Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Rams’ offensive line still taking shape ahead of season opener

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THOUSAND OAKS — On a team that hasn’t dealt with much in the way of position battles in the past few years, it was a different experience along the Rams’ offensive line this summer.

Two spots were up for grabs at the start of training camp – left tackle and center. As Coleman Shelton took over at the latter, Alaric Jackson won the honor of protecting quarterback Matthew Stafford’s blind side.

This left Joseph Noteboom as the odd man out after missing part of camp with an injury. But he soon began competing with Tremayne Anchrum at right guard. As the two tried to earn the starting job, the Rams traded with the Pittsburgh Steelers to add Kevin Dotson as depth at guard.

With the season opener against the Seattle Seahawks six days away, Coach Sean McVay said on Monday that the Rams would spend this week figuring out the starters up front. But on Thursday, right tackle Rob Havenstein acknowledged that they had settled on a lineup.

“We have our starting five, but I feel like guys showed up in training camp and I think we have a good starting seven, starting eight. Guys competed, they were ready to go,” Havenstein said. “We’re going out there with five, but I thought the guys stepped up when things happened in training camp.”

Whether the starters are decided upon or not, the Rams spent a lot of time searching for the right pairings. This left little time for the five up front – expected to be, from left to right, Jackson, rookie Steve Avila, Shelton, Noteboom and Havenstein – to work on their chemistry as a unit.

Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said this reality impacts which plays the Rams can install and use in Week 1 as he and McVay consider how guys will work together on combination blocks in the running game and man pass protections.

“There’s obviously something to be said for playing with the guy next to you, getting reps with that. That’s something you can’t fake,” Havenstein said. “But I think the way we communicate in meetings, the way we communicate on the field, I think everyone speaks the same language. I know what the guy next to me is supposed to get done technique-wise and he knows what he expects from me technique-wise, and I think there’s something to be said for that.”

Havenstein himself is now working next to Noteboom, who had previously played at both tackles and left guard, but never right guard in the NFL.

Noteboom missed 11 games last season with an Achilles tear, then missed joint practices with the Las Vegas Raiders during the second week of the preseason with an undisclosed injury. He’s had a lot of ground to make up, but his new neighbor on the line has seen progress.

“Joe’s obviously an incredibly athletic guy, talented guy. So just getting reps with him so he feels how I like to hit blocks, how he likes to hit blocks,” Havenstein said. “There’s little differences between guy to guy, how they’re built, how they’re cut. But I think Joe’s done a nice job. He’s opened up a little bit, he’s out there talking, working well.”

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