Searching for clues in the Rams' rubble

October, 28, 2009
10/28/09
2:53
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams' best offensive tackle might be Adam Goldberg, at least for now.

That was my thinking after watching every snap of the Rams' 42-6 home defeat to the Colts in Week 7.
 
 Scott Rovak/US Presswire
 Dwight Freeney was a regular presence in the Rams’ backfield on Sunday.


It's a credit to Goldberg and also a poor reflection on the state of the position in St. Louis. Rookie first-round draft choice Jason Smith will of course improve once he makes what appears to be a challenging adjustment to the NFL from a spread offense in college. The other tackle, 2005 first-round choice Alex Barron, does not appear to be enhancing his value significantly while playing left tackle in a contract year.

Smith and Barron were generally not competitive in their matchups with Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, in my view. Freeney is a great player, and most tackles have a hard time against him. Players such as Freeney lead teams to use first-round draft choices on offensive tackles. The Rams have done that, but they are not enjoying the payoff at this time.

Smith played both tackle positions against the Colts. I counted six snaps at left tackle and 22 snaps at right tackle. Freeney beat Smith for a sack on Smith's fifth snap at left tackle. Smith missed Colts defensive tackle Eric Foster on Smith's second snap at right tackle. The Rams threw an interception on the play. Defensive end Robert Mathis decked Smith on one play and beat him on another.

If you are the Rams, you're sifting through these defeats for clues pointing to a brighter future. Those clues have sometimes been tougher to find than one might have expected given how many high draft choices the Rams have used in recent seasons.

With veteran defensive end James Hall out, 2008 No. 2 overall choice Chris Long started at right defensive end. Long played all but one snap by my count, all on the right side. He made a few good plays and hit Peyton Manning a couple of times. Other times, the Colts blocked him effectively with only a tight end, usually Dallas Clark.

Hall and Leonard Little (when reasonably healthy) probably remain the best defensive ends on the team.

The Rams have other young players who have performed well. One of them, cornerback Bradley Fletcher, is facing two serious knee surgeries. Another, James Laurinaitis, looks like a long-term starter at middle linebacker. Safety Craig Dahl has made a positive impact at times. Receiver Donnie Avery flashes ability occasionally, though injuries are consistently a concern.

Overall, though, the Rams need to see more. I hope to take a closer look at them during their bye week.

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