EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Training camps around the league are either already underway or will be before the end of the week. The St. Louis Rams officially get underway on Friday.
In the days leading up to the start of camp, we'll take a look at 10 burning questions facing the Rams as they head toward the 2015 season.
No. 3: Is the young Rams offensive line going to be good enough to hold up for an entire season?
In some ways, the Rams' decision to partake in a complete makeover of their offensive line this offseason should be a sign of hope for the future. It was past time for the team to invest heavy draft capital in the line after failed attempts to plug holes via free agency. It started in 2014 when they took Greg Robinson at No. 2 overall and it continued this year when they drafted four offensive linemen and another in the supplemental draft.
Having young, healthy linemen represents an upgrade over the aging, injured veterans the team has used in recent seasons, particularly in 2014. But that doesn't mean the Rams' line woes are solved. Heading into camp, the Rams project to have new starters at center, right guard and right tackle. The battle at center comes down to Tim Barnes, Barrett Jones and Demetrius Rhaney. At right guard, rookie Jamon Brown is the favorite to nail down the job and Rob Havenstein is the likely starter at right tackle.
On the other side of the line, the Rams have their most experienced linemen in left guard Rodger Saffold and left tackle Robinson. Saffold is, by far, the team's most grizzled veteran with 60 starts to his name. Of the projected linemen, Robinson is second to Saffold in starts, though he has just 12. And while Saffold and Robinson have some starting experience, they're also both recovering from offseason surgeries.
Which makes offensive line coach Paul Boudreau's job one of the most difficult and worth watching in this year's training camp. To be sure, the Rams plan to offer some ways for the line to get acclimated before asking it to carry the load. The first order of business will be determining a starter at center. Jones is the likely favorite to win the job, but any of the three could win out and the sooner the Rams decide, the better. From there, the Rams are also installing more zone blocking concepts, which could sharpen the learning curve a bit.
The good news, such as it is, is the Rams offense won't ask the line to pass protect for long periods of time. This is a group that's the youngest in the league but also one built to be strong in the running game. New offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr. has also showed a desire to have quarterback Nick Foles get the ball out quick, another way to build the line's confidence.
Perhaps most important of all, the Rams' offensive line will have an entire training camp and preseason to practice against one of the premiere defensive lines in the league. While there will surely be growing pains along the way, the Rams must find as many ways as possible to help this young group grow up fast.