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Rams have familiar names on revamped offensive line
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Wednesday, Aug. 31 2005
Pace, Nutten, McCollum, Timmerman and Tucker. Watching the Rams block the
Detroit defense Monday night at Ford Field was like going through a time warp
back to the heyday of the Greatest Show on Turf.
As Tom Nutten put it, "It seems like we're back to the old times."
During the 2000 and 2001 seasons, the Rams' starting offensive line consisted
of Orlando Pace at left tackle; Nutten at left guard; Andy McCollum at center;
Adam Timmerman at right guard; and a Tucker at right tackle.
OK, it was Ryan Tucker at right tackle four years ago. Now, it's younger
brother Rex manning the position. But it might as well be Ryan.
"Especially if you talk to Rex," Nutten said. "The similarities. The way they
look. The way they play."
It's the same.
Now, if only the Rams' offensive line can block the same in its Reunion Tour,
"This is the line that we're going to play the season with," coach Mike Martz
said, following the Rams' 37-13 victory in Detroit. "These guys have played
good for a lot of years now. And this is the first time we've had that group
together now for quite some time. Healthy."
As the Rams constructed their roster in the offseason, and worked through
training camp and the preseason, this was not the starting line many observers
The left guard, right tackle and right guard situations have been in flux since
the start of training camp. At left guard, a struggling Tucker quickly gave way
to surprising rookie Claude Terrell. But Terrell's play leveled off, leading to
a carousel of players at the position last week. On successive days, Blaine
Saipaia, Terrell, and Nutten were the starting left guards.
At right guard, the Rams had been in a holding pattern while Timmerman rehabbed
sufficiently from offseason shoulder and foot operations. It was a slow-go
there because of soreness in the foot, with Timmerman staying out of contact
work and sitting out the first two preseason games.
At right tackle, any chance of first-round draft pick Alex Barron opening the
season as the starter ended when he missed more than two weeks of camp in a
contract stalemate. Tucker was moved to right tackle, a position he had not
played previously in six NFL seasons (with Chicago). Tucker struggled there
early, particularly with his pass blocking.
"We've had a lot of different combinations, and it's good in a way," Timmerman
said before the Detroit contest. "A lot of guys are getting reps. But it's bad
in a way - we really haven't settled in to these five guys that are ready to go
all the time."
But that changed Monday in Detroit. Timmerman made his first start of the
preseason at right guard, and made it through unscathed health-wise. Nutten
started at left guard for the first time since last season. And Tucker played
surprisingly well at right tackle.
Granted, the Lions were missing two defensive line starters: end James Hall and
Pro Bowl tackle Shaun Rogers. But the Rams dominated the line of scrimmage,
averaging 8.4 yards a carry on the ground in the first half, and giving
quarterback Marc Bulger enough time to do plenty of damage in the passing game.
"Steven (Jackson) is a horse," Bulger said. "He's a great back. But there were
some holes there for him, too."
As for the passing game, Bulger said: "When you're getting your passes off and
you're not ending up on the ground, it's a huge relief. You could see Detroit's
quarterbacks spent a lot of time on the ground. ... It's all about the
offensive line. In the NFL, it's tackling and blocking."
Martz singled out Nutten and Tucker in particular for their play against
"I thought Tommy Nutten was spectacular," Martz said. "I use that term
'spectacular' because in all the years I've been here with Tommy, he's never
played as well. And he's never practiced as well. He just looks terrific."
As for Tucker, Martz said, "I thought that Ryan. ..."
It's Rex, coach.
"Rex Tucker was exceptional this game," Martz said, correcting himself. "I was
very, very pleased with how physical he played the game. Stayed composed.
Stayed true to all the technique that we asked him to do in the pass
protections. He picked things up very well."
Nutten was called out of retirement in August 2004 when the Rams lost several
linemen to injury. Surprisingly, he came back for more football this July
following career- threatening reconstructive toe surgery in the offseason.
Five weeks since the start of training camp, Nutten suddenly finds himself
starting. Did he expect this?
"Uh, no," he said. "Absolutely not. Hey, we've still got two weeks to go. We're
still not there yet. Like I said when I was coming in, I'll do the best that I
can, and the coaches can slot me anywhere they want to."
So far, he has had good days, and some not-so-good days with the toe.
"The big thing, always, is staying healthy," Nutten said. "Especially with me."
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Re: Rams have familiar names on revamped offensive line
Can these guys stay healthy? I sure hope so.
Isn't Nutten barely able to walk? Amazing.
I like all these guys.