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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Quantity & Quality: Rams offensive line

    By Jim Thomas
    2007 Football Preview
    Quarterback Marc Bulger is well protected behind an offensive line that includes Orlando Pace (76) and Richie Incognito (68).
    (Chris Lee/P-D)

    Right tackles Fred Miller and Ryan Tucker are still playing but are long gone from St. Louis. Left guard Tom Nutten is enjoying retirement. Right guard Adam Timmerman was released in February. At center, Andy McCollum is battling for a starting job at age 37.

    One by one, members of one of the best offensive lines this town has ever seen have fallen away. Left tackle Orlando Pace looks around and sees few familiar faces. This is a Rams offensive line in transition. But as Pace sees it, that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

    "I think it's going to be fun," Pace said. "Out of something bad, something good always happens. Last year, when I went down and Andy went down, those (young) guys got some valuable experience. So they're like veterans now. They have all the confidence in the world."

    McCollum suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 2006 opener against Denver. Pace missed Game 4 against Detroit with a concussion, and then missed the final seven games with a torn left triceps muscle. Except for a cameo role against Washington, Timmerman missed the final three games with a rib injury. All told, the Rams went through nine offensive line starters.

    Out of the chaos of '06, the Rams are looking for continuity and consistency on the offensive line in '07. Youngsters such as Brett Romberg and guards Richie Incognito and Mark Setterstrom proved their mettle when pressed into service last season.

    In the last three games of '06, with Setterstrom at left guard, Romberg at center and Incognito at right guard, the Rams went 3-0, averaging 33 points and 171 yards rushing per game.

    "It was almost shocking to see how well we did," said Romberg, speaking of the line as a whole. "It was a lot like back in my (University of) Miami days, where it was just a bunch of young guys hungry, starving, waiting to get out there on the field and show what they've got and prove people wrong.

    "We just came together. We were high-fiving each other in the huddle. We were banging heads me and Jack (Steven Jackson). And I was messing with Torry (Holt). Singing in the huddle. Things like that. It just felt great. It felt like home."

    Whether it's Romberg or McCollum at center, the interior of the Rams' offensive line now looks like a team strength, with quality and quantity. After sitting out the entire '06 season with a wrist injury, Claude Terrell, who started 10 times as a rookie in '05, is healthy and rounding into form. Late July pickup Milford Brown, who started 12 times last season for Arizona and 12 more in '05 for Houston, provides depth and another big body at guard.

    Throw in backup tackles Todd Steussie and Adam Goldberg and the Rams have 10 players on their camp roster with NFL starting experience.

    "That really helps us down the stretch if somebody goes down, an injury happens or something like that," Pace said. "Somebody can step in, and hopefully we don't miss a beat."

    All in all, it may be the deepest offensive line the Rams have had since the move to St. Louis in 1995.

    If the offensive line can start this season the way it finished '06, the Rams should be able to maximize the talent they have at the skill positions.

    "There really is no one that is the weakest link," Romberg said. "Obviously, you've got your Pro Bowl guy on the left side (Pace) and future Pro Bowl guy on the right side (Alex Barron). And Richie Incognito, who's one of the best meatheads I've ever seen."


    Despite his reputation as a hothead, Incognito is the comedian of the o-line and its biggest character in terms of personality.

    "But I can see the growth in Richie from year to year," Pace said. "He's not as hyper as his image might (suggest). I think he learned a lot from last year's experience, and I think he'll be better this year."

    Pace sees similar progress and maturity in Barron at right tackle.

    "One thing that's really exciting about Alex this year is that he's talking more," Pace said. "He's willing to learn. He'll come over and ask me questions about certain things. I can see the growth process in him."

    And in the line as a whole.

  2. #2
    macrosenberg Guest

    Re: Quantity & Quality: Rams offensive line

    i dont have problems with this offensive line. i think we have some age but thats not really that big of an issue when it comes to offensive line.

  3. #3
    RealRam's Avatar
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    Re: Quantity & Quality: Rams offensive line

    Quote Originally Posted by Macrosenberg View Post
    I don't have problems with this offensive line. I think we have some age but that's not really that big of an issue when it comes to offensive line.

    That's true. If McCollum makes this year's team, he'll be one of the NFL's oldest veterans (14 seasons) and Steussie is up there too. But our depth provides plenty of rotation and should keep these two warriors breathing normally. Left T Pace is still in his prime, on the down hill of it but still strong and superb at what he does as a starter.
    Last edited by RealRam; -08-27-2007 at 03:59 PM. Reason: Spelling bee

  4. #4
    sprtsmac Guest

    Re: Quantity & Quality: Rams offensive line

    With the way they finished the season last year I am very excited about the future of this O-line. However, they haven't been very dominating during the preseason and that does have me a bit concerned. Hopefully its has something to do with the rotation of the centers, Pace is still rounding into form after the surgery, and its just the preseason. As long as they start the season off the way they finished it I will be very happy.

  5. #5
    Bruce=GOAT's Avatar
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    Re: Quantity & Quality: Rams offensive line

    The O-line for the past several years was always a major concern for the Rams. It now seems that it will be one of our strengths for years to come. Pace is a future HOF, and we have a group of young, hungry road-grating blockers bookended by another potentially great T in Barron.
    Now onto the secondary!
    Seriously though, Tye Hill looks like a budding star, so hopefully Brown can play solid (after 4 games suspension), and Wade will round into a good corner. I watched Jonathan Wade a lot at UT, and my untrained (and uneducated) eye says he will be a solid CB.

  6. #6
    Fat Pang's Avatar
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    Re: Quantity & Quality: Rams offensive line

    I thought that the end part of last season was a look at the future. It was nice to see the coaches have the confidence to commit to their younger guys instead of shopping for guys long since retired as has been done in the past. I liked the way that the interior seemed to be able to launch the running game and was happy that the return of Pace would firm up the pass protection. Barron had problems with the count but he seems to be heading in the right direction on that front.

    This o-line has the potential to be as good as any in the league, and with the 'skill' players we have, that bodes well for this season and many more.

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