Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen have some big shoes to fill.
We've all known that since the Rams lost former left guard to free agency and made the decision to decline the option on former center John Sullivan's contract.
As of now, nothing is exactly set in stone. But it's safe to call Noteboom the projected starter at left guard and Allen the projected starter at center.
So how did they do throughout the offseason program?
"They've had a great opportunity this offseason to get all the repetition that they needed that can really help them grow to understand how to handle it themselves," run game coordinator/offensive line coach Aaron Kromer said. "It's their line, it's their group, they're one of the top guys now and that comes with a little responsibility, and I think they've handled it really well. Through study, through understanding, and then going out on the field and — as much as we can do at this point in the year — they did a good job of getting through that and learning how to practice and how to fundamentally do things, how to see things defensively that the defense is trying to do. So I thought it was a good start to the process."
One of the advantages both Noteboom and Allen have headed into their first year as starters is that they were both on the roster last year. That means they don't have to learn the playbook and get used to the system like a rookie — or a free agent coming in from elsewhere, for that matter.
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"The organization did a wonderful job of understanding that we could be in this situation at this time. So they didn't wait until this year to be ready for this replacement plan, they did it a year ahead of time," Kromer said. "So you obviously got Joe and Brian who have a year under their bet, being in the meetings, understanding what's going on, learning from good players like Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan — we are going to miss that experience — but they've gained a lot of experience through watching them practice and watching them play games."
There is a difference between integrating a center and a guard into an offensive line, however. It's a bit simpler for the guard, because centers have to make calls at the line of scrimmage.
"With the center's job being so important with initiation the calls, whether it be protection or the run game, they need more meeting time, more time to ask more, study, more visual of what defenses look like, what stances look like when people are going to move, all those things," Kromer said. "And that's the time that Brian has put in. The same thing we were ready for [right guard] Austin Blythe if he was going to play last year, we were preparing him to be the backup center, and so he's got that preparation and Brian. So we are giving those guys a lot of work at seeing defenses and understanding how defenses work."
And according to quarterback Jared Goff, there's been a little extra studying between the new battery-mates throughout the offseason.
"We play Fortnite together," Goff revealed on Tuesday. "Play a little Fortnite, we'll talk protections on the mics. Just see what each other is thinking when we're not on the field, and go through some blitz pickups over XBOX."
At this level, every little bit helps.
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