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  1. #1
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    Incognito Could Take Center Stage

    Wednesday, September 13, 2006

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Soon after losing center Andy McCollum for the season to a torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligament, Rams coach Scott Linehan began evaluating the options for how best to piece together an offensive line.

    When McCollum went down in the second quarter against Denver, the Rams simply plugged backup Larry Turner into the spot. Although Turner got solid reviews for his performance against the Broncos, his work didn’t necessarily solidify the starting job for him.

    On Wednesday, the Rams began further exploring their options at center with left guard Richie Incognito as the key element in the experiment.

    “You have to ask yourself, ‘Are we weakening two positions or are we getting our best five in the game?’” Linehan said. “Because we have a week and we are playing for an entire season as opposed to somebody that is out for a week or two, our plan is to start now as opposed to waiting for two weeks from now to start playing our best five out there. We have to go through that evaluation and the only way we can do that is to try it.”

    Linehan says a final decision on who will be starting in McCollum’s place this week and, perhaps, the rest of the season, will likely be made after tomorrow’s practice. During Wednesday’s workout, Incognito got his share of repetitions at center, but Turner and recent addition Brett Romberg also got some work in.

    As it stands, it appears Incognito could have the inside track on the center job with Todd Steussie sliding in at left guard. That isn’t official, but it seems to be the direction the situation is heading.

    Should that turn out to be the case, Incognito will be making his first appearance at center since his freshman year at Nebraska. As a true freshman, Incognito worked with the scout team as he took a redshirt. During his redshirt freshman year he played in a couple of games at center, but he hasn’t been the man in the middle since.

    With that in mind, Incognito knows it’s going to be a big adjustment sliding a spot to the right.

    “(It’s) two totally different worlds,” Incognito said. “There's center, there's guard, there's tackle. It's three different things. It's the difference between chess and backgammon. Center's a thinking man's spot. You've got to think. You've got to react to what they're giving you. And you've got to let everybody know what's going on.”

    For the record, Incognito classifies center as chess or a thinking man’s game while guard is backgammon and tackle is more like chutes ‘n ladders. Regardless, Incognito has some work to do to take over for the always durable and steady McCollum.

    A center in the NFL has a plethora of responsibilities ranging from something as simple as snapping the ball to the quarterback to as complicated as recognizing an opponent’s defense and making the correct protection call.

    “The important thing is getting the ball up to the quarterback so we can get playing,” Linehan said. “I’m not as worried about (the calls) as I am about making sure we handle the exchange without any problems.”

    Still, the calls are a big part of what a center does. Turner is clearly comfortable with that aspect of the job since he has played center exclusive for Linehan. But that doesn’t mean Incognito doesn’t know the calls, either.

    “Both of them have done it,” Linehan said. “Larry has done it more within what we are doing in our system. Richie knows them. He just hasn’t been the one saying them. It’s just a matter of now being the one that vocalizes the calls. The calls being made by the center directly affect the left guard so he knows exactly what the calls are and when they have got to be made. It just takes a little bit of time and comfort. Larry has been doing it and has done well. It’s important, but we keep it pretty basic and simple to where he’s going to make a call to a certain linebacker or a protection call and execute the technique.”

    Like any position that was up for grabs in training camp, Linehan and his staff are approaching the battle for the starting center job like an open competition. Incognito, Turner and Romberg will get reps with quarterback Marc Bulger during this week’s practice.

    Although only one of those players will be handling the snaps against San Francisco, Linehan says it is important to have depth because losing a center and having nobody to snap the ball is a coach’s worst nightmare.

    “The center spot is the one that makes you the most nervous going into the game…that if you lose your center, what are you going to do?” Linehan said. “Not that anyone is less important, it’s just easier for a guy to swing from guard to guard or tackle to tackle. You lose your center now you have got some issues if you haven’t been taking snaps all week with somebody.”

    With Incognito, Turner and Romberg working at center this week in practice, the Rams won’t enter Sunday’s game without a couple of centers capable of handling the snaps. And though Turner might be a bit frustrated that he must compete for the spot, Linehan says his role remains important whether he’s the starter.

    “I’m sure Larry probably feels like we don’t have confidence in him,” Linehan said. “I explained to him it has nothing to do with him. What’s going to happen now is we have to give ourselves depth at the position. We were weakened at the position because of an injury. It is a competition and the best man is going to win the job. That’s how we are always going to do it. We have to do our best as coaches to try to get what we feel and think are our best five.”

    Whether Linehan will actually announce who will start Sunday remains to be seen, but it appears that he is preparing for all possible scenarios at the position. If indeed Incognito wins out, he knows he has to be on top of his game because the move to center could last longer than a game.

    “You've got to really know what everyone's doing because you're directing all the traffic,” Incognito said. “So I've got to know what the left tackle's doing, what the right tackle's doing, where the tight end's going. I've got to make the 'points.' So it's a lot more than in college. In college, it was, 'OK, I've got the guy over me, I'm just going to maul him.' That was it.”

    Now, it’s a whole lot more.


  2. #2
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    Re: Incognito Could Take Center Stage

    The way I see this working out is Ingonito going over to center and Stuessie playing left gaurd. That is my prediction for Sunday.

  3. #3
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    Re: Incognito Could Take Center Stage

    Thats a good prediction although I'd rather see as follows:

    LT Pace
    LG Setterstorm
    C Incognito

    RG Timmerman
    RT Barron

    Put in another young and good OG instead of an Old OG that can't as seen in preseason be a force anymore.
    RamsFan16

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    Re: Incognito Could Take Center Stage

    Quote Originally Posted by RamWraith View Post
    The way I see this working out is Ingonito going over to center and Stuessie playing left gaurd. That is my prediction for Sunday.
    Agreed, seems like the best idea for us at the moment.


    Always and Forever a fan of the St. Louis Rams

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    Re: Incognito Could Take Center Stage

    How can anyone conclude that what they saw of steussie in preseason means that he cant be a force anymore. Nearly all, if not all, of what steussie did in preseason was at tackle anyway, a different postion. When are some people going to learn that preseason is preseason. Did anyone see sorrestom out playing effectively against the number ones to give anyone reason to believe that he is ready to start at the nfl level? I think the legitimate argument is whether goldberg is a better guard right now than steussie and i defer to the coaches on that.

    I am a huge sorrestrom fan, but i want to win right now and i am not interested in experimenting with a totally 100% unproven rookie as a starter when it isnt necessary. If the coaches think he is the best guy to play, i would support giving him the shot, but not based on anything that anyone on this board saw in preseason.

    ramming speed to all

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    Re: Incognito Could Take Center Stage

    Other than younger another reason I pick Setterstorm is that San Fran has a weak defensive line and he will eventually start for us. This game would be a good game to get him adjusted because I don't feel Timmerman can stay healthy all year. Therefor if Timmerman goes down Setterstorm will be ready.
    RamsFan16

  7. #7
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    Re: Incognito Could Take Center Stage

    Quote Originally Posted by RamsFan16 View Post
    Put in another young and good OG instead of an Old OG that can't as seen in preseason be a force anymore.
    So not only would we be moving Incognito to center and out of the position he's trained in and has become familiar with in this offense, but we're going to start another inexperienced lineman beside him? Simply because Steussie, at tackle in preseason games, didn't impress you?

    Yikes. :x


    Quote Originally Posted by general counsel View Post
    Nearly all, if not all, of what steussie did in preseason was at tackle anyway, a different postion.
    Exactly. Incognito said it himself: "There's center, there's guard, there's tackle. It's three different things." What we saw of Steussie at tackle... in the pre-season... is likely not going to be major factors in whether or not he's going to be able to play guard for us. Nevermind the fact that Steussie brings the kind of veteran presence back to the line that a rookie like Setterstrom does not have.


    Quote Originally Posted by general counsel View Post
    I am a huge sorrestrom fan
    So much so that you can't spell his name.


    Quote Originally Posted by RamsFan16 View Post
    he will eventually start for us.
    HUGE assumption. Like, GALACTIC. Maybe down the line he could develop into a starter, but already saying in Week Two of his rookie season without having seen any action that he WILL eventually start? Pull back on the reins, please. You're only setting yourself up for disappointment when you set giant expectations like this for seventh round players.
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  8. #8
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    Re: Incognito Could Take Center Stage

    I say just start Larry Turner at C based on his performance vs. Denver and also for the fact that Incognito played well at G. Incognito needs a chance to "maul" people from the G position and let (the former All-American from Miami at C) Romberg be the backup. Steussie is important depth at both T spots. Just my 2 cents.

  9. #9
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    Re: Incognito Could Take Center Stage

    keep larry at centre give the guy a go or why didnt they cut/trade him and get someone they had more confidence in??

    keep `cog and larry in their natural positions!

  10. #10
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    Re: Incognito Could Take Center Stage

    I like Richie moving to the center position, and Steussie moving in a G, yep I can live with that!!!!

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  11. #11
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    Re: Incognito Could Take Center Stage

    I'd rather let Turner start and see what happens. At least he's been thru the whole preseason at the position. And I rather see us with one new starter instead of two. Steussie was brought in as a back up tackle and Incognito hasn't worked at center since his freshman year in college. I've seen Turner get manhandled a few times in preseason but I would still give him the start.

  12. #12
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    Re: Incognito Could Take Center Stage

    So if Steussie becomes the starting left gaurd, who is our reserve at tackle? If we were to lose a tackle in a game with Steussie playing gaurd does he shift from gaurd to tackle, which could cause major chemistry issues, or do the coaches put in our number 4 tackle? Because of these questions, I feel that it would be in our best intrest to have Larry at center, and only use Richie there if Larry got hurt in the next 3 to 4 games, since Brett would not understand the offense yet. That's just my two cents though.

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    Re: Incognito Could Take Center Stage

    Quote Originally Posted by RamWraith View Post
    The way I see this working out is Ingonito going over to center and Stuessie playing left gaurd. That is my prediction for Sunday.
    The report I got is exactly what RW predicted!:r
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    Re: Incognito Could Take Center Stage

    Quote Originally Posted by serkicker32 View Post
    So if Steussie becomes the starting left gaurd, who is our reserve at tackle? If we were to lose a tackle in a game with Steussie playing gaurd does he shift from gaurd to tackle, which could cause major chemistry issues, or do the coaches put in our number 4 tackle? Because of these questions, I feel that it would be in our best intrest to have Larry at center, and only use Richie there if Larry got hurt in the next 3 to 4 games, since Brett would not understand the offense yet. That's just my two cents though.
    I thought Stuessie was a veteran guard?:\
    I stopped going to the dentist.......I got tired of the cavity searches!

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    Re: Incognito Could Take Center Stage

    Two days ago, in the 'Who Would You Like to See as the OL Starter?' thread by STLRamFan, we were already anticipating this possibilty:
    _______________________________________________________

    Was thinking...

    PACE - STEUSSIE - INCOGNITO - TIMMERMAN - BARRON


    Get well soon, McCollum. :r I'm rooting for Big Richieeeee!
    _______________________________________________________

    We'll probably know by tomorrow what the actual lineup will be. GO OL!

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