Despite plenty of shuffling due to injury and numerous tests of team depth along the way, the St. Louis Rams’ offensive line has actually persevered quite well this season. Last year the team allowed 35 sacks and set some dubious records for poor play by allowing starting quarterback Sam Bradford to be sacked in 30 consecutive starts. Although the streak ended at that point and the play of the unit leveled off from there on out, the injuries and constant reconfiguration are bound to take a toll on the team.
Although it’s been backup Kellen Clemens forced to run for his life at times in recent weeks, Bradford’s distinction as one of the NFL’s top punching bags is undeniable. In his 49 career starts from his rookie season through his Week 7 injury this year, Bradford has been dropped a staggering 120 times. That doesn’t even take into account the amount of occasions he’s been hit and gotten rid of the ball just prior to the collision to save his team some sack yardage.
It may not be him subjected to punishment for the rest of this season, but a concussion to left tackle Jake Long on Sunday has his status in question moving forward while a fractured left fibula has center Scott Wells likely watching the remainder of the season from the sidelines. The team has already endured a lengthy injury to right guard Harvey Dahl this year and right tackle Rodger Saffold was also sidelined for a period of time with his own ailment. Needless to say the term ‘continuity’ is basically a far off dream for the Rams in the trenches.
The season may be a lost cause at this point for the Rams with their latest loss to the San Francisco 49ers all but eliminating them from the playoff chase, but the team still needs to build some positive momentum for next season in these closing four weeks. Developing young players will be critical to achieving that task, and if Clemens has no time to deliver the ball to those aspiring pass catchers it may complicate matters just a bit. Tim Barnes filled in for Wells on Sunday and is likely to start this weekend while Joe Barksdale has seen spot action already this year and could start in place of Long should he be ruled out.
29 sacks surrendered thus far actually ranks tied for the ninth best performance in the league at this point, but with four games remaining it’s unlikely the Rams can better their mark of 35 given up a year ago. It’s clear this team needs to focus in the trenches this offseason in order to improve on both sides of the ball and really become a tougher unit as a whole. These injuries won’t aid the cause of building some much needed chemistry looking ahead to 2014, but they could yield some quality depth the team never even knew it had.