Can LA Rams OL Joseph Noteboom return in 2020?

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

The LA Rams pushed Joseph Noteboom to the starting left guard position in 2019. He struggled before falling to injury. Can he return in 2020?

The LA Rams offensive lineman Joseph Noteboom is not talked about much nowadays. When his name does surface, it’s oftentimes referring to “that kid” who struggled so on the offensive line in 2019 and then got hurt. Hurt is one way of putting it. The young man tore up his knee, damaging both his MCL and ACL, an injury that once cost a football player his entire career. Now, the young man must fight through the pain and the anguish with little fan support and encouragement.  All for his dream of starting for his NFL team, the LA Rams, once more.

Joseph Noteboom was scouted as a solid offensive lineman in the 2018 NFL Draft. An offensive tackle with the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs, Noteboom was versatile indeed, playing right tackle before switching to left tackle for his final two seasons of NCAA college football.  Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 309 pounds per his NFL Draft profile, Noteboom offered the versatility so desperately needed by NFL general managers.  One offensive lineman who theoretically can plug-n-play at virtually each of five offensive line positions.  One spare tire in the trunk. Economical, and effective.

Everything changed when the Rams allowed veteran left guard Rodger Saffold signed with the Tenessee Titans. With the LA Rams not offering to bring back center John Sullivan, the team would now face two simultaneous vacancies in their Super Bowl 53 offensive line.  Anyone taking over for their roles would naturally struggle as all players do when arriving at a new offensive line group.  But this time, the Rams would be replacing two very good offensive linemen.

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Joseph Noteboom was one of them. Predictably, he struggled. Unexpectedly, he was injured. Now he must fight the uphill battle through pain, countless hours of rehabilitation, and get back up on the horse that threw him.

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Scouting reports pegged Noteboom as a great fit for the Rams.  Of course, the projections had him as the eventual replacement for OT Andrew Whitworth, not for G Saffold. In 2018, he saw action on 7 percent of the offensive snaps. In 2019, he saw action in 34 percent of the offensive snaps. Pro Football Focus (PFF) scored him at an impressive 70.7 in 2018, but only at 39.7 in 2019. Did he fail the Rams in 2019, or did the Rams set him up to fail last year?

The LA Rams enter a new season, with plenty of question marks over the offensive line. But at the same time, better depth than ever before. Joe Noteboom will not be rushed to plug a hole in the offensive line prematurely.  Hopefully, he will be able to train as the backup for his natural offensive tackle role.

Noteboom may have had some rough going in 2019, but his NFL career lies ahead of him. For 2020, he will now have plenty of experience as a starter to draw upon in training camp.  He will join Brian Allen, David Edwards, Bobby Evans, and Austin Corbett in training camp as players who saw their first NFL starts in 2019.

The Rams may not have had the strongest offensive line last season, but you can bet the players learned a great deal about what it takes to play in the NFL and will be ready to do so in 2020.  With that much experience distributed almost evenly among five young players, the competition at training camp will be hot and heavy.

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The road back is never easy. But I believe Joseph Noteboom will be even more effective and resilient as a player in 2020 for it.  He’s already had one of the most difficult seasons a young player can endure in the NFL, and survived. Now, he can use that as motivation for the new season, having purged all the demons facing him already.