Barron Poised for a Breakout
Thursday, August 3, 2006
By Nick Wagoner
A year ago around this time, Alex Barron was at home in Orangeburg, S.C., awaiting a contract offer from the Rams that would meet he and his agent’s desires.
This year, though, things are much different for Barron. After a 16-day holdout that was trumped among first-rounders only by Chicago running back Cedric Benson, Barron reported to St. Louis on Aug. 11, 2005.
For all intents and purposes, Barron is actually participating in his first professional training camp.
“To tell you the truth, when I got here last year they had already played the Bears and camp was about over with,” Barron said. “This is actually like my first camp. It’s all right. It’s something everybody has to go through every year to get ready for the season.”
The time Barron missed last season probably cost him a shot at being the starter at right tackle for the entirety of his rookie season. Soon after the Rams used the 19th pick in the draft on Barron, he was declared the starter by coach Mike Martz.
But Barron fell behind during the holdout as he initially had trouble switching to the right side after playing a lot of left tackle at Florida State. He also was way behind on the playbook because of all the missed installation periods. So, Barron was declared inactive for the first two games of the regular season.
“It was kind of difficult,” Barron said. “I was learning the plays, learning the system and coming from college (adjusting) to the speed of the game and things like that.”
Finally, on Sept. 25 against Tennessee, Barron got his first action, replacing a struggling Blaine Saipaia at right tackle. Barron manhandled Titans’ defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch repeatedly and recovered a key fumble in the fourth quarter. He had staked his claim to a starting job he would not relinquish the rest of the season were it not for a hand injury.
Barron went on to start 11 games, playing in 12 and acquitted himself well against the likes of the Giants defensive end Michael Strahan. Still, Barron was not content with his debut season.
“You can’t really ever be satisfied,” Barron said. “As a team, we had some different things goal wise and individual. You can never be satisfied you just look to the next year to get better.”
For Barron, one aspect of getting better meant working diligently in the offseason to improve his physical stature. He played last season in the 315-320 pound range, but estimates that he somewhere below 310 pounds right now. In the opening days of training camp, Barron has looked slimmer yet stronger.
To get to the level that he wants, though, the real task for Barron will be improving on the mental aspects of the game. Silly errors plagued Barron as a rookie and it’s something he and coach Scott Linehan hope to improve this year.
“He has shown he is still a young player with the mistakes he makes more pre-snap than post-snap,” Linehan said. “He still has those issues. I’m not harping on the negative, but he’s got to grow up. You have to make great strides from your rookie year to your second year.”
Barron committed 16 penalties in his 12 appearances last season with nine false starts. In one particularly bothersome sequence against Jacksonville on Oct. 30, Barron committed an illegal use of the hands penalty, an illegal touching penalty and a false start on three consecutive plays. He finished that game with four total penalties, costing the Rams 25 yards of field position.
Barron believes if he can cut out those kinds of mistakes, he can become the type of bookend to left tackle Orlando Pace that will be able to shut down opponents’ pass rush.
“I believe if you get the mental aspect of the game down, everything else will come to you,” Barron said. “I think that’s kind of a big deal. Everybody when you get to the next level is bigger and faster and things like that. That’s everywhere. From what I have seen, the mental aspect of the game takes over so much from college.”
Linehan said before camp he expects plenty of competition on the interior of the line. In other words, everything is set at the tackle positions with Pace and Barron.
Barron said he doesn’t have a set weight for himself, believing he can play anywhere from 300 pounds to 330 pounds. But Linehan has a more ideal weight for his prized young tackle.
“The tackle position requires a lot of anticipation and being smart and knowing how to set certain players so there are a lot of the tricks of the trade you have to learn,” Linehan said. “I think 310ish is fine with his range and ability to have the bulk to block the run game, but have the speed to go out in space like Orlando does and block the speed rush. People will flip ends on you and put guys on you. He’s making good progress.”
Re: Barron Poised for a Breakout
What a bright spot in an otherwise dismal season last year. I remember there was talk that Barron would have problems because he was too "meek or "timid". He quickly dispelled that. Ask Strahan. Its hard to believe he performed as well as he did without any training camp. With Incognito doing well beside Pace, If Terrell can get it together and play more than a few downs without getting gassed, He would be a good fit beside Barron. Next years draft may bring us a Center.