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Reshaping the Rams offensive line

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Football Outsiders posted the NFC West edition of their "Four Downs" series looking at needs and liabilities for each team as things stand right now, weeks away from the draft. (I'm not getting paid to say this, not at all, but I respect the work of team at Football Outsiders. They are thorough, honest and even-handed in their analysis, and offer a nice break from the shouting that taints football coverage elsewhere. I don't always agree, but it's to their credit that you can hold different opinions and still hold their take in high regard.)

As you can see, their take on the state of the Rams is mixed. I won't copy the whole thing here; it's well worth your time to read. The Rams offense gets a number of question marks affixed to it in the article: the wide receiver situation and what Al Saunders can do with them. But it's the offensive line that gets the most ink. To wit:

...Alex Barron and Richie Incognito are liabilities on the offensive line...

Granted, Barron was a stranger in a strange land on the left side this season, and Incognito played only 4 games in his second season. With Barron, we know what we've got, and I think he's probably closer to "adequate" than "liability." Maybe. Maybe, I'm just so used to him that I've learned to forget what a RT could be. Penalty-wise, Barron wasn't much better last season than he has been in the past, incurring 13 penalties for 81 yards (in 2006 he had 14 for 75 and the year before 16 for 115). Incognito was penalty prone himself in his rookie year, taking 10 for 95 yards. Five of those were holding penalties, which speaks to the desperate need of good coaching for our young linemen. Setterstrom has just 3 penalties in 10 games over the last two seasons. Training camp should feature a good battle between Setterstrom and Incognito for the RG spot, assuming that Romberg starts at C, where he flashed some real potential down the stretch in 2006.

Signing Jacob Bell did earn the team praise, and there was even this comment about signing Bell rather than Faneca:

Although the Rams tried to sign Alan Faneca, Bell may end up being the better long-term option, and if Orlando Pace manages to stay healthy, Steven Jackson should have fun running to the left side this year.

That's something we've noted here before.

Discussing the Rams draft needs, FO strongly encouraged the team to take Michigan OT Jake Long, as you might have expected after devoting that much time to the o-line. That idea was also discussed in the Post-Dispatch today, in an article noting Linehan's desire to further improve the offensive line. Drafting Long and using him at RG has been discussed all over the internet in mock draft after mock draft, but Linehan may have tipped his hand with this quote:

"I personally wouldn't want (Long) playing guard. He's one of the best tackles I've ever seen."

From there, he went on to allude that Long would be considered as the team's RT for 2008 if they drafted him. If that were the case they could try and trade Barron or cut him outright. We'll get some indication of that on draft weekend, when trade rumors start flying. I still believe the team will look for an OT in the second or even third round, a less ominous possibility with a better personnel guru at the helm in Billy Devaney. That way, they may get some improvement at RG for 2008 and use the season to give Barron a final evaluation under the new coaching staff.

It should be an interesting month.