By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
11/16/2006


Now that Orlando Pace is out for the season, the Rams are going from a potential Hall of Famer at left tackle to ... Goldberg.

No, not the hockey goalie of Mighty Ducks movie fame. The offensive lineman from Edina, Minn.

Nothing against Adam Goldberg, a capable fourth-year pro, but Pace ranks among the most difficult Rams to replace along with quarterback Marc Bulger and defensive end Leonard Little. And the timing for any major change in the offensive line couldn't be worse, because Carolina may have the best defensive front in football.

So is Bulger beefing up his life insurance policy this week?


"No, not yet," Bulger chuckled. "Honestly, the way Goldy came in last week he was facing some pretty good guys on Seattle's team he did a good job. We'll give him a little bit of help. But he can hold his own."

Goldberg, 26, already has proven that. First, when he started at left guard against Detroit, in a game where the line was shuffled because of lingering concussion problems for Pace. And then, Sunday in Seattle, when Pace suffered a torn triceps late in the second quarter and was replaced by Goldberg.

"I know in the past, we've had situations where we've had a couple injuries, and it's been scary to go in there and play," Bulger said.

(Games with Grant Williams, Blaine Saipaia and Rex Tucker filling in at tackle come to mind.)

"But (Todd) Steussie was able to step in when Andy (McCollum) went down, and we felt confident," Bulger continued. "You certainly hate to lose a Hall of Famer, but Goldy's going to do a good job. We have confidence in him, and we're not going to put him out on an island."

After toying with the idea of moving right tackle Alex Barron to the left side, coach Scott Linehan and his staff decided to keep Barron at right tackle and Goldberg at left tackle.



"As we talked it through, we were more comfortable not changing," Linehan said. "We finished the (Seattle) game that way. So there's a certain level of comfort there."

Obviously, the fact that Carolina's monster of a defensive end, Julius Peppers, plays over the opponent's right tackle factored into the decision to keep Barron on the right side.

Without Pace in the lineup, some adjustment in the Rams' offensive approach is a given. It could mean fewer seven-step drops for Bulger, or more emphasis on the running game.

"But you just can't go conservative," Linehan said. "We've still got to move the ball and score and be aggressive."

Scheme-wise, the Rams might be more likely to put a tight end on Goldberg's side. Or have a running back help by chip-blocking on pass plays. But it's not like the Rams are going to reinvent their pass protection schemes in Game 10 of the season.

"We can't change everything," Bulger said. "But we know they're going to attack him, because he's a new guy in there and he's replacing a Pro Bowl player."

Goldberg, acquired in a Sept. 2 trade with Minnesota, is excited about the chance to be a starter for the rest of the season.

"It's kind of a terrible situation when a great opportunity for you comes at such a high cost to one of your teammates," Goldberg said. "Obviously, our hearts are with Orlando. We wish him a speedy recovery. And obviously, it won't be the same without him."

But Goldberg has a confidence about him, and what appears to be an unflappable nature. It's not as if he hasn't played before, either. Before joining the Rams, he started 18 regular-season games and two postseason contests for the Vikings over the 2004 and '05 seasons.

"I think that the offense will keep rolling with me in there," Goldberg said. "I really don't think I'll feel nervous at all. I played these guys almost a year ago at Carolina when I was at Minnesota. I was the starter then, too. Granted, it was at right guard, but it's the same game, going to play the same team. I'm really not psyching myself out about anything."

Getting stressed out over situations doesn't seem to be in his personality.

"My wife would agree with you," Goldberg said. "And she gets mad at me about that. She says, 'You know, sometimes, I'd just like you to get excited about something. Or worked up.'

"I try not to get too worked up, because all I can do is go out there and play the best I can play, and prepare in a manner that will put me in a position to make good plays for this team. So that's what I'm going to do."

Barring an unlikely switch of Peppers to his side, Goldberg will be matched up with veteran defensive end Michael Rucker most of the time Sunday.

Rams coaches gave some thought to moving Steussie out to tackle following Pace's injury, but feel he's better suited to guard at this stage in his career. Steussie, a 13-year pro, agrees with that assessment.

"The realities of some of the things that have diminished as I've gotten older make me more suited to the phone booth than the pasture," Steussie said.

In other words, he's better suited to playing in the more confined area of guard.