Dahl Still Going Strong

Posted Dec 7, 2011

When Steve Spagnuolo broke the news Monday that guard Jacob Bell had suffered a MCL injury that could potentially end his season, Harvey Dahl became the last man standing on a decimated offensive line.

Barring an unforeseen development in practice this week, when Dahl steps on the field Sunday he will be the only Rams’ offensive lineman to have started every game this season.

Dahl’s reliability and durability have not gone unnoticed as he’s also been the team’s most consistent performer up front no matter if he’s playing right guard or right tackle.

“I can’t say enough about Harvey Dahl,” Spagnuolo said. He came in here, he’s got an attitude and he’s been a good football player in this league for a long time. Then you take a guy from his natural position at guard and move him out to tackle in a week’s time, I think he’s done a terrific job. I’m sure glad we got him.”

The Rams pursued Dahl with great vigor once free agency kicked off in hopes that he’d be the final piece to their offensive line puzzle. They gave Dahl a lucrative contract and plugged him in immediately at right guard.

Dahl was the one player on the line who wasn’t with the team playing a starting role last season and now he’s the only one remaining.

Because of the injuries to the other members of the offensive line – tackles Rodger Saffold (pectoral) and Jason Smith (concussion) – Dahl was asked to kick outside to tackle the past two weeks, a position he hadn’t played since his early days in the league.

“It was a change, a new challenge but it was pretty good, I like it,” Dahl said.

When he entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Nevada-Reno, Dahl says he made it a point to try to learn a number of positions.

“I think it was one of those things coming in as a backup in the NFL and working your way to a starter, I think you learn multiple positions and it’s something I have done a lot and I’m comfortable with,” Dahl said.

Dahl started his second consecutive game at right tackle last week against the 49ers but eventually moved back inside to guard when Bell left with his injury.

Moving back and forth is more a matter of dealing with changing technique than anything else, according to Dahl.

“It’s a different technique obviously,” Dahl said. :And it’s a little different in pass rush. You are dealing with more speed and less power. They are usually lighter guys. You have got the edge so you have got guys coming off the corner. So it’s just kind of a different animal. But it’s football.”

The humble and soft spoken Dahl will likely jump back into his natural right guard position this week but his willingness to do whatever he can for the team while still playing at a high level has been a bright spot for this team.

“He deserves a little attention for what he did,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “To move from guard to tackle and play the way he did, it doesn’t surprise me because it’s Harvey. He did a nice job and the other guys plugged in there and did a nice job along with him. Everything’s not perfect, nor is it ever going to be. We understand that, but I think that you’ve got to give a lot of credit to those guys for doing what they did and accepting the burden and the responsibility.”

Whether or not Dahl ends up back outside or he gets asked to play center, he doesn’t mind. So long as he’s getting to play the game he loves so passionately.

“Yeah, I’ll do whatever they ask me,” Dahl said. “It’s not crazy. It’s still the right side of the ball. It’s a little different technique wise but it’s nothing too serious.”

ROSTER MOVES: With injuries abound at a variety of positions; the Rams continued to reshuffle the roster in the past 24 hours. And more moves could be on the way.

First, the Rams released cornerback Nate Ness from the active roster. He’d appeared in two games and was on the 53-man roster for three contests after a stint on the practice squad.

Taking Ness’ place is fellow cornerback Chris Smith, who spent time with the team in preseason and was on the team’s practice squad.

“Tom McMahon had kept an eyeball on him as a special teams player and when he was here back in training camp, he kind of, I thought, opened up some eyes,” Spagnuolo said. “He’s a feisty, aggressive guy that can run a little bit. So in some of those roles we have our corners playing on special teams, that’s where will try to put him.”

Replacing Smith on the practice squad is running back Chase Reynolds, a rookie out of Wyoming who is now in his third stint with the Rams’ practice squad after he spent a chunk of the preseason in St. Louis.

On Tuesday, the Rams signed quarterback Matt Gutierrez to the practice squad to take the place vacated by Tom Brandstater. Brandstater was on the practice squad last week but promoted in time to serve as the backup against San Francisco.

With top two signal callers Sam Bradford (ankle) and A.J. Feeley (thumb) sitting out Wednesday’s practice, Brandstater did most of the work at quarterback.

HOPING FOR HEALTH: With Bell possibly headed to injured reserve because of a MCL injury that’s expected to keep him out the final four weeks of the season, the Rams would have a whopping 14 players on injured reserve.

Many of those players, including Bell, Danny Amendola, Ron Bartell, Bradley Fletcher, Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith were prominent starters.

While nobody at Russell Training Center has used the injuries as an excuse, it’s hard to ignore them and even harder to have to deal with.

“Human nature takes over and I feel that too,” Spagnuolo said. “I feel bad for the guys that get hurt. If I say silver lining…when somebody gets hurt it creates another opportunity for somebody else. In this business it is about opportunity. Somebody, if these things continue guys are getting opportunities. We do have guys, young guys on the football team that are getting opportunities, so God bless them for that. Again, we all know these particular issues in this game of football are out of our control. We can’t go out and put pillows on everybody and hope that they don’t get hurt. You just can’t play the game that way.”

RUNNING IN PLACE:  Starting in the Oct. 30 win against New Orleans, Rams running back Steven Jackson went on a tear in which he ripped off three consecutive 100-yard or better rushing games.

Jackson was rounding into form and it was no coincidence the Rams won two of those three contests and very nearly claimed all three of them.

Since, teams have made it an absolute priority to slow Jackson and the Rams’ running game has stagnated a bit. Since that trio of games, Jackson has rushed for 125 yards on 39 carries.

Jackson is healthy and running as well as ever but a confluence of factors have prevented him from having the same success.

“It’s not all on Steven,” Spagnuolo said. “The run game is a lot of people. It’s ten minus the quarterback because all he does is hand it off. It’s the running back and the guys blocking for him, so people have to do a little bit better of a job blocking. I’m sure Steven being the prideful guy he is, probably says that he needs to do a couple of things better and piece it together and we get a little bit more effective runner.”

INJURY REPORT: As previously mentioned, the Rams did not have the services of Bradford or Feeley in Wednesday’s practice.

Given an extra day to prepare for this week’s game because of the Monday night start, the Rams remain hopeful that one, likely Bradford, could get back and be ready to play against the Seahawks.

“His status is the same,” Spagnuolo said. “He’s not practicing. We are trying to get him for Monday.”

Others who did not practice Wednesday include veteran defensive tackle Fred Robbins (back), end Chris Long (ankle) linebacker Josh Hull (hamstring), tackle Adam Goldberg (ribs), running back Quinn Porter (oblique strain) and Bell.

No decision has been made on Bell’s status yet.

The Rams did get tackle Mark LeVoir back in the mix after he missed two weeks with a pectoral injury.  Same for safety Darian Stewart, who has been cleared for contact after a concussion.