With starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth out 6-8 weeks with a knee injury, the Rams will turn to third-year pro Joe Noteboom as his replacement for the time being, beginning with Monday night's game in Tampa Bay against the Buccaneers (5:15 p.m. PT, ABC7/ESPN).
Noteboom embraces the opportunity, one he feels confidently prepared for.
"(He's) definitely an irreplaceable guy, being a 14-,15-year veteran," Noteboom said during a video conference after Thursday's practice. "But I feel the coaching staff, everyone here, they have a good gameplan for this game. Watching him for three years, I definitely feel prepared to go in there and do as well as he did."
For Noteboom, this marks his first NFL start at his projected position.
Rams head coach Sean McVay said this week that when the team selected the former TCU standout in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, it did so with the intention to eventually play him at left tackle. GM Les Snead also alluded to those plans nine months earlier in his end-of-2019-season news conference when asked about the future of the position as Whitworth was headed for unrestricted free agency.
Whitworth, of course, re-signed with Los Angeles in early April, which led to Noteboom returning to left guard, where he started in each of the Rams' first two games this season before a calf injury landed him on injured reserve. Initially, his return to the 53-man roster was in a reserve role since his replacement at left guard - David Edwards - played well enough to keep the starting job, but Whitworth's injury called him into action against the Seahawks and re-opened the door to being a starter again.
Despite that calf injury - and the season-ending knee injury in Week 6 last season - Noteboom still offers plenty of experience. He appeared in every game during his 2018 rookie season, including the Rams' three playoff games, and also has eight starts at left guard. Noteboom also credits cross-training along the offensive line - standard protocol for young players in run game coordinator and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer's group - for making this transition smooth.
"It's always hard to replace somebody like that - he's obviously an integral part of our offense and our team," Goff said during a video conference Thursday. "It'll be hard, but Joe (Noteboom) is ready. Joe has been doing this, you know, we've had him play in meaningful snaps for a few years now and he's going to be ready. I've got a lot of faith in Joe and I know he feels comfortable out there at tackle and he'll do a good job for us."
McVay didn't want to say whether this was an audition for Noteboom to be Whitworth's heir apparent. Noteboom, when asked whether he prefers to play tackle or guard, said he would play either.
However, with it being the first chance for the team to thoroughly evaluate him at left tackle in a live game setting, it does mark a significant 6-8 weeks for both Noteboom and the Rams.
"I think what it is, is it's an opportunity for him to play right now and we're going to be present in the moment," McVay said during a video conference Monday. "Joe is a guy that we've always anticipated in projected as somebody that we do feel like as a starting caliber left tackle in this league. He's got the length. He's got the athleticism. I think he's doing a great job of continuing to grow his repertoire in terms of understanding the techniques, the fundamentals that we want to implement and utilize in the run game and protection. I was pleased with him yesterday, but it's going to be something that you'll certainly miss Andrew and everything that he means to us. But, whether you look at it as an audition, I think it's an opportunity for Joe to step up and I expect him to play."
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