No announcement yet.

Everything's on the line when the Rams play this summer

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Everything's on the line when the Rams play this summer

    Everything's on the line when the Rams play this summer

    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist

    Want a reason to pay attention when the Rams play their preseason games this summer?

    Here's one: Both lines, offensive and defensive, are currently works in progress. Both units have lost key players, either temporarily or permanently.

    Several unfamiliar faces have the opportunity to earn key roles for the 2004 season. So the trench battles during the four preseason games should be interesting to watch.

    If both jerry-rigged units meet the challenge, the Rams will be a Super Bowl contender. If either unit falters because of the talent turnover, the Rams could be in for an unhappy adventure this season.

    Here are the factors at play:

    * Orlando Pace is AWOL. The All-Pro left tackle has nothing to gain by sitting out, since the team cannot begin negotiating a long-term contract with him until he signs the tender he received as the franchise player. The longer he sits, the less likely it is he'll get that long-term deal he covets.

    The longer he sits, the more likely it is he'll struggle for a few games once the real season starts. And doomsayers must be wondering if Pace's relationship with the team will finally blow up.

    If it does, Pace wouldn't be the first franchise player to miss regular-season games as part of a power play his agents orchestrate.

    * Kyle Turley might be done. The standout right tackle is contemplating his future. After tweaking his surgically repaired back, Turley must decide whether he can and should continue his career.

    The Rams believe he could play this season, but ultimately Turley must make that decision.

    "Kyle's down in the dumps, this thing isn't as far along as he wants it to be," coach Mike Martz said. "He's very frustrated. We just have to get a conclusion medically in terms of the course of action he needs to take. We're not there yet, so I'm not going to worry about it. I understand what Kyle's going through, I feel for the guy."

    Suddenly journeyman Grant Williams is hugely important to the team. He is starting in Pace's place for now, but would move over to cover for Turley should the Big O return.

    So far, Williams is having a fine camp. "There's no question in my mind that we can win with Grant Williams at tackle," Martz said.

    But then again, he promised that Travis Scott would start by his second year.

    * Jimmy Kennedy is toast. After suffering a broken foot during a drill last Friday, the second-year defensive tackle needed surgical repair. The best-case scenario calls for a late-season return, but, given the nature of that injury, that is wishful thinking.

    The Rams are resigned to playing this season without him. At the very least, Kennedy's loss will compromise the team's depth and hurt its short-yardage defense.

    In the longer term, the injury will hamper the development of this important first-round draft pick.

    Suddenly, journeyman Bernard Holsey is important. The Rams brought him to camp to compete for back-up work at end and tackle. Now the team is really eager to see what he can do in combat.

    * Dave Wohlabaugh is hobbled. The veteran center hasn't recovered from offseason hip surgery, so he, too, is iffy for the season.

    That's why the Rams talked veteran Chris Dishman out of retirement. It's too bad they didn't make the call sooner, because the big fella reported to camp at a chair-bending 375 pounds.

    He is going to need some time to get in shape. Meanwhile, youngsters like guard Andy King and guard/tackle Scott Tercero get to prove they belong in the NFL. Or not.

    "It falls under the category of things that you cannot control," quarterback Chris Chandler observed. "So far the guys in there, as far as I'm concerned, are doing a great job."

    General manager Charley Armey should pat himself on the back for adding veteran Greg Randall to the mix before other teams lost offensive linemen and entered the bidding.

    Randall is massive (6-foot-6, 333 pounds) and he has ample experience. Perhaps he can help the team make do.

    * Grant Wistrom and Brian Young left as free agents. The Rams lost two of their busiest defensive linemen during the offseason, raising the stakes during training camp.

    Can rookie Anthony Hargrove harness all that athletic ability and become a disruptive right defensive end? Can Ryan Pickett and Damione Lewis both become stalwart defensive tackles in the absence of Young and Kennedy?

    They'd better. There isn't a whole lot of depth on the line. If any other key players get hurt, falter or run into off-field issues (hello, Leonard Little), that whole unit could crumble.

    The Rams will keep their key skill players in bubble wrap for most of the exhibition schedule. But the surviving linemen will have to play and play well, given all they must do and prove.

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

  • #2
    Re: Everything's on the line when the Rams play this summer

    I'm nervous about the fact that the Rams will either succeed or fail as a team due to the play of DLew and Pickett.


    • #3
      Re: Everything's on the line when the Rams play this summer

      Tx, you could say the same to most possitions, like if our QBs dont perform or our running backs fail

      Keeping the Rams Nation Talking


      Related Topics


      • RamDez
        O Line in trouble ?
        by RamDez
        O-line components are out of sync as Rams camp nears
        By Bill Coats

        Of the Post-Dispatch

        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
        -07-25-2004, 12:56 AM
      • RamWraith
        Inside Slant
        by RamWraith
        When training camp opened, the biggest question facing the Rams was how they would get through training camp with an unsettled situation on the offensive line, given the unknown status of tackles Kyle Turley and Orlando Pace and center Dave Wohlabaugh.

        Turley was recovering from offseason back surgery, while Wohlabaugh had surgery on his hip in the offseason. The Rams knew Pace would likely not be in camp as the team's unsigned franchise player, so how the line would be deployed because of the Turley and Wohlabaugh injuries was an issue.

        It turned out to be even bigger than expected when Wohlabaugh never made it onto the field and was released and Turley aggravated his back during the first few days of camp. Turley was placed on injured reserve in the cutdown to 65 players.

        Those factors resulted in frequent shuffling on the line in camp. Andy King began as the left guard, but lost that job after the first exhibition game and was replaced by Chris Dishman. Dishman had decided to retire before coach Mike Martz convinced him to sign, and he reported at 375 pounds.

        Grant Williams, who would be the right tackle as Turley's replacement, was forced to play on the left side throughout most of camp because of Pace's absence. Scott Tercero got a lot of work at tackle, even though most in the organization believe his best position is guard. Greg Randall, who was with the Texans last season, was signed when it became apparent Turley wouldn't be available.

        Guard Tom Nutten, who played for the Rams during their Super Bowl seasons, but left for the Jets last year and then retired, was brought back a few days before the third exhibition game against Washington and injured his toe on his second play.

        That's the type of summer it's been for a team that has deep offensive talent, but knows it could go for naught if the line doesn't come together.

        Complicating things even more was Pace's decision to stay away for the entire preseason. Last year, as the franchise player, he reported and signed 12 days before the season opener and was able to play in the exhibition finale.

        Not this time. Pace remained unsigned when the Rams played the Raiders Sept. 2, and for the first time, Martz voiced frustration with the situation.

        Asked about Pace not being with the team, Martz said, "To be honest with you I don't think about it. This is our football team right now, I would just assume he's not coming in. That's his decision, and we're moving on.

        "You can't let one player, no matter how good he is, or how good of a person he is, hold a team hostage waiting for him to come in. We have to move on, and get ready for Sept. 12th."

        For line coach John Matsko, he has to get this group ready.

        "Each year's different," Matsko said. "The challenge this year was to bring a bunch of guys...
        -09-02-2004, 11:34 AM
      • 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
        Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist

        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
      • Nick
        Q&A with Randy Karraker from the HERD Board (LONG!)
        by Nick
        Q&A with Randy Karraker from the HERD Board
        Monday, August 09 2004 @ 10:16 PM CDT
        Contributed by: Shaky


        Howdy to Randy, and howdy to the herd.

        Randy, do you agree or disagree with the following:

        The question is, is it possible to replace a hyped up Turley who in fact had
        trouble adjusting to the system last year, didn't LIKE the system blocking especially>, was injured at least part of the time ANYWAY, and was
        never much of a run blocker on top of it? Okay, so, how good will this
        year's OL be? That's an open question, but I sincerely doubt they will be
        worse than last year when the offense was 30th in rushing and 29th in sacks
        allowed supplemental blockers--TE, FB, etc.>.

        I am of course being deliberately provocative and controversial and stuff,
        but still, just use that as a platform and to go anywhere you want with it.

        Thanks Randy and keep up the (as usual) good work.


        Thanks for the comments. Sure it's possible (probable) to replace Turley,
        and the offensive line can be a lot better. As they say, the cemeteries are
        full of indispensable people, so any OL is replaceable. The bigger thing to
        me is that individuals don't make a great line. Matt Light, Russ Hochstein,
        Dan Koppen, Joe Andruzzi and Tom Ashworth won last year's Super Bowl. The
        other side had Steussie, Donnaley, Mitchell, Jeno James and Jordan Gross. A
        couple of good players, a couple of average ones, and a rookie. I'm more
        than OK with Pace and Grant Williams at T. My concern is that Timmerman and
        McCollum, with lots of miles on them, got pushed around a little bit last
        season. I think they need to be more stout, a tougher group than last year.
        Additionally, while Turley didn't take well to the coaching and the system,
        he's still a great player. It couldn't hurt to have him.



        Pace Comments BS?????
        Orlando Pace stated a while back how he thought he and the Rams could get a
        long term deal done. The Rams can't negotiate until he signs the tender
        correct? So, why not sign the tender, get into camp, and then start
        negotiating the long term deal!!!! Does Pace just want to skip camp? Was his
        "big" statements just crap? When do you expect Pace to sign the tender and
        get into camp?

        Randy, thanks for all you do!


        It appears that his comments were BS. You're right in that they can't
        negotiate with him until he signs the tender. Everyone in Macomb thinks
        he'll be in at the end of camp, just like last season, and the players I...
        -08-11-2004, 05:21 PM