Keeping the quarterback upright is a bold task for anyone to accomplish, even for someone as lauded as Paul Boudreau. It's the most important job in the entire organization. It's cliche to say the season rests on whether or not he can accomplish it, but that doesn't mean it isn't true.
The Rams must find a way to protect Sam Bradford.
Les Snead and the front office have done almost all they can to make his job easier, to their credit. They added two highly prized free agents in the last two years- Jake Long and Scott Wells- but the direct results of those two additions haven't yet been visible. Therein lies his problem: No one lineman can stay healthy.
That leaves the team with mostly untested options. You'll see them in the preseason, but we'll break them down here to make your life easier:
Joe Barksdale v. Injury
Yeah, he's pretty safe. He's one spot behind Rodger "the Glass Man" Saffold on the depth chart and could get some significant time with the first team during the preseason due to Saffold's current injury. He's a much better fit on the right side and that was evident against Cleveland.
It will be important to see how he fares with Saffold out. It's one thing to come in for a few snaps, but it's another to be in the game snap-for-snap with the first team. Of course, working next to a healthy Scott Wells and Harvey Dahl certainly can't hurt either.
Then again, getting trained by Jackie Slater certainly can't hurt.
Shelley Smith v. Chris Williams
Oh, the pièce de résistance. It's not every preseason when you have a simple, 'may the best man win' open competition. Williams has been average during his time with the Rams, that's certainly evident given the fact that Smith and him are still neck-and-neck. He doesn't have the best history (seriously- Bears fans still hate him), but he certainly has (or had) the talent at one point in time.
On the other side of things there is Smith. Given the alternating play between the two, it's his turn to start against the Green Bay Packers. Things are still wide open, so if he can make a good impression tomorrow, the door might swing shut for Williams.
Jones is the dark horse of the offensive line. He's been hyped coming into camp, mostly because of his ability to play nearly any position on the line. He's dealt with a lisfranc injury for awhile now, but saw some action against Cleveland. With some of the lineman injured, it wouldn't be surprising to have him take snaps at both center (where he is currently the 3rd stringer) or right tackle.
The race is on. We'll see tomorrow who will make the most of the second lap.