It’s July which means training camp is inching closer by the day. The dates have formally been released and the Rams will begin on July 21st for the rookies and July 24th for the veterans. In preparation for training camp, I have broken down almost every position on offense, and now is when I will wrap up the offense by breaking down the offensive line.
The offensive line may not be the prettiest position or the most recognized, but it is one of the most important positions. You can have a good quarterback with decent weapons, but without an offensive line, you can only have limited success and a good quarterback will make rookie mistakes, just look as Phillip Rivers and the Chargers the last two years. The Rams have struggled on the offensive line whether it’s due to injury or lack of talent, the Rams have struggled. Luckily for them though they drafted a solid tackle in Roger Saffold and signed good free agent players such as Harvey Dahl, Scott Wells, and Jake Long. The Rams went from having a terrible offensive line to having an offensive line that will get the job done.
The Rams really hit a home run when they signed Jake Long in the offseason. Sam Bradford finally had weapons AND somebody to protect his blind side. Bradford was a happy camper to say the least. Long will bring veteran leadership and experience to a young team looking to take the next step. The Rams offensive line last season had 22 offensive holding penalties which ranked 11th worst while also having 24 false start penalties which was the 7th worst. Jake Long will help the team in that regard as he has kept his penalties generally in check throughout his entire career. Long has been in a downward spiral the last two years giving up 12.5 sacks which are almost as many as he had in his first three seasons combined(13.5). If Long can get back to the all-pro level he is capable of, Long could turn the Rams offensive lines into one of the best.
The other tackle on the Rams roster is Rodger Saffold, the standout 2010 second round pick for the Rams. Like Bradford, Saffold had a rough second season struggling to stay healthy as well as stat wise, giving up nine sacks in nine games. Saffold turned it around last season, and although he didnt play in all 16 games he did play in 10 and only gave up 2.5 sacks in those 10 games. Saffold has potential to be a top tackle in the league, and if he plays up to that level he and Long could become the best tackle duo in the NFL. Saffold will be making the move to the right side this season which he was reportedly unhappy with, but he still showed up to mini-camp and the switch is now being seen as a non issue. Saffold is in a contract year, he will want to play big if he wants a big contract next season.
The Rams guards that will more than likely see the most playing time are Rokevious Watkins, Harvey Dahl, Chris Williams, Shelley Smith, as well as rookie Barrett Jones. The aging Harvey Dahl and Rokevious Watkins should be the starters when the season rolls around. However, Watkins must serve a one game suspension week one and if Jones or any of the other depth players play well, Watkins could very well lose his starting job. The competition at guard is also one of the more anticipated battles during camp, this will definitely be a competition worth keeping an eye on.
Finally an offensive line is cannot be solid without a solid piece right in the middle. Thankfully for the Rams, they have Scott Wells. Wells has had some injury problems, but when he’s healthy, he plays well. The Rams may not have one of the best offensive line’s in the league right now, but they do have one that if healthy, is solid and can get the job done. In order for Bradford to have the year that many are expecting him to have, the offensive line must stay healthy and play well or Bradford could be facing another year like he had in 2011. For a side note, last season the Rams were 7-3-1 when the offensive line gave up less than three sacks. Keeping Bradford upright is key for the Rams to succeed in 2013.