Throughout the St. Louis Rams' 2015 training camp, coaches and players have discussed how their deep and talented defensive line has helped their young offensive line in practice.
This week, as the Rams spend two days training with the Dallas Cowboys, the Rams defensive line should get plenty of opportunities to better themselves. Depending on who you ask, the Rams and Cowboys boast the best lines in the league on their respective sides of the ball.
The Rams have five first round picks on their defensive line, led by Pro Bowlers Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn. ESPN NFL scout Matt Williamson recently ranked the Cowboys offensive line the best in the league, led by left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and right guard Zack Martin, all of whom are elite at their respective positions.
So while there will be plenty of matchups to watch as the Rams and Cowboys spend Monday and Tuesday practicing against each other, all eyes will be on the trenches.
For Rams coach Jeff Fisher, it's not just Dallas' talent upfront that has him excited about the matchup but the opportunity to face a scheme similar to the ones the Rams will see on multiple occasions this season.
"I think it’s great," Fisher said. "They do a great job in their run scheme. Obviously we found out the hard way last year. But we’re going to face some other clubs that are replicating their run game so I think it’ll be really good work. The one thing that obviously you keep in mind is that in game situations in their run scheme as well in ours, there is cutting on the back side and we won’t have that happen. But still, I think our defensive line will benefit from it."
When Fisher says the Rams found out the hard way in 2014, he's referring to Week 3, when the Cowboys rushed for 123 yards and the Rams failed to come up with a sack. Smith, in particular, was dominant in that game, essentially shutting down Quinn. Donald was not starting in that game and played just 24 snaps.
It remains to be seen whether all the pieces will be in place on both sides as the practices kick off. Rams end Chris Long has been battling tightness in his back and did not play against the Raiders. Fellow end Eugene Sims also did not play in that game, though that was the first time he'd sat out during camp. For the Cowboys, right tackle Doug Free and Smith have been battling some nagging issues as well.
Either way, it's safe to expect plenty of high-impact collisions as many of the best linemen in the league meet head on over the course of the next two days.