This morning, I linked to a 2012 NFL mock draft predicting the St. Louis Rams spending the third overall pick on Stanford offensive tackle Jonathan Martin. After watching the performance of the offensive line this year, it's hard not to be a little disappointed. Granted, they were a much better unit against the Packers last week, but it's alarming that Sam Bradford has been sacked 21 times now and for the first time in his short NFL career his status for starting is in doubt. The key to all this disappointment and the biggest question mark for the Rams' OL troubles: Jason Smith.
Since drafting Smith with the second overall pick in 2009, it's fair to question just what the future hold for him. He's mediocre on the outside, along with being maddeningly inconsistent as a pass blocker. He also eats a ton of salary cap space through 2014 thanks to the old manner in which rookie contracts worked.
Out there on the interwebs, there's been some armchair coach talk about moving Smith to the inside, guard. There's an obvious comparison here with Robert Gallery. Would Smith be a better guard than he is a tackle? It stands to reason that his run blocking skills would translate better to the inside, but the question many have with Smith is whether or not he possesses the mettle to be an offensive lineman in the NFL. The acquisition of Harvey Dahl was supposed to address that, but the results are mixed so far.
If Smith really does have the potential to play on the inside, it coincides with the team's roster situation for 2012. Jacob Bell, the incumbent left guard, restructured his contract to free up cap space. It makes him a free agent after this season. If the Rams do feel like Smith could play guard, they could move him to Bell's spot, and shift Saffold over to the right in the event they did spend their second high draft pick in four years on an offensive tackle. Of course, they could also find a right tackle somewhere else and leave Saffold on the left. They have options.
Whether or not the Rams do spend a high draft pick on an offensive lineman, they do need to start finding some youthful talent to develop along the front five, rather than relying exclusively on shaky veterans as backups. Hopefully, they can develop Tim Barnes or Drew Miller, but linemen ought to be a focus of their middle round picks this year.
Something has to happen. The Rams cannot start the 2012 season with the same level of offensive line play that marred their start this season.