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For Rams, juggling begins on the O-line
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Thursday, Sep. 13 2007
Wednesday was moving day at Rams Park. Alex Barron moved from right tackle to
left tackle. Milford Brown moved from right guard to right tackle. And Claude
Terrell moved from left out to a potential spot in the starting lineup at right
Scott Linehan cautioned that no final decisions had been made on the offensive
line. He said that won't happen until Friday. And he said that another line
combination will work together in practice today.
But that's how the Rams' starting unit opened practice Wednesday on the
offensive line. With left tackle Orlando Pace (shoulder injury) out for the
season, and right guard Richie Incognito (ankle) probably out for the next
couple weeks, the Rams could line up Sunday against San Francisco with only two
offensive line starters in the same spot from the Week 1 loss to Carolina: left
guard Mark Setterstrom and center Brett Romberg.
As quarterback Marc Bulger put it, "We're mixing and matching right now."
As Bulger is quick to point out, that is nothing new.
"I've been dealing with that since I've been here," he said.
Since Bulger became the team's primary starting quarterback in 2002, he has
played behind 19 offensive line combinations. It will become 20 on Sunday. With
the exception of the 2003 season, he never has started more than five
consecutive games with the same five starters on the offensive line.
(In the 2003 season, all five starters on the offensive line started all 16
regular-season games, plus the playoff loss to Carolina. And 2003 was the Rams'
last division championship season.)
"There's no need to panic," Bulger said. "Throughout the year, you're going to
lose guys here and there. To lose three — Todd (Steussie), Richie, and Orlando
— I'm not going to minimize it. But at the same time, I think we do have guys
that are capable of stepping in.''
Adam Goldberg, who began practice with the second offense, got some work at
right tackle Wednesday.
While Linehan still may be mulling over line combinations, it's almost a
certainty that Barron will be the team's left tackle for the rest of the
season. Protecting the quarterback's blind side is of paramount importance in
the NFL, and Barron clearly is the best pass blocker on the roster not named
"Alex has had a fine offseason and (training) camp for us at right tackle,"
Linehan said. "Just his improvement in his play makes me very confident if he
does play the left side for us, that he's going to do a great job. ... We're
very early in the season, and we're moving him to another position, but I
really believe that Alex is going to have a great season for us."
At Florida State, Barron frequently switched from right tackle to left tackle —
and vice versa — depending on the strength of the formation. But he spent most
of his time on the left side in college.
"That's helps a little bit," Barron said. "There's a lot of changes that need
to be made as far as technique and stance. Over the next couple days, and the
next few weeks, I'm just going to try to tighten up as fast as I can."
Barron's only NFL experience at left tackle came in the 2005 season, when Pace
left in the first half against Houston because of hip and leg injuries. Barron
finished the game at left tackle, but was back on the right side the following
Meanwhile, if Brown ends up starting at right tackle, it will be at a position
that he has very little experience playing. Not since his high school days in
Montgomery, Ala., has Brown been a full-time tackle.
Terrell wasn't even in uniform last week for the Carolina game. He incurred
Linehan's wrath by showing up late for a team meeting last Friday, and was
fined for that indiscretion.
"It's right there, hanging up," Terrell said, pointing to his fine notification
letter pinned to the side of his locker stall. "I'm not taking it down. It's a
constant reminder for the next couple months. That's the only one you want."
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