Sometimes, drinking straight from the firehose is the best way to learn.
That will be the case Sunday at Carolina for Rams second-year offensive linemen Brian Allen and Joe Noteboom, who step into Los Angeles’ regular season opener with big shoes to fill against what is poised to be one of the NFL's strongest interior defensive lines.
“You wouldn’t really want anybody else,” Noteboom said. “They’ve got (DT) Gerald McCoy, (DT) Kawann Short, so it’s no easy task, but you wouldn’t want an easy game the first game. It’s a good one to come out to.”
Both Noteboom and Allen will be replacing two key contributors from last year’s squad.
Allen will start at center in place of John Sullivan, who started 31 games at center for Los Angeles over the last two seasons but was let go in the spring. Noteboom, meanwhile, will fill the void at left guard created by Rodger Saffold’s departure to the Tennessee Titans this offseason.
While both players will be starting for the first time, they don’t lack experience. Allen appeared in 13 games during his rookie season in 2018, while Noteboom saw action in all 16 plus all three of the Rams’ playoff games last year.
The rest of the starters – LT Andrew Whitworth, RG Austin Blythe and RT Rob Havenstein – have a combined 272 starts, led by Whitworth’s 195.
That collective experience could be intimidating for a newcomer at arguably the most critical position along the offensive line, but Allen has made a point to be assertive.
“I’ve got to be loud, I’ve got to be making sure everyone’s on the same page,” Allen said. “Even if we’re wrong, being wrong together. I think that’s one thing that young guys will do, is get in there and if there’s something they don’t know, they’re going to be quiet or hesitant. With me, I’m making the call and we’re going whether it’s right or wrong.”
Los Angeles chose to rest the majority of its starters for the second straight preseason, a decision that received careful consideration.
Ultimately, the experience they gained as rookies and the reps they received in joint practices against the Raiders and Chargers during training camp appeared to be enough.
“Not much,” Noteboom said, when asked what changes shifting from that approach into the regular season. “Just know, when you’re preparing, you don’t have another day of practice to get back. In training camp, you have a bad day, you can come in and fix it, but now, you’ve got to prepare like it’s a game every day. Just being prepared, studying more than ever, working hard.”
Carolina’s interior defensive line is giving him and Allen plenty to prepare for.
McCoy, a six-time Pro-Bowler, has amassed 54.5 career sacks, all during his first nine seasons in the league with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’s had at least six in each of his last six seasons. Short, a two-time Pro Bowler, has 32.5 career sacks. Together, they’ve registered a combined 224 quarterback hits, according to Pro Football Reference.
Rams head coach Sean McVay said in late August he’s been pleased with the progress of both Allen and Noteboom.
On Sunday, they’ll get a chance to show what they’ve learned against a formidable duo.
“You know we respect them, but I’m very excited to see some of these young guys go and compete and I think they would say the same thing,” McVay said.