No announcement yet.

Offensive Line Gives Strong Opening Act

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Offensive Line Gives Strong Opening Act

    Monday, September 13, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    Patchwork. Pieced together. Makeshift. Pick an adjective and the Rams’ offensive line was called it during the preseason. As the injuries mounted, the questions about the unit became as big as the men who played on it.

    With one regular season game down and a win on its record, St. Louis answered many of those questions with a resounding response. The starting group consisted of Orlando Pace (left tackle), Chris Dishman (left guard), Andy McCollum (center), Adam Timmerman (right guard) and Grant Williams (right tackle), playing its first game together.

    Finishing with zero sacks leading to 272 passing yards and a piledriving effort in the trenches that resulted in 176 rushing yards, the offensive line did more than jell, it dominated.

    After struggling with a trio of turnovers in the first quarter, the Rams decided to put it on the line, ramming (no pun intended) the ball down Arizona’s throat, leading the way to a 17-10 win at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday. The win was St. Louis’ first victory in an opener since it beat Philadelphia in 2001.

    Rams’ coach Mike Martz said he was more than pleased with the dominance of his offensive line.

    “I told our staff today that I felt like this is probably the best performance of an offensive line since I’ve been here,” Martz said. “Anytime you rush for those kind of yards and don’t give up any sacks, that’s a pretty exceptional day for any offensive line.”

    On the surface, it seemed like it would be difficult to put the line together in time to have any kind of continuity entering the regular season. Somehow, someway, the Rams made it work.

    The injury bug hit early when right tackle Kyle Turley left camp with back problems. Pace was absent on the other side because of a contract stalemate, leaving the Rams without either of their top-flight tackles. To make matters worse, center Dave Wohlabaugh struggled with a nagging hip injury, forcing left guard Andy McCollum to slide back to his center position.

    The only sure thing was Timmerman, who was forced to play through pain in his shoulder, just so the group could have some kind of consistent presence. Instead of crying over their losses, St. Louis got proactive, seeking help in the form of available free agents and looking within its own roster for possible help.

    Williams, who has been a steady hand in his time with the team, manned Pace’s position admirably, even playing on a badly sprained ankle. Scott Tercero was the utility man of the group, sliding between the two tackle spots and left guard at various times. In his second year, Tercero came of age, providing the Rams with a valuable commodity off the bench.

    Aside from the homegrown talent, St. Louis went shopping and found a high school football coach in Nebraska. Chris Dishman, who did nothing but win as a road-grading guard for the Cornhuskers in college, retired from the league after eight seasons in Arizona. When the Rams came calling, Dishman was out of shape and coaching the Lincoln Northstar Gators.

    Dishman was unable to pass on the opportunity to play for a contender after leaving the Cardinals and reported to camp on Aug. 8. Since his arrival, Dishman has lost around 20 pounds. He overcame an ankle injury and a case of gout to claim the starting spot at left guard.

    With four spots accounted for, the only missing piece was the biggest. Pace arrived at Rams Park on Sept. 8, leaving him about four practices to get used to his new linemates. Pace came in 16 pounds under where he was the year before, saying he felt light years better. Apparently, the time he spent was plenty to get where he wanted to be. Pace started at left tackle and was his usual, dominant self.

    Martz said Pace’s play never ceases to amaze him.

    “Big O hasn’t missed a beat,” Martz said. “It’s like he’d been at camp, probably a good argument to keep everybody out of camp until the opener. If they were all like Big O, it would probably be to do.”

    The group played most of the game like it had been together for years, tossing the Arizona defense around like rag dolls. Williams made a seamless transition to the right side, Dishman looked like he had been watching game film instead of fishing and coaching and McCollum looked his best at his best position.

    Martz said McCollum’s looked at home at center.

    “I’ve been with him all these years and this is, by far, the best he’s ever played,” Martz said. “(He is) very intelligent and yet very physical and athletic. We pull him, we do everything with him. He has just been exceptional.”

    The group probably wouldn’t have come together as it did without the help of some coaching. Chemistry, after all, isn’t created overnight. For that kind of cohesiveness to develop, someone has to be overseeing the process.

    Martz said his pair of offensive line coaches were the right people to bring the group together so quickly.

    “You’ve got to go back and give John Benton and John Matsko credit,” Martz said. “I think they’ve done a terrific job of keeping this thing together. We’ve had all kinds of different combinations in there throughout training camp, but they’ve kept everybody focused… Somebody has got to be doing some coaching out there; I think both of those guys have done a great job.”

    After the offensive line’s performance against the Cardinals, adjectives such as dominant, tough and powerful were bandied about. Not bad for a group that only a week ago was one of the team’s biggest concerns.

Related Topics


  • Nick
    Rams' O-line gets outstanding rating
    by Nick
    Rams' O-line gets outstanding rating
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    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
    Martz Pleased with First, Second Units
    by RamDez
    Martz Pleased with First, Second Units
    Saturday, August 14, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    For more than a half of football Thursday night, St. Louis dominated Chicago. The bad news is the Rams ended up losing a 13-10 decision to the Bears. Fortunately for St. Louis, though, the first half was the portion of the game it was in control.

    The reason that comes as good news is that was the part where both sides played their first and second teams. The starting St. Louis offense moved the ball well behind quarterback Marc Bulger before a Jeff Wilkins’ 33-yard field goal capped its lone drive.

    The beat went on after the top unit left, as Chris Chandler turned in a nearly perfect performance, going 8-of-9 for 108 yards and a touchdown. The St. Louis offense finished the first half with 190 yards of offense and a 10-3 lead.
    Rams coach Mike Martz said he was happy with the top two units. “All in all, I was very pleased, particularly in the first half with both groups,” Martz said.

    St. Louis entered the preseason game with quite a few concerns that needed addressing. The main concern was along the offensive line, where both starting tackles and the center were missing and one of the starting guards played center. The line held up, though, behind the leadership of veteran guard Adam Timmerman, the lone starter on the unit playing his normal position at kickoff.

    Timmerman missed a pair of practices leading up to the game because of shoulder soreness, but Martz identified Timmerman’s leadership as a main reason for the first-half success. “He can play anywhere,” Martz said. “He can play in the street. It doesn’t make any difference. He’s what you’re looking for as a leader, as an example in every form.”

    Martz took the time Sunday to praise another lineman, only this one doesn’t quite have the pedigree and resume of Timmerman. Tackle Scott Tercero, making his first start in the NFL, overcame some nervousness to have a strong showing. If Tercero continues to perform at a high level, some of St. Louis’ major concerns might be eased.

    Martz, who has said in the past that he likes players to step up their play in the preseason and show themselves, said Tercero did just that. “I think that there’s a toughness with Scott that I didn’t realize was there because he’s such a quiet young man,” Martz said. “There’s a resolve… that you don’t know about these guys until you put them in pressure situations like we had him in. He really responded very well.”

    Tercero’s emergence could prove important in the next few months. Offensive tackle Kyle Turley is out at least four weeks with a bulging disc in his back. “The doctors have said four weeks from now they’ll have an idea about how he feels and what direction we’ll go,” Martz said.

    Center Dave Wohlabaugh could miss up to three months with his hip injury. Pro-Bowl left...
    -08-15-2004, 01:14 AM
  • RamDez
    Nütten Returns to Rams
    by RamDez
    Nütten Returns to Rams
    Friday, August 20, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    Tom Nütten spent the better part of the past year coaching tight ends for the Cologne Centurions of NFL Europe. It came as little surprise, then, when Nütten arrived at Rams Park on Friday afternoon looking like his players.

    After five years with the Rams, where he started at left guard in both of St. Louis’ Super Bowl appearances, Nütten signed with the New York Jets in the 2003 offseason. Nütten battled many injuries during training camp and retired on Aug. 14.

    Nütten, who was born in Toledo, Ohio, but grew up in Quebec, signed on with the Centurions, a new franchise in NFL Europe, in March. Nütten was one of a few former Rams taking part in a new program between NFL Europe and the NFL that allows young coaches to gain valuable experience in the game and get a comprehensive evaluation of their abilities. Former Rams D’Marco Farr and Amp Lee also coaching in NFL Europe in 2004.

    Now two months after the NFL Europe season ended, Nütten signed a one-year deal with the team that gave him his start in the league. Nütten’s signing comes after a series of injuries and uncertainties along the offensive line has created opportunities.

    Nütten, who was living in Tampa, Fla., was preparing to teach at a football camp when he got the call from the Rams on Wednesday night. With Nütten’s recent injury problems, the team ran numerous medical checks, which Nütten passed.

    Nütten made sure to apologize to the kids ready to attend his camp, but he said he had to take advantage of a circumstance that was unique. “Hypothetically, people always ask ‘what would you do if a team calls you and wants you to come out of retirement,” Nütten said. “Obviously, I would say hell no, knowing it was a longshot that a team calls you anyway, especially your old team. If it were any of the other 32 teams, it would have been a real easy answer: no, no thank you, but these are the guys I bled with, the guys I sweated with. It’s an opportunity I didn’t want to let slip away.”

    Nütten comes back to St. Louis with plenty of experience under his belt, having started 56 games as a left guard. The biggest problem facing Nütten right now is the number of notches he is using on his belt.

    While most offensive linemen never lose their voracious appetites, Nütten actually lost between 20 and 25 pounds. His final listed playing weight was 304 pounds, but he estimated he is around 280 now. Nütten said he would attempt to add five to 10 pounds before the regular season begins Sept. 12 against Arizona.

    When it was suggested to Nütten that he could join Adam Timmerman and Andy McCollum, “The Doughnut Brothers,” Nütten wasted no time saying that he wants to add a different kind of weight. “I think they’re kind of jealous of my slim physique,” Nütten said. “I’m sure the jokes are going...
    -08-20-2004, 11:14 PM
  • RamDez
    Rams' revamped offensive line takes shape
    by RamDez
    Rams' revamped offensive line takes shape
    By Jim Thomas

    Of the Post-Dispatch

    MACOMB, Ill. - It may not be a pretty picture, but the news that offensive tackle Kyle Turley (four weeks) and center Dave Wohlabaugh (three months) will be out for extended periods at least clarifies the situation on the Rams' offensive line. Namely, that . . .

    The left guard job is Andy King's to lose. Unless he plays himself out of the spot, he will open the regular season in the starting lineup.

    Tackle Grant Williams probably gets moved to the starting job at right tackle whenever left tackle Orlando Pace shows up and is deemed ready to play.

    And more than ever, the Rams will rely on the Donut Bros. - Andy McCollum and Adam Timmerman - to keep the offensive line anchored and focused.

    "Andy McCollum and Adam Timmerman have really done an outstanding job of leading our offensive line," line coach John Matsko said. "Adam is extremely consistent in his run blocking and pass protection, and he's very good in space - in his pulling and getting out there on his screens.

    "Andy's very, very sharp on the calls. And the calls are very, very automatic to him. He reacts to what he sees as quickly as anybody."

    McCollum played left guard last season but was switched back to center last spring after Wohlabaugh's hip surgery. Center hardly is a new position for McCollum - he started 52 regular-season and postseason games for the Rams there from 2000 through 2002.

    "I definitely like having Andy back there," Timmerman said. "Not that Dave was bad at it, but Andy has been in the system longer, and Dave was new to it last year. So I think Andy's a little bit sharper on (line calls) and just communication. We're totally on the same page."

    Wohlabaugh left camp last week for further evaluation of his right hip, on which he had surgery for a torn labrum March 5. The recommendation is that he continue to rest and rehab the hip for another three months. Even before Wohlabaugh rejoined the team Thursday, watching the Chicago game from the sidelines, Rams players knew his return to action wasn't imminent.

    "I'm no doctor, but Dave looks like he's a long ways from (playing)," Timmerman said. "He's not exactly getting in a stance yet, and that's a long way from playing football."

    Ditto for Turley, who aggravated a back condition the first few days of training camp and hasn't been in Macomb since. The recommendation on Turley is that he let the back rest and "calm down" for the next four weeks. That takes the Rams right up to their regular-season opener Sept. 12 against Arizona.

    For the second camp in a row, Williams has been keeping the left tackle spot warm while Pace skips Macomb in a contract
    -08-14-2004, 01:32 AM
  • 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