Fisher: Depth of Offensive Line Continues To Be A Strength

Posted Dec 23, 2013

Jeff Fisher opened his penultimate Monday afternoon news conference by confirming the suspicions shared the previous day regarding the health of LT Jake Long. Long suffered a torn right ACL and MCL on the third offensive snap of Sunday’s 23-13 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

While the Rams were left without their four-time Pro Bowl tackle for the remainder of the game, the depth of the offensive line showed itself to be a considerable asset once again. The unit has been tested more than Fisher or any of the Rams’ offensive coaches could have envisioned, with season-ending injuries to C Scott Wells and Long, in addition to having G/T Rodger Saffold and G Harvey Dahl miss time due to injury.

In particular, Saffold’s versatility has proven immensely valuable. After starting the year at right tackle, Saffold shifted to right guard in Dahl’s stead, and moved once again, to left tackle, following Long’s injury. He will remain at left tackle in the Rams’ season finale at Seattle. G Shelley Smith replaced  Saffold at guard.

“Rodger is a tremendous athlete and when he’s healthy, you can put him up there with some of the best in the league,” Fisher said.

Given the shuffling undergone by the Rams’ offensive line, the production enjoyed by the Rams offense—which included a 104-yard rushing game by RB Zac Stacy and just a single sack on 21 drop-backs—becomes even more impressive.

“When you look at the offensive line, with (Saffold) inside and giving Shelley a chance to play guys moving around, so to be able to do what we did yesterday from a protection standpoint—one sack, no penalties—and running the football against a really good run defense, and protect the passer, it’s a pretty impressive effort,” Fisher said.

The Rams will possibly enter Sunday’s game in Seattle with three players—T Joe Barksdale, G Shelley Smith and C Tim Barnes—starting on the offensive line who began the year in a reserve role. Fisher credited offensive line coach Paul Boudreau for the preparedness shown throughout the depth chart along the offensive line.

Through all the changes, the Rams are closing in on the team’s best offensive output in a decade. If the Rams score three touchdowns against Seattle on Sunday, it will be the team’s first 40-touchdown season since 2003. On an individual basis, Stacy is 42 yards from becoming just the third Rams rookie to rush for 1,000 yards, a milestone that would not have been possible if not for the performance of the Rams’ interior line.

“It speaks volumes of the depth, but also what Coach ‘Bou’ is doing in there with them,” Fisher said. “As you watch practice, you see that everyone gets reps, everyone gets an opportunity during the week in the event that they’re called upon.”