Line woes won't last with help on the way
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Saturday, Aug. 13 2005

Before Friday's preseason opener against Chicago, Rex Tucker was asked how his
former teammates would react to the sight of him lining up at right tackle.

"They'll probably laugh," Tucker said.

Hopefully, they won't still be laughing after about 10 plays or so, right?

"Hopefully," Tucker said, laughing himself.

After six seasons in the National Football League, all as an offensive guard
with the Bears, Tucker made his pro "debut" at tackle Friday, for his new team,
the Rams.

Tucker yielded a sack and was flagged for a false start, so his night's work
hardly qualified as a smashing success. Still, it was far from a disaster.

"Tucker's at a new position, and he just needs to play," coach Mike Martz said
following the Rams' 17-13 preseason victory.

But there was more to it than that. Tucker played the entire game at right
tackle out of necessity as well.

"We're just short (of) people," Martz said.

Particularly at the tackle position. The Rams were minus four tackles Friday.
Orlando Pace (thigh), Grant Williams (back) and Matt Morgan (stinger) were out
with injuries. First-round draft pick Alex Barron, having signed his five-year
contract earlier in the day, was on the sidelines in street clothes.

With right guard Adam Timmerman being held out as he continues his road back
from multiple offseason operations, the Rams were practically in a survival
mode up front against Chicago.

"We're still kind of a taped-together group in the offensive line," Martz said.
"We had to play some guys throughout the (entire) game. We just didn't have
anybody. But that'll change next week. I think we're going to get some of these
guys back."

Pace, and possibly Williams and Morgan, should be ready to play Aug. 21 in San
Diego, the Rams' next preseason game. Barron almost certainly will make his
Rams debut that day as well. Martz may hold Timmerman out of game action one
more week.

Once all the tackles return, Tucker could return to left guard. On Friday,
however, it was all Terrill all the time. Rookie Claude Terrill - aka the "Big
C" - played the entire game at left guard, and didn't embarrass himself.

"We want Claude to play," Martz said. "He's got to get used to playing in the
NFL. ... He needed to come out and play, and get a sense of having to go
through a whole game. I think it's important for him to know the stamina that
he's going to have to have to play an entire NFL game."

Three preseason games remain, but as each week passes, Terrill inches closer
and closer to starting on opening day Sept. 11 in San Francisco.

"I'm 23," Terrill said. "I'm a starter right now for a pro football team.
People would die to be where I am right now. So I'm just trying to take full
advantage of this opportunity."

Tucker is trying to do the same at right tackle, however short-lived his stay
may be at that position.

"It's a work in progress," Tucker said. "I'm learning on the run. I'm doing the
best I can, trying to learn all the stuff. I hope it works out."

When it came to false starts, Tucker was anything but the Lone Ranger for St.
Louis against the Bears. The Rams were flagged for six false starts - five by
the offense, and one by the punt team. Among the offensive linemen, Terrill and
right guard Tom Nutten also were flagged for false starts.

There were times Friday when seven-step drops by Rams quarterbacks were fraught
with peril against Chicago's pass rush. Despite all the offseason and preseason
talk about an improved running game, the Rams managed a modest 79 yards on 25
carries against the Bears.

But running back Steven Jackson did show flashes of excellence with seven
carries for 47 yards, including a 33-yard run on the Rams' first series.

"Steven obviously started out really well," Martz said. "We had some
breakdowns. ...We struggled up front in some of the running game. But he's
going good, boy. He's an exciting back. We get this thing solidified in the
offensive line here in the next couple weeks, and I think it'll be real
exciting."

But at the moment, the progress on defense has outstripped that of the offense.

"Going into this game I felt like the defense was ahead of us (on offense), and
I was excited and anxious to see them play," Martz said.

He wasn't disappointed by what he saw Friday, particularly when the starting
unit was on the field.

"I'm very pleased with that defense," Martz said. "I think the (new)
linebackers made a significant difference."

But Martz stopped well short of any sweeping proclamations - about the defense,
or the team in general.

"We've played one quarter of football with the '1s,' " Martz said. "I mean,
what can you say? But I'm happy with it. Who knows where it's going to go from
here, but it's a good start. That's it."