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  1. #1
    Nick's Avatar
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    The "offensive" offensive line

    If there was ever a word to describe our offensive line, “offensive” would certainly be appropriate.

    Once again, we finished today fielding a unit that was different than the one we started with. I believe that's now at least the sixth time in eight games this has happened. Right guard Richie Incognito left the game with a leg injury that apparently kept him from supporting his own weight at times on the sidelines. Now we’ve learned that he’s done for the year as well, the fourth linemen we’ve lost for the season (fifth if you include Steussie though he could come back). A significant injury to Incognito means the Rams are once again going to have to scramble to find a working unit.

    On Sunday, for the majority of the game, our offensive line looked like this:

    LT Alex Barron - LG Milford Brown - C Andy McCollum - RG Nick Leckey - RT Brandon Gorin
    Now, be honest. What NFL team do you envision winning with this offensive line?

    Former first round pick Alex Barron is not playing well at all on the left side. Apparently trying to make the conversion to the right side caused Barron to forget most of what he learned in college as a left tackle. Combine that with his play on the right side to date, which in my opinion has been solid but hardly spectacular, and he simply has not impressed for a first round offensive tackle selection. I'm hoping we bring in competition for his job next season and see if that helps him step up. If not, at least he can be experienced depth on a unit that obviously needs it.

    Milford Brown is simply a mediocre-at-best journeyman, and I think that's even being generous. He spent two years as depth on a poor Texans line, then finally got his chance in 2005 and did not impress. He was a free agent bust for Arizona and was cut after one year. He joined the Rams in the late summer before camp to provide depth and has now seen significant time at three different positions on the line.

    Andy McCollum is a fan favorite but is 37-years-old this season and was beat out for his starting job by former practice squad player Brett Romberg. McCollum tried to shift to guard to help his injured team out but that experiment went about as well this year as it did when Martz tried to do it after the addition of Dave Wohlabaugh. McCollum has been guilty of a number of presnap penalties in recent weeks, and probably needs to hang them up sooner rather than later.

    Nick Leckey... wait, who? Be honest with me. Before today's game or even before the Rams signed him, would you have known who this was without doing a Google search? Oh right, this is the guy who was in and out of the Cardinals starting line-up the last two years which means he has to be good, right? Apparently not, since the Cardinals went out and signed Al Johnson to be their starter at center and then cut Leckey in mid-September even though Johnson was struggling with his own injuries at the time. He sat available for two weeks without a sniff before we picked him up.

    And that brings us to Brandon Gorin. Out of all of our street free agents, he's the one I have/had the highest hopes for. And my use of the term highest hopes is liberal. Gorin was a part of a Patriots Super Bowl team, which is good. But as we know through past experience (Kim Herring anyone?) simply being part of a Super Bowl team doesn't mean you're a superstar. Gorin was in a competition for the right tackle spot in New England before he was traded to Arizona (another former Cardinal?) and then promptly inactivated for 14 weeks. He didn't catch on with the offensive minds from Pittsburgh who took over the reigns in Arizona, and joined us on September 11th.

    Separate yourself for a minute from this team and think about these names objectively. What NFL team wins with this line? Look at the successful teams in the NFL. Look at organizations like the Colts, Patriots, and Cowboys. Do they win with this line? They have a lot of talent at skill positions, but they also have stable lines that protect their passers. The Colts have given up a sack once every 40 pass attempts. The Patriots, who I think may have the best pass protecting line in football right now, have given up a sack once every 33 pass attempts. The Cowboys have given up a sack once every 21 pass attempts. The Rams? Try once every 10 attempts.

    We are literally pulling guys from the unemployment line not just to be back-ups but to come and potentially start for this team. Nick Leckey? Seriously, Nick Leckey!?

    Can the importance of an offensive line ever be underscored? Most fans recognize that the best offensive lines are the ones that have spent a lot of time together and have developed a certain level of continuity together. One needs to look back no further than the 2003 Rams to see a great example of this. All five of our offensive line starters made it through the season without missing a game. Is it a coincidence that the Rams went 12-4 that year? I certainly don’t think so.

    We’ve been saying it for years now, primarily because Mike Martz as a head coach largely avoided addressing this issue and thought he could get by with journeymen and scrubs. But in order for this team to be successful, it needs to have a strong offensive line in front of Marc Bulger and Steven Jackson. We had the makings of a strong line as the season closed in 2006. That line has now been completely and utterly decimated with injuries and personnel shifts as a result of injury.

    Yet I look across the internet and I still see fans that seem to think Scott Linehan has some kind of magic wand he can pull out and make something happen with this group, some secret Bruce Banner gamma bomb he can detonate over this line to turn them into freaks of nature that never lose battles in the trenches. Let’s face the facts – he doesn’t, and I doubt any coach does.

    That’s not to say Linehan hasn’t made his mistakes – for some reason you always have to say this or else you’re giving him a free pass – but can anyone honestly say that in the grand scheme of what’s happened to this team this year, coaching has been a bigger factor to our lack of success than the massive amount of injuries? I’m sure people can and will, but I can’t see the logic in that point of view. Consider that I haven’t even touched on injuries to other offensive players such as Marc Bulger, Steven Jackson, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Drew Bennett, Randy McMichael, Dante Hall, and Dane Looker. We’re simply talking about the offensive line here.

    This is not the unit that ended last year with such promising results. This is not the unit that spent all of training camp working together, gaining continuity and familiarity with one another. This is not the unit that worked together in the preseason, getting real-game experience side by side to prepare for this season. Instead, this is a unit whose left tackle shifted over from the right side and has not been playing well. This is a unit whose left guard is now manning his third position on the line after spending time at right guard and tackle. This is a unit whose center lost an open competition for the job in camp and then saw time at left guard before being forced to move back inside. This is a unit whose right guard was signed three weeks ago. This is a unit whose right tackle had experience in a winning organization but spent all of last year inactivated by the Arizona Cardinals.

    If the inability and downright inadequacy of this group still hasn’t sunk in yet, I simply have two words to close out – Nick Leckey!?


  2. #2
    Fat Pang's Avatar
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    Re: The "offensive" offensive line

    Great article Nick.

    Your namesake Leckey could sum-up our season true enough.

    Anyone looking for a reason for our nightmarish season only needs to look here.

  3. #3
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    Re: The "offensive" offensive line

    I agree with Pang, great article that really puts into perspective the absolute critical need to have a solid offensive line in order to be successful. The reference to 2003 truely makes that point.

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    Re: The "offensive" offensive line

    Quote Originally Posted by Fat Pang View Post
    Anyone looking for a reason for our nightmarish season only needs to look here.

    True. Here in the Clan Rams fans and Rampublic alike will find balanced, excellent, and honest views on giving fair explanation of this season's woes.

    This article is another perfect example of that.

    Nick, send your article to the STL Post-Dispatch. Seriously. :l
    Last edited by RealRam; -11-01-2007 at 05:20 AM. Reason: Icon

  5. #5
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    Re: The "offensive" offensive line

    Another great post by a talented clanram sports writer.
    LET'S GO DODGERS

  6. #6
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    Re: The "offensive" offensive line

    With the injuries the Rams have had, they probably would not have won more than 2-3 games thus far, even with great game day coaching.

    So, its not about comparative blame or free passes. Its about maximizing the team's chances in the future.

    Get a top notch head coach w/out fixing the O line - the Rams will still be a sub .500 team.

    How about we fix both problems?

  7. #7
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    Re: The "offensive" offensive line

    Quote Originally Posted by AvengerRam View Post
    With the injuries the Rams have had, they probably would not have won more than 2-3 games thus far, even with great game day coaching.

    So, its not about comparative blame or free passes. Its about maximizing the team's chances in the future.

    Get a top notch head coach w/out fixing the O line - the Rams will still be a sub .500 team.

    How about we fix both problems?
    The OL problem can be fixed by simply getting players healthy and giving them a chance to become a cohesive unit. A far as there being a coaching problem, I would like to see a reasonably healthy team before that determination is made and we tear things down and start over again.

  8. #8
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    Re: The "offensive" offensive line

    Quote Originally Posted by r8rh8rmike View Post
    we tear things down and start over again.
    This implies that there is something that has been built up that can be torn down, and there is something that has started, which would be prematurely ended.

    I don't see where Linehan has done anything to build up a system.

  9. #9
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    Re: The "offensive" offensive line

    Quote Originally Posted by AvengerRam View Post
    This implies that there is something that has been built up that can be torn down, and there is something that has started, which would be prematurely ended.

    I don't see where Linehan has done anything to build up a system.
    You don't? Didn't he install a new offense that was pretty productive last year when reasonably healthy? Didn't he bring in a new defensive coordinator that has made progress with a revamped unit? Hasn't he drafted some promoising young players that are starting to pay dividends? I don't think you're looking hard enough.

    We both know that if a new coaching staff is brought in, there will be changes that will require time, maybe substantial time. I think it would be better to make an educated judgement on Linehan and many of his players (especially the OL group) under normal circumstances. You obviously disagree, haven't seen anything positive and think a change is needed, which is fine. At this point, I guess we'll have to leave it at that and see what happens.

  10. #10
    AvengerRam's Avatar
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    Re: The "offensive" offensive line

    Quote Originally Posted by r8rh8rmike View Post
    You don't? Didn't he install a new offense that was pretty productive last year when reasonably healthy?
    No. That's a myth. The Rams offense was not exactly "new." Rather, it was a modification of an existing system. Also, the offense was really productive for a stretch of about a third of a season. That's not much to go on.

    Didn't he bring in a new defensive coordinator that has made progress with a revamped unit?
    I don't know that Linehan brought in Haslett. I also don't know how much Linehan has really contributed to the defense's progress.

    Hasn't he drafted some promoising young players that are starting to pay dividends?
    Again, you are giving him credit for something that may not have been his doing. Sure, he had a say in the draft, but he is not the GM.

    The Rams' last two drafts were fairly good overall. That said, there were some pretty bad "misses" (Klopfenstein, Alston, Byrd) in 2006.

    I don't think you're looking hard enough.

    We both know that if a new coaching staff is brought in, there will be changes that will require time, maybe substantial time.
    Several people have argued that a new system will take multiple years to install and succeed. Where's the evidence of this? I've seen a lot of "new systems" succeed (or at least result in improvement) in the first year they were in place. Have the Cowboys suffered this year from their coaching change?

  11. #11
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    Re: The "offensive" offensive line

    Quote Originally Posted by AvengerRam View Post
    No. That's a myth. The Rams offense was not exactly "new." Rather, it was a modification of an existing system. Also, the offense was really productive for a stretch of about a third of a season. That's not much to go on.
    It was a new system. Because some players were having trouble adjusting to it, Linehan talked to a few guys and made some modifications to incorporate parts of the Martz system in an effort to make the transition easier. It worked. Despite the adjustment period, the Rams ended up the 6th ranked total offense in the NFL, were at the top of the heap in red zone efficiency and produced two Pro Bowl players who had career years.

    Quote Originally Posted by AvengerRam View Post
    I don't know that Linehan brought in Haslett. I also don't know how much Linehan has really contributed to the defense's progress.
    Linehan was hired as the head coach. He talked to Haslett, liked what he heard and brought him on board. You may not want to give him any credit, but from what he says in his weekly press conferences, he sounds involved in what's going on with the defense.

    Quote Originally Posted by AvengerRam View Post
    Again, you are giving him credit for something that may not have been his doing. Sure, he had a say in the draft, but he is not the GM.
    As the head coach, Linehan most definitely had a major say in the draft.

    Quote Originally Posted by AvengerRam View Post
    The Rams' last two drafts were fairly good overall. That said, there were some pretty bad "misses" (Klopfenstein, Alston, Byrd) in 2006.
    You're right, the last two drafts were fairly good and you're always going to have misses. It's rather curious that you would make the point that Linehan doesn't really deserve credit for the players drafted, then bring up the "bad misses". Are you just hedging your bet?

    Quote Originally Posted by AvengerRam View Post
    Several people have argued that a new system will take multiple years to install and succeed. Where's the evidence of this? I've seen a lot of "new systems" succeed (or at least result in improvement) in the first year they were in place. Have the Cowboys suffered this year from their coaching change?
    I'm not sure what changes the Cowboys made this year so it's hard for me to have an opinion, but I do know that they have had a healthy team this year and that's going to make a difference.

  12. #12
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    Re: The "offensive" offensive line

    So Av, why does Linehan get the blame for all things bad, but you refuse to acknowledge credit for things that are good? Makes no sense. Seems to me Linehan has a hand in all of the good and bad, so doesn't he deserve part of the blame/credit for it all?

  13. #13
    AvengerRam's Avatar
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    Re: The "offensive" offensive line

    No, my point is that there has not been a heck of a lot of good.

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