruce will be open for big plays down the field and we should score some big time points.

  6. #6
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    Re: In the Line of Fire - Nick's Take on the Rams' Offensive Line

    OL cohesiveness is critical. Pace and Barron give them two excellent tackles, which are the building blocks for any good OL. I'm hoping Terrell got himself in decent shape by now. I liked how he played for a rookie last year and he has really good potential. Incognito is an unknown until they play some preseason games.

    Something tells me Timmerman may not make the final roster if he has any struggles physically, or that he is made a backup. I think Setterstrom will be one of the sleepers of our draft and will become a starter by 2007.

  7. #7
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    Re: In the Line of Fire - Nick's Take on the Rams' Offensive Line

    Been saying this for a few years now. Glad someone else sees it now!

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