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  • Offensive Line Finding Chemistry

    Offensive Line Finding Chemistry
    Thursday, October 15, 2009


    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Facing its biggest test of the season – both in terms of talent and in sheer size – last week against Minnesota, the Rams offensive line turned in its finest performance of the young season and perhaps one of the better overall efforts by that unit in the past few years.

    With Pro Bowl players such as defensive end Jared Allen and defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams lined up on the opposing side, the offensive line helped the Rams post 400 yards of total offense, 27 first downs and hang on to the ball for more than 32 minutes.

    “I did think the offensive line played pretty well against a really good defensive line,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “I think overall they all did a nice job. We moved the ball on offense. Anytime you can do that, I don’t care whether you’re throwing it or running it, the offensive line is doing something right.”

    And when the offensive line is doing something right – or in the case of last week, a lot of things right – the offense as a whole is a much better unit.

    Minnesota’s defensive line posed many threats with Allen leading the way coming off a 4.5 sack effort against Green Bay. But the Vikings had just two sacks in the game and both could be categorized as a bit strange.

    One came when Rams quarterback Kyle Boller simply dropped the ball and Minnesota was credited with a team sack. The other came on a play when Kevin Williams pulled Boller down by his helmet and was flagged for unnecessary roughness but through a quirk in league rules was still credited with a sack.

    Aside from that, the line kept the quarterback clean and opened some sizable holes for running back Steven Jackson.

    “I think them playing together week in and week out, is really helping,” quarterback Marc Bulger said. “We said that in preseason, we said that back in the spring that that’s important. As they get better working together, it’s going to help Steven. As he gets going, the protection will get better because they can’t bring the extra guy in the box. The O-line, D-line, everyone, that’s the no secret that’s the key to the NFL and everybody is getting a lot better.”

    That growth has probably been stunted by a variety of ailments that have limited the opportunities for the line to play together on a consistent basis.

    Starting back in training camp, the line at various times has lost guard Jacob Bell to a concussion, guard Richie Incognito to a knee issue, tackle Jason Smith to a knee injury and even Alex Barron has been hampered by some nagging issues.

    Only in recent weeks has the line chemistry started to form in a way that is producing tangible results.

    “Linemen have to work together,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “It’s very important that they win the individual battles but what is most important for an offensive line is being able to work together and I think they did an excellent job last week. Once you do it well one week then consistency is what we are looking for.”

    While chemistry for an entire team is hard to gauge because it’s an intangible quality that can’t really be measured in any type of statistical form, it’s a little more evident for an offensive line.

    Most linemen would acknowledge that playing with the same guys next to you on a repeated basis would increase the chances for success because they are able to play off one another.

    For instance, a guard might be able to pick up a stunt from a defensive end or combination block based on a pre-snap read if he knows what the tackle outside him and the center inside him will do in a certain situation.

    “We are always going to continue to improve as a group week in and week out,” center Jason Brown said. “We are always going to be challenged every week by a different scheme or individuals. But that is our goal to improve every week.”

    Against Minnesota, the Rams used a line of Barron at left tackle, Bell at left guard, Brown, Incognito at right guard and Adam Goldberg at right tackle. Goldberg spent much of the preseason at that spot but provides depth at nearly every position on the line and has been effective in place of Smith, who suffered his knee injury early in the season.

    Smith is working his way back into the mix this week and could potentially start again but it seems at this point, the rest of the line is comfortable regardless of which player gets the nod at right tackle.

    “It’s something we continue to work on,” Brown said. “We have had interchangeable parts ever since the beginning of training camp but whoever is in there we have tried to make sure that they get brought up to speed and keep pressing forward.”

    No player recognizes the development and cohesion of an offensive line better than the running back and so far Jackson likes what he sees.

    Five games into the season, the Rams have seen plenty of eight man boxes designed to stop Jackson from getting his yards. Instead, Jackson and Co. are off to an excellent start, as Jackson ranks fourth in the league in rushing yards with 451 and fourth in scrimmage yards with 543.

    Jackson attributes much of that early success to a continually improving line and fullback Mike Karney that he believes will only get better as the season goes on.

    “The offensive line has definitely been growing, from week one all the way to where we are now, we have really been jelling, especially up front,” Jackson said. “Our protections are down, we know what we have to do before hand and I think everyone has grasped the concept of the West Coast offense. Sunday, I think you saw us making plays and I think it will continue on the rest of the year.”

  • #2
    Re: Offensive Line Finding Chemistry

    I'm smelling a win on Sunday.
    sigpic :ram::helmet:

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Offensive Line Finding Chemistry

      I hope they continue to play this way. Now that the offensive line is improving, all the other guys need to step it up.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Offensive Line Finding Chemistry

        I feel like it all starts with the O Line. If we can give Bulger some time we have the ability to tear up Jax's D because let's face it, their secondary isn't scaring anybody. A couple deep balls to Avery might help open up some space for Jackson and we could be firing on all cylinders. Here's to hoping at least.

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        • r8rh8rmike
          Continuity Leads To Chemistry For Offensive Line
          by r8rh8rmike
          Continuity Leads to Chemistry for Offensive Line
          By Nick Wagoner/Senior Writer

          Before he took a moment to answer the question, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo looked around searching for something to satisfy his superstition concerns about it.

          That’s because, through seven games, his offensive line has employed the same starting five in each contest and the last thing he wanted to do was put a jinx on it.

          “I mean, knock on wood,” Spagnuolo said. “Every game you go and all five are the same, that’s a good thing. So I think those guys get more and more comfortable.”

          Tackle Jason Smith bumped heads with end Chris Long in Thursday's practice and was what Spagnuolo called "a little bit fuzzy." It remains to be seen if that will end the streak this week.

          While it might not seems like a big deal to an outside observer for the same five linemen to play in every game for the first seven games of a season, it certainly stands as quite an accomplishment considering the state of that group in the past six plus years.

          Consider that since the Rams started the exact same line for every game of the 2003 season, no Rams team has been able to put the same group of five in the same positions on the field for more than a consecutive series of five games.

          So it is that the combination of tackles Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith, guards Adam Goldberg and Jacob Bell and center Jason Brown have thus far been able to come together to form a line that is both creating holes for running back Steven Jackson and keeping rookie quarterback Sam Bradford upright.

          “I think our offensive line has done a great job,” Bradford said. “They protected me. I haven’t got hit often. I haven’t been sacked a lot. I think they’re also doing a great job in the run game, opening up some holes for our backs and I think that’s been huge for us, being able to establish the run game.”

          More so than any other spot on the field, the ability to communicate and work together is nothing short of mandatory for the offensive line. With defenses evolving and working so hard to create confusion so as to free up just one person to run free at the quarterback, there is much for an offensive lineman to digest and execute on a given play.

          Should there be one communication error or one step in the wrong direction by any of the five; it could lead to a broken play that could swing momentum or, worse, an injured quarterback.

          In other words, there’s no more important word to an offensive line than continuity.

          “We call ourselves a fist,” Brown said. “Every time we break down, we say that we are five fingers working together for a shared common goal. The thing is it’s tough when you have rotation in there. It wasn’t easy last year when we had so many guys in the mix but you have to overcome that adversity.”

          Of course,...
          -10-28-2010, 12:40 PM
        • RamWraith
          O-Line Dance Continues
          by RamWraith
          Thursday, October 25, 2007
          By Nick Wagoner
          Senior Writer

          For the sixth time in eight games, the Rams will start a different combination along the offense line this Sunday against Cleveland.

          As injuries and other various maladies have plagued the front five for the Rams, the line is searching for something, anything resembling the continuity required to keep quarterback Marc Bulger upright and open holes for running back Steven Jackson.

          “We have been through a ton of o-linemen around here,” Jackson said. “At the end of last year we continued to play merry-go-round with that. We do need to find some stability there, but I can’t dwell on it. Once the ball’s in my hands, I can’t tell the defense, ‘Slow down, these guys don’t know what they’re doing.’ We’re just going to go out there with confidence. I’m going to let them know no matter who’s in front of me or who’s blocking, I trust them to get the job done.”

          But it can be hard to have that trust when many times, you don’t even know who is lining up in front of you. For the record, the Rams will start Alex Barron at left tackle, Milford Brown at left guard, Andy McCollum at center, Richie Incognito at right guard and Brandon Gorin at right tackle.

          Of that group, only Incognito is at the position he was listed at as the starter on the preseason depth chart. Gorin wasn’t even on the roster when the season began and Brown was added during camp and made the team.

          The good news, though, is it appears the Rams are finally able to at least use their linemen at the positions they are most comfortable. Gorin is a natural tackle, Brown is a natural guard and McCollum’s main position is center. That could help a line that had one of its worst performances last week against Seattle when it allowed seven sacks and Bulger was consistently under pressure.

          “We are going to do our best to put them in a position where they are most comfortable with certain protections and run schemes,” coach Scott Linehan said. “We can’t be doing much new, it’s got to be things that are common with them and even in the situation with the new player that doesn’t even really know the system, you just have to be able to match things up and do the best you can. There really is no choice in the matter. I think it’s not a great situation but we are going to do the best we can.”

          To that end, the Rams are doing everything they can to keep it simple for the offensive line this week. Gorin has only been on the roster since Sept. 12. Barron has only been playing left tackle since about the same time, Incognito didn’t return from injury until Oct. 7, Brown has been playing right tackle and McCollum has been working at left guard.

          The past two weeks, the Rams started the same group on the offensive line for the first time in consecutive weeks all season. Still, it wasn’t enough to give Bulger time and...
          -10-26-2007, 06:12 AM
        • eldfan
          Rams' O-line doing just fine
          by eldfan
          Rams' O-line doing just fine
          BY JIM THOMAS
          ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
          11/22/2009

          Not a lot has gone right for the Rams in 2009, no scoop there. The won-loss record doesn't lie — and the Rams are 1-8 entering Sunday's home game with the Arizona Cardinals.

          But the No. 1 goal of general manager Billy Devaney entering last offseason was to fix the offensive line. Nine games into the season, things are trending that way.

          "I know we've made strides," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "You can always get better everywhere. We're trying to get better at every position. But you do see a little bit of gelling there, guys working together. And that's even without Richie (Incognito) out there, and we know Richie's a key part of it. So there's more confidence there. I like the way it's developed. I think we've just got to keep working at that."

          Incognito will miss his third consecutive game Sunday because of a foot injury. But the line keeps perking along. Sacks are down and rushing yards are up. Against the Cardinals, running back Steven Jackson will be going for his fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing game, something he has never done since entering the NFL in 2004.

          "I think from the third game on, we've continued to improve," offensive line coach Steve Loney said. "I've been pleased with our progress."

          Granted, there's plenty of room for improvement. But with seven games to play, the basic numbers are good. The Rams are on pace to rush for 1,902 yards this season and currently are averaging 4.6 yards per carry.

          If those numbers hold up, it will be the team's best rushing performance since the 2001 NFC-championship squad rushed for 2,027 yards, at 4.9 yards per carry.

          Obviously, it's not all the line. Newcomer Mike Karney is the team's best blocking fullback since James "The Hammer" Hodgins played here from 1999-2002. The blocking of the tight ends has been solid. But run blocking begins and ends with up front.

          "It's definitely coming together," Jackson said. "Those guys are doing a great job of gelling. We actually have a (pass) protection meeting with them. When I say 'we,' I'm talking about the running backs. We spend extra time with those guys in walkthroughs. So we're all on the same page. Those guys are really communicating and keeping guys off Marc (Bulger). We're going in the right direction."

          Granted, the Rams aren't nearly the high-wire act in the passing game that they've been in the past. Even so, the team is on pace to allow 32 sacks this season — a modest two per game — which would be the lowest sack total since the Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995.

          "They're not going unnoticed in this locker room, but I think maybe a little bit outside of here," Bulger said. "They're having a pretty good...
          -11-22-2009, 11:55 AM
        • 39thebeast
          Rams line ranked 22 and 2nd in NFC West
          by 39thebeast
          Everyone notices when the stars have big games. But remember that every big rushing, passing or receiving game was set up by an offensive line opening huge holes or giving a QB time to throw.
          So which team has the best offensive line in the league? Scouts Inc. breaks them down Nos. 1 through 32.
          1. Cleveland Browns
          While most NFL teams have about four linemen who are truly starting caliber, the Browns have seven or eight. Not only are they deep, but they arguably have the best left side in the NFL with LG Eric Steinbach and LT Joe Thomas. Entering his second season, Thomas is talented enough to potentially be recognized as the best lineman in the game before the end of the 2008 season. He is a great athlete, has ideal size (6-foot-6, 313 pounds) and the passion to bury his opponent. As a rookie, he wasn't overwhelmed by the speed and size of the game at this level, and now he's had an entire offseason to properly prepare. At 6-6, Steinbach is tall for a guard and lacks ideal bulk, but he is very quick, smart and athletic. He consistently gets under the pads of his opponents, works hard to finish and is tremendous in space. The rest of the group isn't too shabby and made QB Derek Anderson look exceptional last year. The pass protection is impeccable. Ryan Tucker will miss time to start the season, but Cleveland shouldn't miss a beat in his absence. Center Hank Fraley is a tough guy in the middle of the line and does a fine job making the line calls. After a great season in 2007, this group will be even better in 2008.
          2. Dallas Cowboys
          Adding 6-6, 366-pound Leonard Davis to an already stable offensive line was a great move that paid off in a big way last year. A bit of a washout at tackle, Davis proved to be an exceptional guard, and the Cowboys ran behind him when they needed a tough yard. Center Andre Gurode doesn't get the credit he deserves as one of the best pivotmen in the game today. Getting to QB Tony Romo is very difficult against a group that not only pass protects well, but also holds its own as run-blockers. LT Flozell Adams had his best season, but he signed a new contract in the offseason and will need to keep his intensity up after the big payday. RT Marc Colombo is the weakest link among the starters and could be pushed for playing time if he doesn't play better in training camp. Still, this is a tough group that's coached by Hudson Houch, who is one of the best line coaches in the league and has a knack for getting the most out of his players.
          3. Minnesota Vikings
          Everyone on the planet knew that Minnesota was going to run the football last year, and what did they do? They ran it as well as anyone in the league, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. The lack of a passing game cannot be attributed to the Vikings' front five, but this unit is better at run blocking than pass protection. There simply isn't a better offensive lineman in the game than Steve Hutchinson, and his presence on this...
          -06-21-2008, 12:05 AM
        • MauiRam
          Offensive linemen aren't as good as they used to be ..
          by MauiRam
          By Dan Pompeii

          As I went through my tour of training camps, it struck me how one theme was constant wherever I went: offensive line play is a concern. Every team had some sort of issue up front on offense. I don’t believe there is a coaching staff in the league that is completely comfortable with its offensive line.

          There is no question line play has deteriorated in recent years. Neither individual linemen nor offensive line units are what they used to be. So I started to ask people what they thought the reasons were. Here are some of the theories I heard.

          Where have you gone Tony Boselli?
          *As athletes, offensive linemen have not kept pace with pass rushers.

          “Offensive line play probably is not as good as it used to be because, more than ever, all the best athletes play defense,” Giants general manager Jerry Reese told me. “You see it at the combine. The height, weight, speed difference between the lines is pretty dramatic.”

          The Giants have a pass rusher in Jason Pierre-Paul who can do 23 consecutive backflips. I can name some guards who look like they would struggle to do a single forward somersault. The Bears have an interior pass rusher in Henry Melton who was athletic enough to play running back at Texas, and an outside pass rusher in Julius Peppers who was athletic enough to play forward on the North Carolina basketball team.

          Meanwhile, the offensive linemen are the least talented players on the field, and among the lowest paid on average. The best offensive linemen in the league today (Joe Thomas, Jake Long) don’t compare athletically with the best offensive linemen in the league a dozen years ago (Boselli, Jonathan Ogden, Orlando Pace, Willie Roaf). The Pro Bowl alternate tackles last year in the NFC were Tyson Clabo and Donald Penn.

          The dominating left tackle does not exist anymore. “Where are those guys?” Reese said. “You don’t see them. People talk about how you have to have a great offensive tackle. If you have one, great. But who has one? David Diehl is a terrific one, and I’ll take him any day but he’s not at the Tony Boselli level.”

          And it doesn’t look like it will be getting better anytime soon. Among the offensive linemen who played in the 2011 Pro Bowl but won’t be playing this year are Kris Dielman, Brian Waters, Matt Light, Jason Peters and Chad Clifton.

          Said Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, “Everybody says we don’t have a good right tackle. I say show me who does?”

          *There is nowhere near the continuity on offensive lines that there used to be.

          Free agency—and the fact that teams have devalued linemen, especially guards--makes almost every team do an annual offensive line shuffle.

          This year, only two teams—the Falcons and Lions--are expected to open the season with the same five starters in the same five spots that they played with last year. And...
          -09-02-2012, 12:13 PM
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