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Rams Offensive Line Poised to Be a Team Strength
By Hal Schaeffer | June 3rd, 2008
What a difference a year makes.
At the end of last season, the St. Louis Rams’ offensive line resembled most of the German tanks that took part in the World War II battle of Kursk: shattered hulks rendered completely useless by a calamity of epic proportions. Except for Alex Barron, who somehow escaped the catastrophe, every other starting Ram lineman was injured and out of the lineup for either all or most of the season. Some of the players, such as RG Richie Incognito, suffered two major injuries before finally succumbing to the call of the injured reserve list. By the end of the year, fans definitely needed a program to tell who was playing which position. Street free agents never had it so good.
They say that time heals all wounds, and that surely seems to be the case going into the 2008 training camp. A quick look at the injured list now shows a group of either fully or almost completely healed athletes ready to get back into the trenches and mix it up. And not only that. The team is taking steps in its strength and conditioning program to try to ensure as much as it can that the players are as protected as possible against a repeat of the injury plague of 2007. Most notably, the practice field now sports a 50-yard by 8-yard sand pit that is being extensively used by many of the players, not just the linemen, to strengthen ankles in the hope of reducing those high ankle sprains we were hearing about so much last season.
As it stands now, every offensive lineman, with the exception of Todd Steussie and Andy McCollum, who were released and Rob Petitti, who was injured in January, is expected back for unrestricted practice by the start of training camp. That’s the good news. The better news is that there is considerably more depth across the line than there was in 2007.
As it stands now, I expect to see a starting offensive line on September 7th in Philadelphia that looks like this: LT Orlando Pace, LG Jacob Bell, C Mark Setterstrom, RG Richie Incognito, and RT Alex Barron. That, fans, ain’t chopped liver. Setterstrom is currently in competition with Brett Romberg for the center position and I expect him to win that “snapoff.” Setterstrom, a left guard, has never played center before, but he has been singlemindedly devoting himself to learning the intricacies of the position and by all reports is making excellent progress. He has a size and age advantage over Romberg. If Romberg wins the center job, Setterstrom will back up Bell.
Bell, a solid vet acquired via free agency from the Titans, is an upgrade at left guard and, along with Pace, should make running to the left a pleasure for Steven Jackson and passing a lot less traumatic for Marc Bulger. Pace is Pace, and any return to form by that certain Hall-of-Famer will make the left side of the line as solid as any around. Incognito is a road grader at right guard and a competent pass protector. Richie needs to avoid the stupid penalties, but I love the passion that he plays with. Always have. And, taking a gulp of the Kool-Aid, I really believe that this will be the year that Alex Barron finally gets it all together and plays up to his potential.
Barron isn’t a bad right tackle, and he actually played pretty well as Pace’s replacement last year. But the rap on him, justifiably so, is that he has so much more talent than he has shown, and that his attitude could use a major transplant. Now’s the time, Alex. Thank your personal God that the Dolphins took Jake Long. Take advantage of your reprieve or by this time next year we’ll all be reading about your departure from St. Louis.
The Rams went right after offensive line depth in the draft by selecting G/T John Greco and G Roy Scheuning. Greco may push Barron for playing time if the latter doesn’t measure up, but, frankly, I think both players will use this year to develop their skills further and to be ready if need be to fill in if a vet goes down. Adam Goldberg is a quality backup at either tackle or guard, and former Patriot Brandon Gorin is pencilled in right now as Pace’s backup. However, I think he’ll have to show more than he did last year to keep that status.
Nick Leckey is still on the roster at center, but he is very undersized and unlikely to stick. Others fighting it out for positions include Mark LeVoir (T), Dustin Fry (C/G), and Stephen Sene, an UFA tackle. All are considered longshots, at best. If Fry, who by his own admission was clueless last year, ends up being cut, that will be yet another wasted former draft pick.
So, the ravaged bodies are back, the depth is better, the offensive scheme is fresh and aggressive, and, lest I forget, Anthony Becht is in St. Louis now to add his formidable blocking skills from the tight end position to the offensive line mix.
Sleep well, Marc and Steven, sleep well.
Re: Rams Offensive Line Poised to Be a Team Strength
very good and really improved pending health, but I don't know about strength on the other hand what other group could be our strength
Re: Rams Offensive Line Poised to Be a Team Strength
If (and of course it's a big if) our O-line can stay reasonably healthy our offense is going to have a big year in 2008. It remains to be seen but IMHO I feel like we can take the NFC West in 2008.
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