Rejuvenated with a straight six hours of sleep, no small accomplishment for a new father, I'm going to start the morning with a little devil's advocate. No, not that horrible movie with Al Pacinio (remember when he did movies for more than just a paycheck?), but with a question about a Rams player without much standing 'round these parts. So let's ask, does Alex Barron deserve yet another chance?
All the o-line talk lately has focused on the Rams potentially cutting future Hall of Famer Orlando Pace. What goes unsaid in those conversations is parting ways with Pace means Alex Barron is definitely part of the Rams plans for 2009, and possibly beyond, even if they do draft an OT with the second overall pick in the draft. Let's look at the pros and cons.
Pros & Excuses
Barron has been healthy, the one Rams lineman who hasn't been forced to the sidelines for any amount of time in the last three years because of injury. That's no small feat given the context. Barron's also decent in run blocking and adequate in pass protection. No Pro Bowler, but a starting level OT.
Being healthy in the midst of the line's injury epidemic forced Barron to move back and forth between the left and right OT spots, doubtlessly confusing a young man suffering from a lack of coaching to begin with. Lack of coaching? Sure, think about it. Barron's rookie season was 2005, a year of turmoil at Rams Parks, where attention to on-field matters was minimal. After that came the overwhelmed Scott Linehan, unable to instill a winning mentality in his players and soon beset by veterans openly questioning him. Those conditions aren't particularly conducive to developing the latent talent in a young player.
Barron never met a false start he didn't like. I'm not a player, but it still seems strange that a guy just can't get the snap count figured out after four seasons. Sure, Barron was much better this season, losing the team penalty crown to Richie Incognito. Nevertheless, he still had 9 penalties (11 when you count the ones declined), 7 false starts. How much damn coaching does it take?
Bad teams pay a price for hanging on to unrealized potential, waiting for a player's talent to manifest itself while it never does. And the Rams are certainly in that territory with Barron. However, Barron is relatively cheap and you can argue that his shortcomings don't outweigh the benefit of him being a competent everyday starter.
Ideally, the team would have someone to push him, a competitor threatening to take his livelihood. That could be John Greco, but he seem more suited to the middle of the line. And if Pace's salary and age have put a target on his back, that most certainly means Barron's going nowhere. The Rams limited resources combined with lots of needs means signing two starting tackles is out of the question. It's not the worst thing. With upgrades at C and the other tackle spot, the line would greatly improve, hiding Barron's struggles somewhat. Maybe the new coaching staff, led by Steve Spagnuolo can breath some new life, even some passion, into Barron.
Now, there's a lot of fans out there down on Barron, rightfully so. But let's open this up to debate and a vote. Is he worth hanging on to, regardless of the Rams likely decision with him? Are we putting ourselves in a bad spot waiting for his potential still? Does he figure into the teams plans beyond '09?