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  • O Line in trouble ?

    O-line components are out of sync as Rams camp nears
    By Bill Coats

    Of the Post-Dispatch
    07/24/2004






    When the Rams assemble Wednesday morning for their first training camp practice, the offensive line will be far from intact: Left tackle Orlando Pace will be absent, center Dave Wohlabaugh will be on the sideline, and right tackle Kyle Turley will be trying to chip away rust.

    "We've got a lot of work to do," coach Mike Martz said.

    No area is of greater importance for the Rams. Without a solid line, the team will be hard-pressed to produce the kind of numbers that led to a 56-24 regular-season record and four playoff appearances over the last five years.

    That's not to suggest that this year's unit won't perform effectively. But with Pace embroiled in another contract dispute, Wohlabaugh still experiencing hip pain after offseason surgery, and Turley recovering from a back operation that kept him out of minicamp practices and has limited his workouts, the O-line is in flux as the team heads for Western Illinois University in Macomb.

    Here's a look at each of those situations:

    Pace missed the first month of camp last year before reluctantly signing a one-year, $5.73 million tender as the club's franchise player. He again has the franchise tag, but his agent, Carl Poston, has been negotiating with Rams president of football operations Jay Zygmunt on a multiyear contract.

    Martz said he expects Pace, a reigning All-Pro, "to be at camp probably a little sooner than he was last year. I think he understands the effect it has on this team. And also, no matter how hard he thinks he's training, it's not the same. It takes awhile to get going."

    Wohlabaugh started all 17 games last season despite the nagging hip problem. Martz said the Rams would be cautious with the nine-year NFL veteran and wait for the discomfort to ease.

    Turley, the team's major offseason acquisition in 2003, improved steadily, particularly with his pass-blocking, after struggling early in the season. "Kyle brings a toughness and a nastiness," offensive line coach John Matsko said. "And he's got tremendous leadership. Kyle leads by performance; he does his talking with his headgear, elbows and shoulder pads."

    Beginning his second year in the Rams' system should be an asset for Turley. "Normally, it makes a big difference," Martz said. "It's an advantage coming into camp that he's had this stuff, but also, he's missed an awful lot in the offseason. . . . It won't be easy for Kyle. It's not going to be like getting on a bike again; it just doesn't work that way."

    Veteran Adam Timmerman returns at right guard. With Wohlabaugh out, Andy McCollum moves to center from left guard, and Andy King, a second-year pro from Illinois State who has yet to appear in a regular-season contest, is listed No. 1 at left guard. Grant Williams figures to get most of the reps at left tackle until Pace shows up.

    So, the offensive line that jogs onto the field Wednesday probably won't resemble the one that will face the Arizona Cardinals in the regular-season opener Sept. 12 at the Edward Jones Dome. And the sooner the starters are in place, the faster the unit will develop, Matsko said.

    "It's very important to come together," he said. "When you go to training camp, what you want to do is develop the toughness in your offensive line, the mental and physical toughness, that you've got to play with to win a championship. You develop the confidence and killer instinct.

    "In the preseason, you're trying to call us that offensive line's knuckles. And that's going to be our approach."

    Matsko, who also is Martz's associate head coach, had been sharing the O-line duties with Jim Hanifan, who retired after last season. John Benton was hired to assist Matsko.

    Besides the individual concerns, two other questions arise: Is the line, which averages just over 31, getting a bit too old to function at a high level? And can it rebound from a so-so showing?

    Though the Rams ranked ninth among the 32 NFL teams in total offense last year, their running game took a strong downturn. Rams ballcarriers produced just 3.6 yards per carry, the team's lowest average in five years and a half-yard shy of its '02 production.

    Part of the reason, of course, was the hand injury that sidelined top back Marshall Faulk for five games. He wound up with 818 rushing yards, the second-lowest total of his 10-year career, and averaged 3.9 yards per carry. His average in his first four seasons with the Rams was 5.2.

    Another concern is protecting Marc Bulger, who goes into camp as the No. 1 quarterback for the first time. Bulger was sacked 37 times last year, a total exceeded by only two other quarterbacks, and he didn't even play in the opener, when the New York Giants decked Kurt Warner six times.

    The health of Bulger, who missed four games in 2002 with hand, back and neck injuries but went the last 16 games without a problem last year, is paramount to the team's success. Bulger is backed up by 38-year-old Chris Chandler, with rookie Jeff Smoker expected to fill the No. 3 slot.

    "I think there's a bit of an emotional attachment with that offensive line and Marc," Martz said. "It's almost like a little brother kind of a deal. There's a real connection there, just a chemistry that's happened. I think it's very healthy and very good."



    __________________________________________________________
    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

  • #2
    Re: O Line in trouble ?

    Well this article doesn't make me feel very good about the O line. They are pretty beat up. We need Pace to sign earlier this year. It would be nice if he would be a team player and think about stepping in before the season starts.
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    • #3
      Re: O Line in trouble ?

      Just great. Not good news at all. Pace is a bum and wohlabaugh and turley are crippled.



      :ramlogo:

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      • #4
        Re: O Line in trouble ?

        Ahhh the offseason. Pace isn't a bum. He also isn't a saint either but name me one player outside of Warner that is even close? He'll be there the last week of camp, when Turley and Wohlobaugh are both healthy. They will be ok. We open up this year at home, which should help the O line in this opening game as opposed to last year.

        Yes, it is a concern but I'm not real worried about it. Now, about the D line......LOL

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        • RamDez
          Rams fin e without Turley and Pace ---- so far
          by RamDez
          By R.B. FALLSTROM, AP Sports Writer

          August 13, 2004

          ST. LOUIS (AP) -- So far, the St. Louis Rams are doing just fine without their two bookend offensive tackles.

          It would have been logical for quarterback Marc Bulger be concerned before the preseason opener, considering Orlando Pace is holding out again and Kyle Turley hasn't practiced since re-injuring his surgically repaired back early in training camp.

          But Bulger was hit only twice in the first quarter in a 13-10 overtime loss to the Chicago Bears on Thursday night, when the first team was on the field. So the concerns about the makeshift alignment eased.

          ``They did a fantastic job,'' Bulger said. ``I didn't have too many pressures, and the one sack was a hot route.''

          Grant Williams stepped in for Pace, as he's done in the past. Scott Tercero, a sixth-round pick last year who missed the entire season with a knee injury, was solid at Turley's right tackle spot.

          Andy McCollum, who has moved from guard to center while Dave Wohlabaugh recovers from hip surgery, is more experienced at center, anyway. And Andy King, who has minimal NFL experience and played in only one game last year, was solid at McCollum's left guard spot.

          ``They came through fine,'' coach Mike Martz said. ``I really watched the offensive line in the first half as much as I could. The protection held up well.''

          Right guard Adam Timmerman helped hold things together with a quick recovery from a nerve injury to his neck and back. A cortisone shot Wednesday helped matters.

          ``I was a little sore, but we don't have a lot of numbers,'' Timmerman said.

          ``I took a few days off and it's feeling pretty good.

          ``Hopefully, it all kicks in.''

          Help is definitely on the way. It is just a matter of time before Pace, designated as the franchise player for the second straight year, agrees to a one-year tender offer and joins the team.

          Team doctors are hopeful that Turley will be back soon after he visited two specialists. Turley roamed the sideline in street clothes during the game, although he didn't stick around afterward.

          ``I didn't get any details from him,'' McCollum said. ``I think he wanted to escape before you guys (the media) grabbed him.''



          Updated on Friday, Aug 13, 2004 1:23 pm EDT

          -08-14-2004, 01:34 AM
        • Nick
          Rams' O-line gets outstanding rating
          by Nick
          Rams' O-line gets outstanding rating
          By Bill Coats
          Of the Post-Dispatch
          09/12/2004

          If Rams tackle Orlando Pace had been asked to fill out the Post-Dispatch's Rams report card after Sunday's season-opening 17-10 victory over Arizona, he wouldn't have hesitated in giving the offensive line high marks.

          "It'd have to be an A-plus," Pace said, flashing a broad smile. Coach Mike Martz agreed. Noting that the Rams piled up 176 rushing yards and that quarterback Marc Bulger wasn't sacked, Martz said the unit "was outstanding. They did a terrific job."

          Pace, a Pro Bowl selection each of the past five years, skipped training camp and all four preseason games in a contract dispute. He was on the field at Rams Park for the first time last Monday, a day after signing a one-year, $7.02 million tender as the team's franchise player.

          Six days and just four practices later, he was at the forefront of a near-seamless performance by the O-line. "They more than just held their own, they were outstanding," said running back Marshall Faulk, who rushed for 128 yards on 22 carries.

          "We love running the ball; it kind of keeps the game going and takes the pressure off the quarterback," right guard Adam Timmerman said. "You're not sitting back there in pass protection all day; that gets old."

          Consistently given plenty of time to set up, Bulger connected on 23 of 34 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown. "Will I get sacked this year? Sure, but for them to play this well from the get-go was nice," Bulger said.

          The line was in turmoil for most of training camp. Pace wasn't in attendance, and then center Dave Wohlabaugh (hip) and right tackle Kyle Turley (back) were ruled out for the season. Andy McCollum moved from left guard to center, leaving Timmerman as the only returning lineman still in the same spot as last season.

          After a number of auditions, the Rams decided on veteran Chris Dishman - who'd been talked out of retirement - as their left guard and journeyman Grant Williams as their right tackle. When Pace finally showed up, all the pieces were in place. On Sunday, the group aced its first big test.

          "Everybody kept questioning this O-line, but we knew when we got 'Big O' in and the way we have experience up there that we were going to get some things done right," Dishman said. "I don't know what the film's going to look like, but it seemed like it went pretty well."

          Timmerman said the line "made a statement" vs. the Cardinals. "I think for the most part we looked pretty good," he said. "We have some hard-working guys, and we really just put it out there."

          Pace, who reported about 20 pounds under his preseason weight of a year ago, said his offseason conditioning paid off....
          -09-12-2004, 09:54 PM
        • RamDez
          Turley, Pace leave holes in Rams line
          by RamDez
          Turley, Pace leave holes in Rams line
          By Jim Thomas
          Of the Post-Dispatch
          08/10/2004





          MACOMB, Ill. - Little more than a month remains before the Rams' regular-season opener, against Arizona. And what arguably is the NFL's best offensive tackle tandem remains nowhere in sight.

          Nothing has changed on the Orlando Pace front. The team's franchise player has yet to sign his one-year, $7 million tender - the first step towards any long-term contract, much less a Pace appearance on the practice field.

          But some clarity is coming soon on the Kyle Turley front. The Rams expect to see the report from Dr. Robert Watkins, the nationally-known back specialist from Los Angeles, in the next day or two. That report should shed light on the severity of Turley's back injury, and help define when he might return.

          Turley has a slight herniation of a disc in his lower back - in the same disc on which he had surgery in March. After aggravating the back early in training camp, Turley left Macomb on Aug. 1 - and hasn't been back since. He has seen a doctor in St. Louis, and Watkins in Los Angeles for further evaluation. But contrary to earlier reports, Turley will not see Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala. Andrews, however, will receive a copy of Watkins' findings for review.

          When Turley last spoke with reporters before leaving Macomb, he called the latest setback career-threatening, and also indicated that he would be unwilling to have any further surgery.

          There have been rumors, so far unconfirmed, that Turley has told close friends that he will sit out the season. Neither Turley nor Turley agent's - Tom Condon - could be reached by the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday.

          When asked Monday if he was optimistic about Turley's return this season, coach Mike Martz said: "I don't know. I don't know what to think because we don't have all the facts from the doctors."

          Some of Turley's teammates are bracing for the worst.

          "I don't think Kyle, even best-case scenario, is going to be back for a while," offensive guard Adam Timmerman said. "With the bulging disc story, I'd be surprised if he's back this year. But I haven't heard an official word."

          Quarterback Marc Bulger said he experienced some back problems early in his college career, so he has an inkling of what Turley must be going through.

          "Those things take time, and they're confusing," Bulger said. "When you're dealing with a back, you never know what to expect."

          Meanwhile, the Pace contract impasse remains stuck in neutral. With each day that passes in training camp, his situation is looking more and more like a sequel to 2003, when Pace skipped all of training camp, then signed his franchise tender in time to play in the final exhibition game.

          President of football
          ...
          -08-10-2004, 11:20 PM
        • RamWraith
          Where's Pace-SI
          by RamWraith
          ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Now that the curtain has fallen on right tackle Kyle Turley's season before it even began, Grant Williams and the rest of the St. Louis Rams' offensive line could find solace Monday in at least one thing: One huge distraction down, one more to go.

          In a preseason that has resembled a soap opera in terms of the Rams' blockers, the nagging question now is when, and if, five-time All-Pro left tackle Orlando Pace will end his holdout, perhaps even in time for the Rams' preseason finale Thursday at Oakland.

          Stay tuned.

          "Just from a team standpoint, it'd be nice to get what looks like would be the starting five out there for a quarter or a half against Oakland, just get some time together as a unit before we go into the season," Williams said Monday, two days after the Rams placed Turley on injured reserve because of his ailing back.

          Turley, among the NFL's steadiest linemen throughout his six seasons, started every game in 2003 after joining the Rams in an offseason trade with New Orleans.

          But when he reinjured his surgically repaired back in late July and left training camp Aug. 1 to visit doctors, coach Mike Martz _ already dealing with the no-show Pace -- had to piece together an offensive line, even luring veterans Chris Dishman and Tom Nutten out of retirement.

          Martz waited for word from Turley on the prognosis about his back. Then on Saturday -- a day after the Rams' offensive line held the Washington Redskins at bay in a 28-3 preseason victory -- Martz finally declared Turley's season was history.

          "I talked to Kyle today, and he was very vague about his plans," Martz said. When quizzed about the significance of losing Turley, he added without elaborating: "I'm happy with the guys we have."

          Turley's agent, Tom Condon, did not return telephone messages left Monday. Messages also were left with Pace's agent, Carl Poston.

          So it goes in what a Rams staffer quipped Monday was the latest in "As the World Turns," with Williams -- a nine-year veteran filling in for Pace -- perhaps playing Turley's role if Pace agrees to a one-year tender offer as the team's designated franchise player and returns.

          "It'll be nice when he reports," said Dishman, a 350-pound guard nursing a right ankle he rolled in the first quarter against the Redskins, though he went on to play the entire game. "It'd be nice to get some work in with him. But his thing is his thing, and when he comes in he comes in."

          Williams' advice to Pace: Get back sooner rather than later, certainly before the Rams' Sept. 12 opener at home against Arizona.

          "I know if I was in that situation I would want to play in the last preseason game and get ready for the season," Williams said, convinced Pace would benefit from getting some reps -- and...
          -08-30-2004, 02:07 PM
        • RamWraith
          No Turley, no Pace, no peace
          by RamWraith
          BY JEFF GORDON
          Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
          08/01/2004

          Right tackle Kyle Turley is a cornerstone in the Rams offense, one of a handful of veterans the unit is built upon.

          And now he is shelved by a nagging back injury that has him fretting about his future. Turley returned to St. Louis on Sunday for further testing and may head to Los Angeles to meet with a back specialist.

          So much for the notion that offseason disc surgery fixed his problem.

          "It was a threat to my career last year," Turley told reporters in Macomb, Ill. "For it to have possibly reoccurred is definitely a bigger threat."

          Uh, oh. You hate to see words like "threat" and "career" in the same quote, especially when back injuries are being discussed.

          Ever since reliable Fred Miller exited as a free agent after Super Bowl 34, the Rams have struggled to fill the right tackle position. Sometimes, successor Ryan Tucker dominated . . . and sometimes he got manhandled.

          Tucker, too, departed as a free agent. That ushered in the ill-fated John St. Clair Era. After the ironically nicknamed "Beast" flopped miserably, the Rams turned to Turley.

          They acquired him from New Orleans last year for a second-round pick, then locked him up with a five-year, $26.5 million contract extension with $12 million of that money guaranteed.

          He and Orlando Pace were impressive bookends on a Rams offensive line that got stronger as the 2004 season progressed. Their forceful play created high hopes for the unit coming into this season.

          Now Turley is sidelined and Pace remains out of camp as an unsigned franchise player. Grant Williams is holding down the fort at left tackle and right tackle is a grab bag. Utility lineman Ryan Schau could become a capable fill-in, but he, too, has been limited by a back problem.

          So what's the answer now? Scott Tercero? Greg Randall?

          Furthermore, center Dave Wohlabaugh must take it easy while recovering from offseason hip surgery. That moves Andy McCollum back to center and puts inexperienced guard Andy King on the first unit.

          Rams fans have every reason to fret about this unit. This mighty offense will sputter without sturdy run and pass blocking.

          When the Air Martz passing game is clicking, it dares opponents to blitz. But if the pass protections falter and blitzes are not read correctly, the quarterback gets hammered.

          With Chris Chandler backing up Marc Bulger these days, the Rams don't have any margin for error.

          The Rams came to camp looking to build a more consistent ground game in 2004. The addition of first-round pick Steven Jackson, a punishing runner, will allow the team to grind out more yardage between the tackles,

          If the line does its job, that is....
          -08-02-2004, 07:12 AM
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