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  1. #1
    Nick's Avatar
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    Rams offensive line shows improvement

    Rams offensive line shows improvement
    By Bryan Burwell | Posted: Sunday, August 22, 2010 12:25 am

    CLEVELAND There were a little more than 30 minutes to go before the start of Saturday evening's football game, and over in the far corner of the eastern end zone of Cleveland Browns Stadium, the Rams' offensive linemen were already engaged in brutal hand-to-hand combat.

    It wasn't quite top speed, but make no mistake, this was serious business. One by one, every one of the starting O-linemen were getting two and three consecutive one-on-one confrontations against their starting defensive line teammates. It was nothing but pure mano-a-mano, smash-mouth duels. Lots of violent bull rushing and head banging, just the sort of pregame ritual needed to get the mind and the body into a frothing, high-energy rush.

    After a week of hearing just how badly out of sorts they looked in last weekend's preseason disaster against the Minnesota Vikings, in which the starting unit allowed starting quarterback A.J. Feeley and high-priced, first-round draft pick Sam Bradford to be rag-dolled all over the Edward Jones Dome, the starting offensive linemen understood the urgency of the moment in Saturday night's second preseason contest with the Cleveland Browns.

    A week ago, they looked like total strangers as they experienced one pass protection breakdown after another, then spent the last six days hearing about it.

    Saturday night even in the steadily pouring rain there was a marked difference in both attitude and production out of the O-line. For the better part of the first half, they did a credible job of keeping unreasonable pressure off Feeley (one series) and Bradford (six series). And while the offense pretty much stalled when the rookie came in (two field goals on a short field), it had as much to do with the absence of Steven Jackson in the backfield as any glaring rookie miscues.

    So consider this the first sign of progress for the woebegone Rams as they begin their daunting climb out of the NFL basement.

    You don't spend much time looking at the final score in a preseason game, particularly since the starting offense and defense are long gone after the first half. But the Rams' first units on offense and defense pretty much won their first-half battles against the Browns' first units, scoring a touchdown on Feeley's only drive, and getting two field goals on Bradford's first two possessions, while the defense pitched a shutout for an early 13-0 lead.

    Better yet, that one opening drive with Jackson in the game showed how critical he is to whatever success this offense will have. With the hard-running Pro Bowl star in the backfield, the Browns defense was forced to constantly consider his presence. On first down, when they loaded up the box to contain Jackson, Feeley calmly threw the ball to tight end Billy Bajema for a 16-yard gain. On the next play, with the defense spread out, Jackson banged through the line for an 11-yard gain. In fact, whenever the Browns were stacking the box, Feeley found a receiver open. Whenever he spread the formation, he was able to get the ball in Jackson's hands for positive yardage as the Rams easily marched downfield for a 10-play, 65-yard touchdown drive to open the game.

    So coach Steve Spagnuolo can surely come away from this game feeling a little more comfortable with his O-line and his intact first-unit offense.

    But now he can move to another concern that is not new but seems to be more glaring than ever.

    What in the world will this team do if it can't find a competent backup to Jackson?

    Everything hinges on Jackson right now. He makes the offensive line look better. He makes Feeley look better. He makes the receivers look better, and you can only imagine how much better he will make Bradford perform whenever the rookie gets a chance to have Jackson line up behind him, too. Unfortunately for Bradford, for the second straight game, he was saddled with second-year tailback Chris Ogbonnaya most of the night.

    The trouble with Ogbonnaya is that he just isn't a stout presence in the backfield. At just a hair over 6 feet and maybe 215 pounds, he isn't the kind of third-down back who can stick his nose in there and pick up a blitzing linebacker or a stunting defensive lineman. He is a small back whose only apparent use is as a third-down receiver, but he looks almost embarrassingly timid when asked to run the ball.

    While Jackson runs with a rage and Cleveland's backup fullback Peyton Hillis is a bulky bull of a runner who refuses to go down even on third or fourth contact, Ogbonnaya repeatedly seems to be looking for a soft place to land the moment he finds the ball stuffed in his midsection by Bradford.

    On one drive after another, Ogbonnaya (seven carries, six yards in the first half) would get the ball and immediately turn it into a drive-killing negative play. In two preseason games, he has gained 14 yards on 13 carries.

    While it remains to be seen how serious Feeley's thumb injury is and how long if at all it keeps him out of the starting lineup, there's little doubt that Bradford will do something more productive than Saturday night's pedestrian (6 of 14 for 24 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs) pass performance if he's called upon to move into the starter's role, even if that promotion might be temporarily ahead of schedule.

    If Feeley can't go Thursday at New England, it will be a huge benefit to Bradford, because it will finally get him on the field with one of the most dangerous running backs and all-around offensive weapons in the NFL.

    But I don't even want to imagine what this offense would look like if anything happens to Jackson this season.

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  2. #2
    AlphaRam is offline Registered User
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    Re: Rams offensive line shows improvement

    All of that being said, we need a decent backup running back.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  3. #3
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    Re: Rams offensive line shows improvement

    Of course we do, all teams do. At least the ones that want to be successful do.

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    Re: Rams offensive line shows improvement

    The question is, at this point, who would be a viable candidate for us?

  5. #5
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Rams offensive line shows improvement

    Quote Originally Posted by rNemesis View Post
    The question is, at this point, who would be a viable candidate for us?
    Chances are the Rams will be looking for someone who gets cut during the roster purge; there's not much out there now, but might be at the end of the month.
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  6. #6
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    Re: Rams offensive line shows improvement

    Quote Originally Posted by AlphaRam View Post
    All of that being said, we need a decent backup running back.

    RB Keith Toston didn't look that bad. I would like to see him in there with a dry field this Thursday

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