July 27, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams defensive end Jamaar Jarrett (65) and tackle Joe Long (77) run through drills during training camp at ContinuityX Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE
Anxiety about the St. Louis Rams' offensive line has been one undying theme among the punditocracy and fans since the start of training camp. It is understandable. Injuries, coaching, whatever you want to point to, the front five did not have a good season in 2011, which chipped away at the team's $78 million asset.
After watching practice yesterday, I'm not losing sleep over it yet.
I walked to bleachers Tuesday afternoon fully expecting to see any and all fears confirmed. I winced when I saw Chris Long work his way around Jason Smith on one play. As I watched the rest of practice, from great grabs in the end zone to beautiful bull rushers to perfect presses at the line, the worry dissipated.
This is training camp, practice, where things are not always what they seem.
"Our offensive line is getting better because the talent level their lining up against and vice versa," head coach Jeff Fisher said. "Its good for Robert (Quinn) to work against Rodger (Saffold). They come in, they put in a days work and they learn, they help each other."
The Rams can claim some of the best defensive linemen in the league. Chris Long had more total pressures than any other 4-3 defensive end last season. He picked up three sacks against the Saints last year, a team with one of the best offensive lines in the league and a quarterback who makes his protectors look that much better.
That sounds more like an excuse than it does a viable reason for not being overly concerned about the Rams' offensive line. My reasoning is somewhat more philosophical.
Watching practice is a great way to get a feel for the players and the team, but it represents an incomplete picture, at best. Will from Rams Herd recounted the conversation with Kevin Demoff and Les Snead from yesterday's practice, the conversation about how practices look different under Jeff Fisher than they do with other coaches. I suspect that is not exclusive to Fisher either.
It is not to say that players are just going through the motions. Things are just different in practice. Think about the flip side of this, the 4-0 preseason or the wide receivers who make even the toughest grabs on the practice field only to disappear when the games start.
None of this is to make excuses for the offensive line. Pundits, fans and everyone else have good reason to put the unit under close scrutiny. For now, just watch things unfold. A Week 1 game against the Detroit Lions, with matchups against Ndamukong Suh and Cliff Avril, will be a very good point for judging the group.