EARTH CITY, Mo. -- As the St. Louis Rams opened training camp on Friday, they welcomed back two starting offensive linemen now fully recovered from offseason surgeries.
Getting left tackle Greg Robinson and left guard Rodger Saffold back from toe and shoulder surgeries was an important step for the Rams considering that duo could represent the only starting experience on the line when the Rams open the season on Sept. 13.
With Robinson and Saffold back in the fold, the Rams didn't alter the look of the right side of their line and still seem to be intent on plugging in rookies Jamon Brown and Rob Havenstein at right guard and right tackle, respectively. At center, there's a three-way competition underway amongst Tim Barnes, Barrett Jones and Demetrius Rhaney. Barnes is the only one of the three to have started an NFL game and he has just four to his name.
Even with that lack of experience across the line, Rams coach Jeff Fisher has no qualms about putting his faith in the young pups.
"I think the young guys have done a really good job," Fisher said. "And I have no reservation whatsoever when we line up for the opener, playing a rookie offensive lineman. They’re going to get plenty of reps and they’re the best that we’ll put on the field in confidence."
The real test for the line will come this week when the Rams put the pads on. To this point, the offensive line has been at a distinct disadvantage without pads and because of the talented defensive line its faced every day in practice. But the Rams are hopeful that facing such a tough test every day in practice will only benefit what projects to be the youngest offensive line in football.
"Just in talking with the defensive linemen, obviously we have a veteran group of defensive linemen, they’re saying, ‘These guys are going to be good,’" Fisher said. "Coming from Chris and Will and those guys, that’s pretty impressive."
Of course, there's still a long way to go in this camp and preseason, and the Rams would be wise to settle on a center sooner than later in an effort to build on the communication and details across the line.
But when the Rams spent five draft picks on offensive linemen they did so with every intention of building the group from the ground up. After largely ignoring the line in their first two drafts, the Rams want to build a group that not only will improve on the old, injury-prone group of recent seasons but also one that can stay in place for a long time to come.
“Well it wasn’t necessarily competition, it was just improve the position," Fisher said. "We’ve been talking since we got here about, ‘Gosh, how nice would it be to be able to go out and draft three or four offensive linemen in the same draft?’ This year we were able to do that, and five with Isaiah [Battle]. It’s an area that we had to focus on. It’s an area that we expect to be good for a long time. I can’t tell you how it’s going to unfold right now or who is going to end up starting. But like we said yesterday, we have no concern about starting young people up front. If they are playing, they are ready to play."