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The Rams vital center

We're pretty much hanging fire until the Rams coaching search wraps up, and that should happen soon, with Spagnuolo, the only candidate yet to interview, sitting down with Devaney et al today. By all accounts, they should have their guy by the end of the week. 

Let's get back to this power running game thing, for now. Specifically, I wanted to look at the Rams running in the middle since Jacob Bell's Karen Carpenter impersonation, a couple of undersized centers, and the penalty prone meathead Richie Incognito gave the Rams' ground game problems all season. First, Football Outsiders Adjusted Line Yards (ALY) measuring stick for the middle/guard spot. (Here's a definition of ALY from FO). 


Year 2008 2007 2006 2005
ALY 3.92 4.08 4.77 4.18
Rank 25 18 2 14


Clearly, there's been a big drop off in the last three years, and guys like Todd Steussie, Adam Timmerman, and Mark Setterstrom were missed. The first two have since retired and Setterstrom's fractured knee cap may be a career ender. Also, don't forget that in 2006, as rookie, Richie Incognito did a pretty good job playing most of his games at center. 

Bell, like it or not, is coming back; his contract dictates that. The team would like him to bulk back up to the 300 lbs range, too. The Rams really need him to improve, and talk of a move to tackle is something being considered by Haslett. Since Haslett's chances of coaching here next season are slipping away, such a move is unlikely. And that's fine; Bell played well at G prior to coming here and there's no reason to think he can't get back to that level.

Having a better C will surely help. Romberg or Leckey may be fine backups, but this is one position they need to upgrade. Here's the list of free agent centers and some draft possibilities. Personally, I'd consider moving Incognito back to C, unless the team doesn't make the restricted free agent an offer, which wouldn't break any hearts. If he could get over his stupidity - not the 'tude, the penalties -  he's an asset. 

But let's not get carried away. The Rams averaged an NFL-worst 2.57 yards per run on the RG spot; combined with their 3.73 average, 23rd ranked, through C, the right side of the middle was the biggest weakness. At LG, the Rams averaged 5.08 yards per carry, 2nd best in the NFL, obviously helped by Orlando Pace's inspired run blocking this season too.

The Rams look like they have a starter in G John Greco, which takes care of one need in the middle. Greco had his lapses when he did play, but his pass blocking was solid and his run blocking should improve with practice and mentoring, considering that was his strength coming into the league. 

So what to do? There's supposedly a "50-50" chance that the Rams will bring back Incognito. Personally, as much as I hate to admit it, I'd bring him back - he's affordable or, if they don't he could net a draft pick with a qualifying offer making it a win-win - and let him fight for a job. They still ought to bring in a professional center to bolster the middle should one of the guards be less than stellar.