Offensive Linemen Make Early Impression

Posted May 12, 2015

Head coach Jeff Fisher said that the four big offensive linemen the team selected in the 2015 NFL Draft resemble "refrigerators with legs."

It’s no secret that the Rams are looking to become one of the league’s best power-run teams. Not only was taking running back Todd Gurley at No. 10 overall a clear signal, but also drafting four offensive linemen who are each at least 6-foot-3 and 315 pounds.

“It’s hard not to look at the four offensive linemen we drafted and say, ‘Wow,’” head coach Jeff Fisher said after Saturday’s rookie orientation session. “Somebody said yesterday they look like refrigerators with legs. It’s a good-looking group and they’re moving around pretty good.”

Rob Havenstein, Jamon Brown, Andrew Donnal, and Cody Wichmann can all be described as “maulers” -- guys who are physical at the point of attack and excel at run blocking. Taken with the 119th overall pick in the fourth round, Donnal said he’s more than a little excited to now be a part of a power-run team.

“That’s a lineman’s dream,” he said. “We want to run the ball, push people around. We like it dirty and messy. We don’t like everything clean. So yes, that’s an awesome situation for us to come into.”

Though they didn’t do too much on the field over the weekend -- Fisher said he likes to use this time mostly to help get the rookies get acclimated to their new environment -- the head coach intimated that each linemen has a chance to be successful sooner than later.

“The Iowa offensive system, the Wisconsin offensive system are probably more closer to what we do,” Fisher said. “Fresno State, Cody is well coached. We’re really excited about Jamon because he’s got tremendous athletic ability. I don’t think it’s going to be a long time for the four of them to catch on to the techniques and things and what not.”

Under head coach Kirk Ferentz, Iowa has earned a reputation for producing quality offensive linemen. As a Hawkeye, Donnal says that status comes from the high emphasis the coaching staff places on technique and fundamentals. He added that coming from Iowa’s pro-style system likely will help him when it comes to learning the Rams’ offense.

“A lot of the overall scheme concepts are pretty similar,” Donnal said. “It’s just getting down the verbiage and how to communicate everything with all the other lineman that takes a while to learn.”

A product of Fresno State, Wichmann, the No. 215 overall pick in the sixth round, played in a spread offense his junior and senior seasons. But in the years prior, the Bulldogs played a traditional pro style under former head coach Pat Hill.

“Many of the terms, at least for run blocking, are the same,” Whichmann said, adding that he had been using his old playbooks to review concepts he would need in the NFL. “I was working plays on the board with Kenny Wiggins, who plays for the Chargers. I played with him when I was a freshman at Fresno, so that helped.”

But now that they’re in the building, the four draftees will have the tutelage of offensive line coach Paul T. Boudreau. And based on the early reviews, the veteran coach has already been making a positive impact.

“I had the opportunity to speak to coach Boudreau in the pre-draft process and I was absolutely ecstatic that I have the opportunity to play under him,” Havenstein said. “I think he’s a great coach already. I’m learning little techniques and once I get that going, I’m just looking to be the best O-lineman I can be every day.”

“So far, the work we’ve done, I think he’s an excellent teacher,” Brown said. “I think he will be a coach and a guy who will be able to get me to where I’m trying to get to. We’ll just keep working everything and see where it takes us.”

Though there were only 26 players at the Rams rookie orientation, they still had enough first-years to fill out an offensive line. In addition to Havenstein, Brown, Donnal, and Wichman, the team signed undrafted free agent offensive tackle Darrell Williams out of South Florida.

“They’re great guys. I’m having a blast with them,” Wichmann said. “They’re all hard workers. We’ve got four drafted, one undrafted, but we view it as we’re all brothers, I think. We just met each other, but I think it’ll get to that point. We already have each other’s back. It’s only Day 2, but I think we’ll get closer and closer as a tight-knit group.”

“All the guys in the offensive line room, seems like we’re pretty unselfish,” Donnal said. “They kind of left their egos at the door, and they’re just here for football. They don’t care if you were the first pick or the 300th pick -- whatever. We’re all here to earn spots and we’re here to compete.”

And according to Brown, that competition will likely make the entire group better.

My motto has always been, ‘Iron sharpens iron,’ so you want to have a lot of good guys around you to be able to push you and kind of make you play to the best of your ability all the time,” Brown said. “When you do that, everyone gets better. So iron sharpens iron is the motto.”

As the offseason program progresses, the linemen know that competing against one another could spur each to not only crack the roster, but also make an early impact. For one, general manager Les Snead said after Havenstein’s selection that the Wisconsin product is ready to play. But like any athlete would tell you, Havenstein said he’s just taking things one day at a time.

“I’m just excited for the opportunity that’s in front of me here,” Havenstein said. “I can’t think about anything but one day in the future, one rep in the future. The next meal, the next rep, the next thing I’ve got is what I’m focusing on. I’m just looking forward to doing that the best I can.”