- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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Three thoughts as training camps open around the NFL:
One thing I'm certain of: The offensive line will remain a work in progress. The Rams feel good about new line coach Paul T. Boudreau. They think he can help tackle Jason Smith and other young linemen realize more of their potential. Adding Pro Bowl center Scott Wells in free agency also should help.
This group will need time together on the field, however, and personnel-related question marks persist. Can Rodger Saffold rebound from a rough, injury-shortened season at left tackle? Does the team have a viable left guard? Is Smith the answer at right tackle? A realistic best-case scenario would not produce the preferred answers overnight. Expect a few bumps in the road, at least.
One thing that might happen: Defensive end Chris Long taking more of a leadership role. Long has become more productive in each of his first four NFL seasons. He collected 13 sacks in 2011 even though the Rams rarely faced favorable pass-rushing situations (they held fourth-quarter leads in only three games). Long, only 27, became the oldest defensive lineman on the team once the Rams parted with veterans Fred Robbins, James Hall and Justin Bannan.
Those personnel changes and Long's on-field credentials enhance his profile. The Rams now have three relatively recent first-round draft choices projected as starters on their defensive line. Robert Quinn (14th overall choice in 2011) and Michael Brockers (14th this year) would do well to follow Long's lead.
One thing we won't see: Gregg Williams. The Rams aren't listing Williams among their defensive coaches while the would-be defensive coordinator serves an indefinite NFL suspension. They have not named a coordinator in Williams' place.
Williams' suspension has faded from prominence among NFL storylines in recent months. That figures to change some once the Rams and their coaching staff are on the field for practices. Seeing how the staff operates will provide a better feel for how the Rams plan to proceed this season. Coach Jeff Fisher probably becomes more directly accountable.