Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC West [Print without images]

Friday, September 20, 2013
Rams taking no chances with offensive line

By Nick Wagoner

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- If nothing else, you’d be hard pressed to find a team in the league that looks more intimidating getting off the bus than the St. Louis Rams.

With the official addition this week of tackles Mike Person and Max Starks, the Rams are now carrying a whopping 12 offensive linemen on their roster, enough to fill out an entire NBA roster.

Max Starks
Max Starks joins a crowded offensive line with the Rams.
The offensive line room is now so crowded that Starks joked he didn’t have anywhere to sit.

“I sat on some boxes earlier,” Starks said, laughing. “This is the first time I’ve seen that. The most I’ve seen before is 11, so to see 12 is like, ‘Wow, we’ve got a lot of extra bodies.’ It’s like training camp almost.”

Starks was just kidding about the boxes, but there’s no doubt that a dozen large men can fill up a room quickly. With right tackle Rodger Saffold out this week with a knee injury and two games in a five-day span, the Rams are clearly taking no chances that they’ll be caught short-handed along the line.

Of course, the bulk of the team’s Sunday inactives will likely come from the offensive line group, but the idea remains that they’d like to have as many linemen up to speed or close to it as possible entering this stretch.

“We’re just making sure that we’ve got numbers there for backups and that kind of thing,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “It’s a little unusual that we carry 12 on the active, but you’re probably going to see more than the normal deactivated on Sundays.”

As it stands, the Rams have a starting five of left tackle Jake Long, left guard Chris Williams, center Scott Wells, right guard Harvey Dahl and, most likely, right tackle Joe Barksdale.

From there, the Rams can mix and match backups with versatile options all over the place. Starks and Person are more true tackles, but Person has the ability to move around. Guards Brandon Washington and Shelley Smith are more pure guards, but Washington has the ability to move out to tackle. At center, Tim Barnes and Barrett Jones provide depth, but could play guard as well.

In all likelihood, the Rams will keep no more than eight of their linemen active against Dallas, which means the more likely options to stay up are guys who can move around.

The addition of Starks gives the Rams a veteran option in a relatively green group of backups. Starks played in 123 games in nine seasons with Pittsburgh at both tackle spots.

Although he just arrived in St. Louis yesterday, Starks said he’s familiar with the offense, and it seems entirely possible he’ll serve as the team’s swing tackle in Dallas.

“I’m sure there’s an opportunity,” Starks said. “I feel like I have the opportunity as long as I get in my books and learn enough and show working knowledge of the offense, I wouldn’t see it as too far-fetched.”

Person, meanwhile, is a younger option who said he’s played a little bit of everything since coming into the league. That was part of his appeal, according to Fisher.

“He can play all the positions,” Fisher said. “He’s a smart guy, a tough guy, and we liked what we saw on film.”

It's just a bonus that Person qualifies as almost a perfect spy, an Agent 0073, so to speak.

Person entered the league in 2011 with San Francisco and spent last season with Seattle. In between those two stops, he even spent a week with now Arizona coach Bruce Arians in Indianapolis when Arians was offensive coordinator there.

To this point, Person’s focus has been on acclimating to an offense much different than the one he knew in Seattle.

“It’s a lot different,” Person said. “It’s completely new terminology, but that’s what you sign up for in this business. You have to learn new stuff.”

With so many linemen -- average size nearly 6-foot-5, 317 pounds -- the Rams might need a bigger airplane, but if nothing else they can rest easy in the knowledge that they won’t run out of bodies anytime soon.

“That’s definitely something I have never seen in my short career,” Person said, laughing. “But hey, next guy up, right?”