The St. Louis Rams offensive line, the starters anyway, took a clear step forward from the first preseason game to the second. Run blocking was just a little tighter, pass protection kept pockets a little wider, and the Rams moved down the field with ease for a pair of well-executed, quick strike touchdowns to open the game against the Chiefs.
What can should we expect from the unit this weekend in Dallas? Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer sees a group that should still be on its way to promising things.
They key are a pair of veterans in guard Harvey Dahl and center Scott Wells.
Said Schottenheimer of Dahl:
"Obviously, we knew what we were getting with Harvey having Coach Boudreau here. Harvey was with ‘Boo' in Atlanta. He's one of the throw backs. Just hard nose, good football player, tough, going to answer the bell every day. He's one of the leaders, if not the leader of that group."
You got the feeling last year that Dahl was trapped in a shell, not able to fully impart his style on the group for whatever reasons. Already, you can see a line with both his intensity of play and line coach Paul Boudreau's devotion to technique.
Those influences have been a positive for third-year left tackle Rodger Saffold. Schottenheimer praised his talent:
"(He's) very talented, extremely talented. I think if you look at his feet, you look at his strengths, things like that, I think he's definitely got that ability. The big thing for him will be consistency. You know that's a tough job every week sitting over there blocking the best pass rushers in the league. But he certainly has the ability. He showed flashes of it at times. I think with (Offensive Line) Coach Boudreau working with him, he's got a chance to be a great player."
Notice mentions of Boudreau? It sounds like the players are not the only ones making an impression on Scottenheimer.
Center Scott Wells made his second practice appearance of training camp on Wednesday, but Schottenheimer says his health is fine and catch-up is minimal.
"Yeah, I think so. I think Scott's excited to be back out there. It's always good to get the mental reps, but until you go out there, especially at that spot and you have people moving around, you have side boards with the guards and stuff, you really don't get a good feel for it. Luckily he's a veteran guy. It's nice to have him out there. But he's really been working hard getting ready, preparing mentally. He's been meeting a lot with (QB) Sam (Bradford) and the other quarterbacks and other centers are just kind of really dialing into the playbook. He looks good."
The line's play this week could be closely tied to just how far up to speed Wells is, if he plays. Chemistry matters to linemen, and a few days work may not be enough to get Wells and the other four in sync. Then again, we may be overthinking this. It's definitely something to watch this week against Dallas.
Of course, Wells the center is also the link from the line to the moving parts of the offense via natural physical, mental and psychic connection of the quarterback's hands under his arse, even in the shotgun. Schottenheimer said things are fine on that front as well.
"Yes, I think so. I think they're in sync. I think that's not an issue. You can do some of that stuff in walk-thrus and meetings. But to get them out there and playing a little bit, yeah that'll be great. Again, you're dealing with a veteran center that's been here, been around. We'll get some work together with them for sure. But at the end of the day they'll be ready to go."
The Rams offensive line really need to continue to post solid results to assure fans about the season.