THOUSAND OAKS – Joe Noteboom doesn’t sound concerned about replacing Andrew Whitworth.
That’s partly because no young player can be expected to intervene right away and replace Whitworth, the two-time All-Pro left tackle, the old man (literally) of the Rams’ line of attack.
“He’s an absolutely irreplaceable guy, as a 14-, 15-year-old vet,” Noteboom said on Thursday after training. “But I feel that the technical staff, everyone here, has a good game plan for this game.
“And when I watch him for two years, I feel like I’m willing to go in there and do just as well as he does.”
Whitworth, 38, went reserve and is injured expected to miss six to eight games after torn the MCL and PCL in his left knee in the Rams’ 23-16 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
Noteboom, 25, makes his first NFL start in tackle when the Rams (6-3) play on the road Monday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3) and edge rushers Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett.
Noteboom played both a left and a right tackle at TCU, and the Rams saw the 6-foot-5,321-pounder as a tackle when they fielded it in the third round in 2018.
But with Whitworth and Rob Havenstein locked up when the Rams attacked, Noteboom’s first chance to start with the left guard came after Rodger Saffold was signed out of Tennessee in 2019.
One of five young Rams to make their first NFL start in offensive positions last season, Noteboom got the chance to settle down on the guard cut short by a knee injury in Week 6.
He played better this season before tearing a calf muscle in week 2. David Edwards replaced Noteboom and earned the long-term job. But once Noteboom was healthy, Whitworth’s injury created an opportunity.
Ram’s offensive line coach Aaron Kromer anticipated the need by cross-training Noteboom – as he does with most young linemen – in more than one position.
“I feel quite at ease,” said Noteboom. “It’s the same preparation.”
Noteboom works with the first string when Whitworth takes a veteran off practice.
That makes quarterback Jared Goff, whose blind side relies on the left tackle, comfortable with Noteboom in the position.
“It’s always hard to replace someone like (Whitworth),” Goff said on Thursday. “But Joe is ready.”
Part of Whitworth’s game doesn’t need to be replaced. During rehabilitation, the captain of the attack line plans to attend meetings and provide guidance.
“It’s absolutely very motivating,” said Goff as he watched Whitworth work to return before the season ends. “I think if you initially see the injury going, it could be for him. You immediately think the worst.
“But to see how he has already attacked this, in the first few days here, is super exciting and I wouldn’t expect anything less.”
No one sounds more motivated by Whitworth’s efforts than the man trying to hold up his end of the line.
“Knowing he’s grinding so hard to come back,” said Noteboom, “motivates us to do the work while he’s gone.”
The first all-black squad on duty for an NFL game will work on Rams-Buccaneers on Monday. It is headed by referee Jerome Boger, a 17th-year-old league official who refffed Super Bowl XLVII. “Far too long to come,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians said Thursday in a video conference with Tampa Bay and LA writers. “I know a lot of those guys, and they are great officials. I think it’s a historic evening, and I think it’s fantastic. “… The Rams’ first injury report of the week was very short, with defensive tackle Aaron Donald got a veterans day off from practice and limited backup center Brian Allen with a persistent knee problem. … The Rams lead Tampa Bay 16-9, including 2-0 in the playoffs, in a series dating back to the Buccaneers’ second year in the league in 1977. They are 1-4 against quarterback Tom Brady , including the Super Bowl 53 loss to the Patriots.