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Whicker: Rams' biggest stumbling block? Their offensive line

Discussion in 'RAMS - NFL TALK' started by Merlin, Jan 10, 2017.

  1. Merlin

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    http://www.ocregister.com/articles/rams-740676-year-third.html

    Whicker: Rams' biggest stumbling block? Their offensive line

    By MARK WHICKER / STAFF COLUMNIST

    Unless the Rams are using their head coaching interviews to ask how quickly this offensive line can be repealed and replaced, they might as well be playing gin rummy.

    Perhaps you are only dimly aware of how poorly the Rams transported the football through enemy lines, or across yard lines. If so, try on these numbers:

    • Next-to-last in the NFL in quarterback rating.

    • Third-from-last in yards per pass attempt.

    • Next to last in yards per rush.

    • Last in third-down conversions.

    • Last in touchdowns.

    When the magic ran out for Case Keenum, we pleaded for the Rams to play Jared Goff. When Goff went winless and was lucky not to finish the season headless, we scratched our chins and said, “Hmmm, this offensive line has problems.”

    “I watched them all year,” said Doug Smith, the center from the Eric Dickerson years, now an assistant coach at Orange Coast College. “I think they need more of a veteran presence, someone to provide some mentoring, like I got from guys like Tom Mack and Rich Saul.”

    Perhaps. Rodger Saffold, who was the top lineman on the team according to Pro Football Focus, is a seven-year veteran, and center Tim Barnes has played five years. The others were second- and third-year players, including left tackle Greg Robinson, a former No. 2 overall pick who was benched for a time.

    When the old Rams could do nothing else, they could always block. Jackie Slater had 211 NFL starts, Smith 160, Irv Pankey 122, Kent Hill 114 and Tom Newberry 143.

    “When it was third-and-short we knew we were running behind Jackie,” Smith said. “Irv was that typical Penn State guy, highly intelligent and tough. Kent Hill could outrun some of the backs. I played with Dennis Harrah, too, and he’d be talking to himself during the games, telling himself to do it better. Me, I was more of a religious type. I was praying most of the time.”

    Thanks to free agency, you can’t keep the band together. So the Rams either need an offensive line coach who doubles as an illusionist or a bunch of new players.

    Because they gave up this year’s first- and third-round draft picks in the package for Goff, this will not be a turn-key process.

    The Cowboys are the current template. They took left tackle Tyron Smith (USC) in 2011, center Travis Frederick in 2013 and Zack Martin in 2014, all in the first round. Now they can win with rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, who rarely needs Wisk to wash his jersey.

    When A.J. Smith was putting together playoff teams in San Diego, he faced an OL makeover. He signed free agent left tackle Roman Oben and right tackle Mike Goff, used a third-round pick on center Nick Hardwick and a seventh on guard Shane Olivea. Then he took an ill-tempered defensive tackle and moved him to guard, and Kris Dielman became a Pro Bowl player. When Oben aged out, there was second-round pick Marcus McNeill.
     
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  2. TexasRam

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  3. shaunpinney

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    We can afford to wait for the draft to fix this area - I suggest that we should hit FA hard this year and get quality right off the bat. We could go after Andrew Whitworth, for a season, I know he's a bit long in the tooth now, but he's solid quality (and an LA kid) or Riley Reiff another solid T.

    I'd also try and upgrade at C too, AQ Shipley springs to mind or JC Tretter. Two strong, reliable vet C's to help our young QBs.
     
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  4. Faceplant

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    Should be a focus in FA. If for no other reason than to protect the QB next season. We should have a decent amount of cap $ to at least over pay for a decent center (assuming any come available). Should hopefully have plenty left to make a run at some other FAs at key positions.
     
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  5. shaunpinney

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    I really do think we could look at T, C, WR and possibly CB in FA this year.
     
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  6. Faceplant

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    Yes sir. That is exactly where I would be looking to upgrade as well.
     
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  7. dieterbrock

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    I don't think the Cowboys are the blueprint, in fact I think they are more of the exception. The right players were available at the right time for them. It worked great. But look at teams who've improved their oline play without the benefit of the draft, Oakland was horrible and have built a line full of cast offs and FA, Gabe Jackson being the only guy they drafted (3rd round)
     
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  8. jap

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    I will be very interested to see what the future HC does about GRob and a few of the sophomore OL men. They could use a couple anchors on both sides of the center . . . maybe at center too. I want an OL that can expedite the Gurley Express!'s 2105+ yard season.
     
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  9. thirteen28

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    I think having an OC who knows what the f he's doing will go a long way toward fixing the OL. It won't go all the way, but when your scheme has no coherence or identity, that affects everybody, line included.
     
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  10. Psycho_X

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    Absolutely, o-line is top priority in the offseason. They've invested their future in Goff now it's time to protect him.

    There needs to be a culture change first. We have some veterans but none really seem like leaders. Barnes seems like a fighter but not sure he's a leader and his talent hit the ceiling years ago. Saffold gives off all the wrong impressions, to me at least. Maybe he's a great guy, I don't really know, but nothing about any interviews or social media exposure has said "mature leader" to me. In fact, quite the opposite of that. They definitely need someone on that o-line to be "the dude".
     
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  11. shaunpinney

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    I dont think we're in the luxurious position of wholesale changes, I think there are definite upgrades / adds that need to be done this off-season
     
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  12. snackdaddy

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    Doesn't hurt to quarterback with elusive skills. Anyone watch Aaron Rogers the other day? Seemed like the dude ran 30 yards every pass play without crossing the line of scrimmage. I kinda thought Goff could have those skills one day. Can't teach that stuff.

    But in the meantime, our line stinks. But we're kinda stuck with most of them. They could use a veteran or two. Doesn't have to be all pro, just consistent. And we gotta hope the new coach can coach them up. At this point, all we have is hope. We really don't have anything we can hang our hat on.
     
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  13. Dog

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    If we needed our line to block out a bad coaching hire, we'd be screwed.
     
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  14. fearsomefour

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    Keenum for all his shortcomings usually got rid of the ball quickly. With Goff holding the ball the true weakness of the line was exposed.....and sadly they were generally better pass blocking than run blocking.
    The articles finishes talking about AJ Smith signing FA and using draft picks to address the Chargerd line. Right. Rams have done that and it has not worked. Erin players? Wrong scheme? Don't know.
    To me there is no quick fix in FA.
    I would sign some mid level FA lineman (which is all you will find for under $10 M a year) to compete with what is already here. Hopefully a new coach and OL coach can make improvements. Otherwise, it will be another long haul.
     
  15. DaveFan'51

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    Words from the wise!!!

    " My God, to have a line like this once again, I'd sell my soul!

    Whickerman Took the long way around, just to brag about the Cow-Pies O-Line!! JMHO
     
  16. JackDRams

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    I'd like the team to try and sign Reiff. Still think he could be pretty good.
     
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  17. jap

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    I was thinking in terms of two possible anchor upgrades. In fact, we may possibly have one of those anchors on the team right now in Jaws (Rob Havenstein). How long would it take to possibly convert GRob into a solid LG? Can we get a FA/draftee to man the center spot?

    In 1999, Adam Timmermann was added from Green bay to anchor the right side while Orlando Pace anchored the left.
     
  18. LACHAMP46

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    I'd target Garrett Bolles, OT outta Utah....John Toth, C outta Kentucky...start there. Great coach...and we'd be instantly better. Create real competition at the guard positions. Bring back more full padded practices & real goalline situations. Get these fat guys moving.

    Never knew Smith was down at OCC. I guess the Rams can't use any input from an all-pro center...
     
  19. 99Balloons

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    Rams need a new T, G and Center, WRs and OL coach.

    Look at the Seahawks with LT George Fant thrust in to the game at the last moment and coached by Cable. The guy barely played football and he performed like an All-Pro. The whole entire Seahawks Offensive Line is better than what the pundits are saying. And they will allow Rawls to run amok in the upcoming game against the Falcons.

    So unless the Rams get football players who know how to play football, their OL will be predictable and easily bull-rushed at all times.
     
  20. Riverumbbq

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    #20 Riverumbbq, Jan 10, 2017
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2017
    Luxury or not, wholesale changes may be required to get our offense going sooner than later. The Rams have CAP dollars to spend if they can find the players willing to come west, and they are willing to cut some guys that aren't producing. The next HC/OC will also be a factor on free agents who may want to play in his system.
    There are several alternative methods for building a competitive OL, and not all of them are great, especially considering what little we have to work with based on these past few seasons. If GRob can successfully hold down an OG position and Saffold be given the other OG starting position, we may not need to find any more Guards in 2017 as we have a few depth types already. Saffold appears an immediate injury risk whenever he plays LT, so I personally would not care to pencil him in as a replacement or starting LT. The Rams, imo, would absolutely require a new LT and Center in 2017, and I highly doubt they could convince a quality older vet like Andrew Whitworth or even a Jason Peters if he were to become a CAP casualty to come over to a team undergoing an overhaul, ... rather I see them looking for a play-off caliber team on what is likely to be their final NFL contract. Riley Reiff has been a name being bandied about, although I see this as more than likely overpaying for a long term contract which could also backfire. A short term solution at LT may be our only means for fulfilling this mission, I just don't trust our scouting brain trust to find a 2'nd round starting LT in the draft (Dion Dawkins ?), so a gamble may be our only alternative, and at this point I probably take my chances on a short term 'prove it' contract with Matt Kalil. Since we really need a qualified back-up as well, i'm praying Darrell Williams is fully recovered and back to 2015 form at least.
    There are two good Centers which may still be available when we draft in the 2'nd, if LSU's Ethan Pocic or Ohio States Pat Elflein are still around, we may have our next decade covered. JC Tretter is another young quality free agent which would be a big improvement here. I'd have Wichmann practicing a great deal in camp to hold down back-up Center & OG positions.

    If the Rams can land Alshon Jeffery in Free Agency, we will forget all about Britt & Quick in a hurry, he will cost us, but we will finally have our #1 receiver, and he will be surrounded by young talent seeking their opportunities. After cutting Kendricks, i'd also look to sign Jack Doyle as his free agent replacement. Barnes & Kendricks carry no dead money in 2017, good time to rid ourselves of those contracts.

    I'd consider the following to be a pretty significant offensive change, and an affordable one :

    LT - Kalil, Williams
    LG - Saffold, Wichmann
    C - Pocic or Elflein or Tretter, Wichmann
    RG - GRob, Brown
    RT - Havenstein, Donnal

    RB - Gurley, Cunningham, Brown, Green

    FB - Harkey

    TE - Doyle, Higbee, Hemingway

    WR - Jeffery, Austin, Cooper, Spruce, Thomas, North

    QB - Goff, Mannion

    jmo.
     
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