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For Rams, getting young offensive line together a top OTA priority

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Upon releasing veteran offensive linemen Scott Wells and Jake Long, opting not to re-sign guard Davin Joseph and choosing only to add linemen through the NFL draft, the St. Louis Rams once again committed to being young.

That should be no surprise for a team that has often had no issue with embracing youth in recent seasons. In fact, the Rams have been one of the youngest teams in the league in each of coach Jeff Fisher's three years with the team. That will likely be the case again this year but nowhere will that be more apparent than on the offensive line.

As it stands, the projected starters on the Rams' offensive line have an average age of 23.4 years old. If it panned out that way, the Rams would have the youngest line in the league with only the Detroit Lions coming within two years at 23.8.

Taking it a step further, only guard Rodger Saffold comes with even one full season of starting experience. Saffold has 60 career starts to his name. The rest of the team's offensive linemen combine for a total of 43 NFL starts with projected swing tackle Garrett Reynolds offering 27 of those, left tackle Greg Robinson supplying 12 and center Tim Barnes providing four.

In other words, aside from Saffold, only Robinson is a sure thing to bring NFL starting experience to the table as the Rams wade through these organized team activities (OTAs). While rookies like projected right tackle Rob Havenstein, guard Jamon Brown and guard Cody Wichmann played and started a lot of games in college, it's still going to take some time to get everyone up to speed at the NFL level.

And though Barnes has the only starting experience among a trio of centers competing for the starting job, it's not a guarantee he'll win the spot. Barrett Jones has been in the league for two years and is considered one of the team's most intelligent players. Demetrius Rhaney missed his rookie season last year but also figures into the mix.

Havenstein is all but certain to take over as the starting right tackle and, as it stands, Brown projects to be one of the starting guards though the Rams may opt for Reynolds in one of those spots until Brown is ready to go. They could also pursue a veteran option such as free agent Justin Blalock but nothing has materialized on that front yet.

All of which is to say that during these OTAs, the most important man in the building might be offensive line coach Paul Boudreau. Boudreau has a longstanding reputation for coaching up young players and getting them ready to go but this might be one of his most difficult challenges yet. Fortunately for him and his young linemen, the Rams hope to be a power running team capable of controlling the line of scrimmage. There's not a whole lot of thinking that goes into such an approach, which could shorten the learning curve a bit for Boudreau's young group of maulers.

This is just the latest in a series of attempts to rebuild a unit that the Rams never seem to quite get right. But as OTAs continue and we head toward training camp, all eyes will be on an offensive line that's starting over once again.