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NFL Weekend: St. Louis Rams, And The Road Ahead...

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In the building process since 2012, the St. Louis Rams could be on the verge of turning a corner among NFL teams. For what seems like forever, the Rams have been searching for a way to get back to the post season. For the last three NFL seasons, they've had a staggeringly young roster. But the concept head coach Jeff Fisher and General Manager Les Snead have been following is tried and true: Build through the draft, with a smattering of veterans to help develop young talent...

Last week, I touched on the wide receiver group for the Rams. Promising young group that they are, the pieces-parts needed to build an effective offense in the NFL are many, yet often hard to define. Clearly though, there's one position group few can argue against being at, or near, the top of the Rams' concern list: The Offensive Line...

Over the last three NFL seasons, St. Louis has tried to work with patch-work tackles, guards and centers in a variety of mix-em-up ways. They've hit free agency, spending big on a talented, though waning Jake Long. They've let popular linemen go too. (see: Harvey Dahl). The Rams used the #2 overall draft pick in 2014 on left tackle Greg Robinson, and in the 2015 draft, went all-in taking four offensive linemen. In the recent Supplemental Draft, the added Clemson's Isaiah Battle to the mix.

Rams fans may laud the fact Fisher and Snead have finally seen the light; building up a weak offensive line through the draft. But... Did they wait too long?

In truth, I think it becomes a matter of opinion when it comes to building any position group on an NFL team. The trend among teams has almost universally been to use lower round pick to fill out line depth. Sure, the NFL Draft always has a few left tackles cracking the top 10 picks each year. Yet, by and large, most offensive linemen are found outside the early rounds of the NFL Draft.

The Rams have banged their heads on the youngest team in the NFL ceiling for quite a while now. Entering the 2015 season, they now have what very well could be the youngest starting offensive line in team history. Only - the oft injured - Rodger Saffold remains as a full time returning starter. I mention Saffold because there's a VERY real possibility he doesn't finish the 2015 season, which could lead to a starting line featuring at least three rookies, and a couple of second year linemen, who've seen very little playing time in the NFL...

A nervous, titchy feeling has to be traveling down every Rams fans' spine when they read that last sentence, and rightly so. New Rams quarterback Nick Foles has to be feeling the same way too. Not the most mobile signal caller, Foles' entire season is going to hinge on a group of untested linemen protecting him from the hoards of blood thirsty NFL defensive linemen. Greg Robinson will have Foles' blindside.  If you don't think their coming opponents' defensive coordinators are already scheming to overload the former Auburn star, think again.

Right tackle was a weak spot for the Rams in 2014, especially when an elite pass rusher faced them. Joe Barksdale, a journeyman-at-best tackle - was left to wander the free agency field until he was signed by San Diego for far less than he thought he'd make on the open market. Rookie Rob Havenstein will now give the right side a try, and how he performs could very well decide just how effective Jeff Fisher's "run first" offense is in 2015.

There's a wide open race for the center and left guard positions, as well as the soon to be needed right guard position Saffold seems to have locked up going into training camp. The player I like best going into the Rams season is rookie guard/tackle Andrew Donnal.

The thing I like most about Donnal is his passion for the game. He like to hit people, and there's few positions in the NFL where this kind of mentality is more necessary than right tackle. He lived in the shadow of Washington first rounder Brando Scherff, and both went down to ACL injuries in the same game against Ohio State. What I see in Donnal is a raw, but talent tackle who could very well be the steal of the 2015 Rams draft class. He has the college baseline coaching to give St. Louis a guy who could have a shortened learning curve, and that may be critical during the coming season. I don't see - as many do - Donnal shifting inside to guard. The Rams need a mauler at right tackle, and the former Iowa bookend could very well be that guy.

Center? I honestly don't see a clear cut answer among the prospects on the Rams' roster. There really isn't anyone I'd be confident saying "should" get the starting job. This too, could very well be the position Nick Foles has to concern himself with the most. I think Foles - and you - will agree with me, that the first guy to touch the ball on every play - let alone being charged with calling out line protections as a general rule - is an important role?

The bottom line for the Rams in 2015, is... What? No, really? Can anyone out there honestly say the Rams have any higher concern going into the 2015 NFL season than their offensive line? I can't, and I doubt any Rams fans will disagree with me...