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  1. #1
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    Offensive Line Finding Chemistry

    Offensive Line Finding Chemistry
    Thursday, October 15, 2009

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Facing its biggest test of the season – both in terms of talent and in sheer size – last week against Minnesota, the Rams offensive line turned in its finest performance of the young season and perhaps one of the better overall efforts by that unit in the past few years.

    With Pro Bowl players such as defensive end Jared Allen and defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams lined up on the opposing side, the offensive line helped the Rams post 400 yards of total offense, 27 first downs and hang on to the ball for more than 32 minutes.

    “I did think the offensive line played pretty well against a really good defensive line,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “I think overall they all did a nice job. We moved the ball on offense. Anytime you can do that, I don’t care whether you’re throwing it or running it, the offensive line is doing something right.”

    And when the offensive line is doing something right – or in the case of last week, a lot of things right – the offense as a whole is a much better unit.

    Minnesota’s defensive line posed many threats with Allen leading the way coming off a 4.5 sack effort against Green Bay. But the Vikings had just two sacks in the game and both could be categorized as a bit strange.

    One came when Rams quarterback Kyle Boller simply dropped the ball and Minnesota was credited with a team sack. The other came on a play when Kevin Williams pulled Boller down by his helmet and was flagged for unnecessary roughness but through a quirk in league rules was still credited with a sack.

    Aside from that, the line kept the quarterback clean and opened some sizable holes for running back Steven Jackson.

    “I think them playing together week in and week out, is really helping,” quarterback Marc Bulger said. “We said that in preseason, we said that back in the spring that that’s important. As they get better working together, it’s going to help Steven. As he gets going, the protection will get better because they can’t bring the extra guy in the box. The O-line, D-line, everyone, that’s the no secret that’s the key to the NFL and everybody is getting a lot better.”

    That growth has probably been stunted by a variety of ailments that have limited the opportunities for the line to play together on a consistent basis.

    Starting back in training camp, the line at various times has lost guard Jacob Bell to a concussion, guard Richie Incognito to a knee issue, tackle Jason Smith to a knee injury and even Alex Barron has been hampered by some nagging issues.

    Only in recent weeks has the line chemistry started to form in a way that is producing tangible results.

    “Linemen have to work together,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “It’s very important that they win the individual battles but what is most important for an offensive line is being able to work together and I think they did an excellent job last week. Once you do it well one week then consistency is what we are looking for.”

    While chemistry for an entire team is hard to gauge because it’s an intangible quality that can’t really be measured in any type of statistical form, it’s a little more evident for an offensive line.

    Most linemen would acknowledge that playing with the same guys next to you on a repeated basis would increase the chances for success because they are able to play off one another.

    For instance, a guard might be able to pick up a stunt from a defensive end or combination block based on a pre-snap read if he knows what the tackle outside him and the center inside him will do in a certain situation.

    “We are always going to continue to improve as a group week in and week out,” center Jason Brown said. “We are always going to be challenged every week by a different scheme or individuals. But that is our goal to improve every week.”

    Against Minnesota, the Rams used a line of Barron at left tackle, Bell at left guard, Brown, Incognito at right guard and Adam Goldberg at right tackle. Goldberg spent much of the preseason at that spot but provides depth at nearly every position on the line and has been effective in place of Smith, who suffered his knee injury early in the season.

    Smith is working his way back into the mix this week and could potentially start again but it seems at this point, the rest of the line is comfortable regardless of which player gets the nod at right tackle.

    “It’s something we continue to work on,” Brown said. “We have had interchangeable parts ever since the beginning of training camp but whoever is in there we have tried to make sure that they get brought up to speed and keep pressing forward.”

    No player recognizes the development and cohesion of an offensive line better than the running back and so far Jackson likes what he sees.

    Five games into the season, the Rams have seen plenty of eight man boxes designed to stop Jackson from getting his yards. Instead, Jackson and Co. are off to an excellent start, as Jackson ranks fourth in the league in rushing yards with 451 and fourth in scrimmage yards with 543.

    Jackson attributes much of that early success to a continually improving line and fullback Mike Karney that he believes will only get better as the season goes on.

    “The offensive line has definitely been growing, from week one all the way to where we are now, we have really been jelling, especially up front,” Jackson said. “Our protections are down, we know what we have to do before hand and I think everyone has grasped the concept of the West Coast offense. Sunday, I think you saw us making plays and I think it will continue on the rest of the year.”

  2. #2
    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: Offensive Line Finding Chemistry

    I'm smelling a win on Sunday.

  3. #3
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    Re: Offensive Line Finding Chemistry

    I hope they continue to play this way. Now that the offensive line is improving, all the other guys need to step it up.

  4. #4
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    Re: Offensive Line Finding Chemistry

    I feel like it all starts with the O Line. If we can give Bulger some time we have the ability to tear up Jax's D because let's face it, their secondary isn't scaring anybody. A couple deep balls to Avery might help open up some space for Jackson and we could be firing on all cylinders. Here's to hoping at least.

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