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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Offensive Line's Future Could Be Bright

    Monday, January 8, 2007
    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    For the better part of the past few years, the question has lingered in the minds of many Rams and their fans.

    How would the team rebuild its offensive line when the likes of guard Adam Timmerman and center Andy McCollum got closer to the end of their careers?

    While Timmerman and McCollum aren’t done yet and have given no indication that they will be stepping aside this offseason, the final three games of the 2006 season gave some resounding answers to that suddenly pressing query.

    With McCollum out for the season with a knee injury, left tackle Orlando Pace out for the year with a torn triceps and Timmerman battling a rib injury, the door opened for some young linemen to take hold of an opportunity in the present that could pave the way for their future.

    Richie Incognito bounced from position to position, looking for a permanent home. Rookie Mark Setterstrom stepped in at left guard with the inexperienced Brett Romberg at center.

    Regardless of years in the league or games played, the offensive line came together, paving the way for running back Steven Jackson’s breakout season. In the final three games of the year, with Romberg at center, Setterstrom at left guard and Incognito at right guard, the Rams ran over the Raiders, Redskins and Vikings.

    In other words, the future could be now.

    “I have an offensive line that’s very hungry and young as well, so when we get some of our guys back like Orlando (Pace), and pick some things up in the draft, get another year under our belt with the offense, I think it’s very scary for us in the future as an organization,” Jackson said.

    Adding perennial all-everything tackle Pace to the mix should only bring more stability to a line that seems set to start next season in the shape it had at the end of this one.

    Of course, the Rams will look into free agency and the NFL Draft for depth and experience, but based on the way the line finished, there’s a strong chance it could look something like Pace, Setterstrom, Romberg, Incognito and Alex Barron from left to right at the outset of the season.

    “We’re still finding things out about players, but at least now I think we have a pretty good idea of the core players we have, and the young players we brought in, what they’re going to be able to do for us next year,” coach Scott Linehan said. “We know a lot more about this football team now than we certainly did when we took over as a staff, as a new team, last year less than a year ago, that’s for sure.”

    Perhaps none of the showings by the young linemen were more impressive than Romberg. While Incognito and Setterstrom’s reputations were known because of their status as Rams draft picks, Romberg was a bit of an unknown because the team picked him up during the season.

    The Rams signed Romberg on Sept. 12, familiar with him only through offensive line coach Paul Boudreau’s experience with him in Jacksonville. Romberg had a sterling reputation in college where he was a dominant center for Miami.

    But Romberg never got much of a chance with the Jaguars and the time spent on the sidelines drove him up the wall. After coming to St. Louis, it took Romberg all of a week to become familiar with the offense.

    Finally, on Nov. 26, Romberg got his first spot duty of the season, filling in for Incognito when Incognito suffered an injury in the third quarter. With Timmerman battling injury, Romberg made his first NFL start against Oakland on Dec. 17. He finished the season as the starter.

    “It’s awesome,” Romberg said. “I am just so happy to contribute. I have kind of been held back and sitting on the bench and the opportunity to get on the field and smell some grass has been excellent. Just to contribute is awesome.”

    Romberg has become a key cog to a developing young line. Even receiver Torry Holt noted Romberg’s work as a player who was given an opportunity and did everything he could to take advantage of it. In the process, he set himself up for next year.

    While Romberg was proving himself capable, Incognito and Setterstrom were bashing heads as ferocious run blockers capable of handling even the toughest opponents. In the season finale against the Vikings, the interior trio handled Minnesota’s giant defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams as Jackson rumbled for 142 yards.

    With that trio plus Barron and Pace seemingly locked in, one important piece to the line that the Rams would like to bring back is tackle Todd Steussie. Steussie was originally brought in to be the team’s backup tackle, but he ended up starting inside before moving back outside as the injuries accumulated.

    Along the way, Steussie picked up the role of leader to the young linemen. Any questions about a call or technique? Ask Steussie. Want to see how a veteran goes about his business? Watch Steussie. Steussie was to Setterstrom and the young linemen what Stephen Davis was to Jackson. That is, a mentor and a teacher.

    Steussie will hit the free agent market in March because of new rules to the collective bargaining agreement that state he cannot re-sign with his team until then. Steussie says he is interested in returning as the mentor to the youngsters, but owes it to himself to see what is out there for him.

    “I have been told that but they also understand that I would like to play,” Steussie said. “Orlando being here, left tackle is locked up for obvious reasons and we have some young guys that played well at guard. The reality of the league is that the younger option is always the right one. It’s about the fact that very best case scenario I am considered a two, three year option at best. You have a young guy who they think they might be able to groom for a 12 year starter, I mean; I just realize that’s the situation at hand. So we will see how things play out.”

    It will be a few months before the line and the rest of the roster come together. Setterstrom and Incognito could still use some work as pass blockers, Pace has a long rehab ahead of him and Barron still needs to cut down on mental errors. Even the status of guard Claude Terrell remains in question.

    But there’s no doubt that in the small sample size everyone was given at the end of the year, the future suddenly looks bright for the offensive line.

    “You have a 1,500-yard rusher, you have those receivers and Bulger,” Romberg said. “You have your running back, your quarterback and your receiver going to the Pro Bowl it is a testament to the offensive line. All year long these guys have been playing well. When their time has been called, whoever’s opportunity was called; they have picked it up and got it done. You have to be excited about that.”


  2. #2
    Varg6's Avatar
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    Re: Offensive Line's Future Could Be Bright

    I agree with the future line, at first I was iffy with moving Incognito to the right guard after having him at center I thought he was doing well...but now it seems its Romberg's job and this line has definitely shown that they deserve to be starting. They gave Jackson 100 yard games...yes it does help to be Steven Jackson and do that, BUT the line really did help him out, and I think we found that thing that I've been preaching all along (at least with the o-line and running and protection...)...its called, CHEMISTRY!


    Always and Forever a fan of the St. Louis Rams

  3. #3
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    Re: Offensive Line's Future Could Be Bright

    the way they played against the Vikings great run defense gives me hope for the future. However the Rams need to bring in competition for the interior spots (and maybe for Barron) so that they get pushed and have to work for their job

  4. #4
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    Re: Offensive Line's Future Could Be Bright

    Quote Originally Posted by tomahawk247 View Post
    the way they played against the Vikings great run defense gives me hope for the future. However the Rams need to bring in competition for the interior spots (and maybe for Barron) so that they get pushed and have to work for their job
    Competition is key,it keeps everybody on their toes and this add's depth.. Which is definitely needed as the season is soo demanding,and injuries are gonna occur at some point..:l

  5. #5
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    Re: Offensive Line's Future Could Be Bright

    definitely need depth because we always seem to get OL injuries. However, i think that lack of competition for his starting job is the reason Barron hasnt been trying that hard

  6. #6
    81~BIG-GAME's Avatar
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    Re: Offensive Line's Future Could Be Bright

    Quote Originally Posted by tomahawk247 View Post
    definitely need depth because we always seem to get OL injuries. However, i think that lack of competition for his starting job is the reason Barron hasnt been trying that hard
    I don't think that Barron isn't necessarily trying,IMO he needs to be more accountable for the mistakes he continually committs..We like most teams get dinged up front,mainly due to the physical nature and combat that is involved in the trenches,that's why it is very important to be deep there..:l

  7. #7
    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: Offensive Line's Future Could Be Bright

    Love this article....

    Yes, Jackson had great numbers running behind this young line. What about Bulger? " PASS BLOCKING" We must cut down on the sacks (49)...The poor guy made it through a full season, think we got lucky. We have to have a healthy Bulger for every game!!!

  8. #8
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    Re: Offensive Line's Future Could Be Bright

    Quote Originally Posted by laram0 View Post
    Love this article....

    Yes, Jackson had great numbers running behind this young line. What about Bulger? " PASS BLOCKING" We must cut down on the sacks (49)...The poor guy made it through a full season, think we got lucky. We have to have a healthy Bulger for every game!!!
    That is a good point,to long our QB's have been taking a beating..IMO Kurt Warner would have lasted a lot longer at the pinnacle of the game had he not taken so many shots..Bulger is fast becoming an elite QB himself and thus we must have him on the field,so he has to be better protected..And the better protection he gets,the more long passing plays will become available..Indy realise that Manning is their most important player so they do their damnest to make sure he takes as few shots as possible and as Marc is one of our's it's time to keep him healthy..Last year was a miracle that he played 16 games(even with 3 banged up ribs) but we may not be so lucky next year if we continue to give up 49 or thereabouts sacks..:l

  9. #9
    coy bacon Guest

    Re: Offensive Line's Future Could Be Bright

    Quote Originally Posted by RamWraith View Post
    Monday, January 8, 2007

    Regardless of years in the league or games played, the offensive line came together, paving the way for running back Steven Jackson’s breakout season. In the final three games of the year, with Romberg at center, Setterstrom at left guard and Incognito at right guard, the Rams ran over the Raiders, Redskins and Vikings.

    In other words, the future could be now.

    You have to be excited about that.”

    I'm hoping that these 3 guys are like Kurt Warner, unknown but great at their positions. Our OL has has so many problems and has been weak for the last few years. There is a little Pollyanna in my hoping / believing that the guys who were playing at the end of this season prove to be studs, (along with Steussie), and next year we'll pick up were we left off this year, even against tougher competition.

    Yes, the buds of 2007 optimisim are springing forth early. Ahh, in hope I smell the fragrance of success and the aroma of crushing the Scarlet Miners.

  10. #10
    LongTimeFan's Avatar
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    Re: Offensive Line's Future Could Be Bright

    Originally posted by laram0

    Yes, Jackson had great numbers running behind this young line. What about Bulger? " PASS BLOCKING" We must cut down on the sacks (49)...The poor guy made it through a full season, think we got lucky. We have to have a healthy Bulger for every game!!!
    How many sacks did the line give up the final three games?

  11. #11
    blood85 Guest

    Re: Offensive Line's Future Could Be Bright

    Maybe adding a solid free agent OL man, could help solidify our offensive line. Also could help us, incase someone gets injured.

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