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  1. #1
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    Rams face tough, Long decision.

    Rams face tough, Long decision

    By Charles Robinson, Yahoo! Sports

    PALM BEACH, Fla. – Thinking aloud, Scott Linehan traces the edges of a picture in his mind. Marc Bulger, Torry Holt and Steven Jackson are huddling around Orlando Pace. Pace’s shoulder is blown, and faces are hanging. It’s Sept. 9 – the first game of the 2007 season, and as symbolism goes, the last, too.

    “We can’t have three of our star players sitting over one of their fallen comrades – who just went in the tank – in the first game,” Linehan says now, recalling Pace’s season ending-ending torn labrum. “We had guys that were absolutely devastated when Orlando went down in the opener. We were playing good football, and that was a changing point maybe in our season.”

    It’s a lasting image. Not just because it may have put a promising 2007 season on the skids, but because it could easily shape the outcome of the NFL draft later this month. With Linehan still qualifying his optimism about Pace’s return in 2008 – “Still a question mark,” the coach says – it’s a very real possibility the Rams shake up the draft and select Michigan’s Jake Long No. 2 overall as the heir-apparent at left tackle.

    Of course, Linehan is doing the shuffle-the-deck routine every time he breathes a word about the upcoming draft, saying the Rams haven’t set their draft board, and that talking about the selection pool would be “educated speculation” at best. But with last season’s searing snapshot of futility in his head, Linehan and the Rams are facing a daunting reality. With Pace turning 33 this November and coming off back-to-back season-ending injuries, St. Louis’ franchise left tackle appears to be declining. And with contract extensions robbing free agency of quality tackles, the Rams could be looking at their first best chance to groom a cornerstone to replace one that appears to be crumbling.

    “With free agency and the cap, you’ve got to be smart with your chances to get the great offensive tackles,” said Kansas City Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards, whose franchise still hasn’t found an adequate replacement for Willie Roaf, who retired after the 2005 season. “You ask yourself, do I think I have a good team? If I do, then I don’t think I’m going to be at the top of the draft often. And if I’m not at the top of the draft, I’m not going to get a shot at many of those 10-year starter, multiple All-Pro kind of guys. The top of the draft is where you have to get them now. You’re not getting them in free agency anymore. You’re not trading for them. You either draft them high, or you hope you get really lucky and one falls into your lap. And if that happens, you should play the lottery.”

    In a nutshell, Edwards was describing the Rams. A team that has many needs, but also feels that if not for injuries last season, it would have competed for the NFC West crown. Certainly the Rams have the offensive pieces to play with anyone, trotting out talents like Jackson, Bulger and Holt – who are all near the top of their positions when healthy. That the Rams fell apart mentally when Pace went down might showcase his overriding value, and quantify just how important it is to replace a player of his caliber in a marketplace that has sucked dry the tackle position.

    This time next season, St. Louis could be entering the first phases of what the Baltimore Ravens have gone through the last two years with Jonathan Ogden. While the Ravens have had time to anticipate Ogden’s departure, the best opportunities they’ve had to groom a replacement have been Adam Terry (already labeled by some in the organization as soft) and the raw-but-talented Jared Gaither. As it stands, both are worlds away from being on Ogden’s level.

    Meanwhile, the Rams’ massive run of injuries last season will likely deliver them to a rare opportunity this month. Undoubtedly, the Rams could fill a pass rushing need with a player like Virginia’s Chris Long or Ohio State’s Vernon Gholston. Or they could go with the best player available and revamp the entire offensive line, plucking Jake Long and pairing him opposite Pace. That would allow the Rams to move athletic but enigmatic tackle Alex Barron to the bench (or as a last resort, try him at guard opposite free agent pickup Jacob Bell).

    “If you’re going to take a tackle (at No. 2 overall), you’ve got to figure out a way to get him on the field,” Linehan said of Jake Long, who he also called “one of the best tackles I’ve ever seen.

    “If that was who we picked, we would have to look at (playing him opposite Pace). That’s assuming Orlando’s ready to go (next season). That’s still a question mark, although we’re very encouraged about where Orlando’s going to be for the next year or two. … There’s no question in my mind (Long) can play either tackle spot. In fact he looks better to me – more comfortable – in his left-hand stance. He played right for two, and left for two in college.”

    Interestingly, Linehan attended two pro days – seeing Long at the University of Michigan’s workouts, and then Chris Long at the University of Virginia. Clearly the organization is high on both players. But while Virginia’s Long could help fill a pass rushing need for a team that had only 4 sacks at defensive end, newly hired director of player personnel Billy Devaney tabbed Chris Long as a more natural defender against the run.

    “I don’t think (pass rushing) is his forte,” Devaney said. “He’s a tremendous run

    down player. He’s an effort pass rusher. Every play, you have to block him to death and if you let up, that’s where he’s going to get his sacks from. &helip; I don’t know if there are complete guys (against the run and pass) or if there’s an every-down player who’s a top pass rusher. There are pass rush specialists and those guys will get elevated.”

    Two of them – Gholston and Virginia’s Long – are expected to shape the top of the draft. But ultimately, it may be what the Rams do at No. 2 that creates the biggest ripples. Should the Miami Dolphins bypass Jake Long, St. Louis will be left with the classic need versus best player available scenario. And how that scenario shakes out will have everything to do with what Linehan remembers about that picture in his head – with his stars all gathering around an injured Pace, watching the 2007 season go south.

    As Linehan said of the experience, “I think we learned a valuable lesson.”

    Now the first chance to apply that lesson may be only weeks away.

    Yahoo! Sports

    I smell smoke, do you?


  2. #2
    Mooselini's Avatar
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    Re: Rams face tough, Long decision.

    Hmmm. I do smell smoke, but I do see a need if Pace goes down go again...I do know why the Rams would want Jake Long.

    Its a scary spot for us...I could see us getting Jake Long, but I still think DE is our major need.

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    Re: Rams face tough, Long decision.

    I smell smoke, do you?
    You mean in our 2008 season go down in flames if Pace is not ready or gets hurt. I know Jake Long is not the sexy pick. He is just the smart pick, for next year and when Pace is done. This is not smoke these are the fact: Pace is almost done, the Rams will not be picking in the top ten anytime soon after this draft. Barron is not the replacement for Pace. LT is key to your QB health, this is not smoke.

    I have Jake and Chirs as a coin toss as far as which would do more for the Rams long term.

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    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Rams face tough, Long decision.

    Could be smoke, but also, sometimes where there's smoke there's also fire. The article does a pretty capable job making the case for Jake Long. I certainly think he'd be a great addition and could really help shore up a unit that's consistently been poor for us for a while now. He's definitely one of a number of options I'd enjoy seeing the Rams select.

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    Re: Rams face tough, Long decision.

    The rams have always been a Offensive team first and foremost. I would say that i am 80% sure that Pace will get hurt next year, though i pray I'm wrong. The guy is great, no question about that. However he has been out due to injuries for the past 2 years, i have very little confidence that he can remain healthy for a full season, let alone if we make it into the playoffs.

    Also with the addition of J. Long how good would our Oline look healthy?

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    Re: Rams face tough, Long decision.

    Quote Originally Posted by CanadianRamsFan View Post
    The rams have always been a Offensive team first and foremost. I would say that i am 80% sure that Pace will get hurt next year, though i pray I'm wrong. The guy is great, no question about that. However he has been out due to injuries for the past 2 years, i have very little confidence that he can remain healthy for a full season, let alone if we make it into the playoffs.

    Also with the addition of J. Long how good would our Oline look healthy?
    how can you make such a claim. both of his injuries were freak accidents (meaning no history of either injury for and not an issue of conditioning) pace could very well play another 5 years and have nearly no injury issues, actually I think that is more likely as he had the majority of two seasons off to reduce the amount of wear and tear on his system.

    As far as which long to take....... If Chris Long is there it is a no brainer.
    I would more than likely take Ghostlen or dorsey over Jake.

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    Re: Rams face tough, Long decision.

    Chris Long is the majority number 1 guy on most boards. I have changed my mind on the second guy may times, but I have come to the conclusion the Rams must go with the best mix of value and need in the Longs. This articles most poignant point was about Willie Roaf and Odgen. They both don't have replacements and with Chris Long on the board we should pounce on ours LT is arguably the second most important offensive player besides QB. You may luck out like the Colts did in the Tony Ugoh Tarik Glenn situation if you get that right fit at tackle, but that doesn't happen as often.

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    Re: Rams face tough, Long decision.

    Quote Originally Posted by 39thebeast View Post
    Chris Long is the majority number 1 guy on most boards. I have changed my mind on the second guy may times, but I have come to the conclusion the Rams must go with the best mix of value and need in the Longs. This articles most poignant point was about Willie Roaf and Odgen. They both don't have replacements and with Chris Long on the board we should pounce on ours LT is arguably the second most important offensive player besides QB. You may luck out like the Colts did in the Tony Ugoh Tarik Glenn situation if you get that right fit at tackle, but that doesn't happen as often.
    Then why did the Texans take Mario Williams #1 overall in 2006 and not Ferguson? D'Brick was arguably a much better prospect than Long and was advertised as a franchise LT, whereas Long is still a question mark on the left as of now. My problem continues to be that the pick of Jake would not be justified unless we trade Barron, and he did well last year given the injuries. Also, with so much depth in this draft, it would be easy to find a better or just as good LT later on possibly.

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    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Rams face tough, Long decision.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bald_81 View Post
    Then why did the Texans take Mario Williams #1 overall in 2006 and not Ferguson?
    Maybe they had Williams rated higher, especially as they transitioned to a 4-3 defense where they would need a dominant DE? Let's not forget Reggie Bush was the presumptive pick for the Texans until basically the 11th hour when Mario Williams took the lead. Ferguson hasn't exactly set the world on fire in New York, so maybe the Texans knew what they were doing. That doesn't diminish the importance of the left tackle position though, so I'm not sure what your point is here.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bald_81 View Post
    My problem continues to be that the pick of Jake would not be justified unless we trade Barron
    Why? The Rams could have used a capable third tackle on the roster to step in last year. Drafting Long and keeping Barron is a fine situation, IMO, as Barron would give us that third tackle who could fill in on either side if need be.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bald_81 View Post
    Also, with so much depth in this draft, it would be easy to find a better or just as good LT later on possibly.
    I don't think there's anything easy about the draft, let alone finding a capable left tackle in the middle rounds. The class being deep at tackle does not diminish Long's status at the top of it, as he's basically been a top five if not top three lock this entire spring. He's not at that position if teams could easily find prospects just as good if not better on the left side in later rounds.

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    Re: Rams face tough, Long decision.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Klein View Post
    how can you make such a claim. both of his injuries were freak accidents (meaning no history of either injury for and not an issue of conditioning) pace could very well play another 5 years and have nearly no injury issues, actually I think that is more likely as he had the majority of two seasons off to reduce the amount of wear and tear on his system.

    As far as which long to take....... If Chris Long is there it is a no brainer.
    I would more than likely take Ghostlen or dorsey over Jake.
    because injuries are not like the chicken pox, you don't become immune to them once you get one. You become more likely to suffer another one, and pace is getting up there in age. Freak or not, i am just secptical about him coming back and playing at that high of a level for an entire season. Do i hope I'm wrong? of course. but hey its my opinion right? i really hope next year you can dig up this post and prove to me i was wrong

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