Rams still in no rush to choose starting center

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- More than halfway through training camp and the preseason, the St. Louis Rams are still in no rush to choose a starting center.

According to coach Jeff Fisher, it's an ongoing process that might not get clarity until the last possible minute.

“It's going to be a really good race," Fisher said. "We probably won't make a decision until the opener or until kickoff.”

One would think the Rams will probably make a decision before they kick off Sept. 13 against the Seattle Seahawks, but in the three-way competition among Tim Barnes, Barrett Jones and Demetrius Rhaney, none have separated from the pack just yet.

Barnes started the preseason opener against Oakland, and Rhaney started the second against Tennessee. Most likely, Jones will get his chance to run with the first team Saturday night against the Indianapolis Colts.

At that point, all three will have had their chance to work with the starting group and the first round of cuts will be made. But it doesn't mean the Rams will stop the rotation they have going in the middle.

"The thing is, that's why we wanted to get guys working with [quarterback Nick Foles] every day," offensive line coach Paul Boudreau said. "We rotate the centers so one period Timmy is working with him, the next period Barrett is working with him and we have been doing it day to day.

"So it really doesn't matter who the center is now."

But while it might not matter much now, it certainly will when the season starts. The Rams have been patient with letting the competition play out. Some would argue that approach isn't ideal to build chemistry on the line, especially since the center is the guy primarily responsible for making the protection calls at the line of scrimmage.

So while there seems to be a lack of urgency to make a decision and settle in with Barnes, Jones or Rhaney, the counterargument to that is rushing into a decision could lead to choosing the wrong player, and then having to start all over again.

Given the relative lack of playing experience among Barnes, Rhaney and Jones, it's easier to understand why the Rams don't want to rush into a choice. Barnes is the only one of the three to start a game (he has got four), Jones has only played in spot duty and Rhaney has never appeared in a regular-season game.

Which is why Boudreau is preaching patience while putting a premium on deciphering which of the three candidates is best equipped to step in and handle all of the mental aspects that go with playing the position. Which is why Jones is probably a slight favorite with a chance to bolster his case by playing well against the Colts.

"I have confidence that whoever wins this job is going to be because of earning it," Boudreau said. "It's not because of longevity or we drafted a guy. I don't give a [darn] about that. It's one of those deals where you get into the game and you want the best five up there. So who is going to keep it all calm, who is going to make the right call and who is going to make us get in the right protections as far as getting in the game and knowing what to do."

Until the Rams are sure they have the player who can do all of those things, they're content to keep watching and waiting to make a decision.