How Much Of An Impact Will Ross Have?

When the Patriots added offensive lineman Oliver Ross some immediate questions came to mind: ‘Who is he?' and ‘Can he start?' To address those questions, PatriotsInsider.com's Jon Scott spoke with a pair of insiders from Arizona and Pittsburgh, Ross' past two stops in his football career. You'd be surprised at what they said.

Oliver Ross is a 1-year veteran offensive lineman with experience at right tackle, left tackle and guard. He has appeared in 89 career games with 53 starts. Other teams Ross has been part of include: the Dallas Cowboys (1998), Philadelphia Eagles (1999), Pittsburgh Steelers (2000-2004) and Arizona Cardinals (2005-2007).

Michael Lombardo, a team expert for AZRedReport.com, shares his thoughts on Ross:

Ken Whisenhunt was reunited with Ross when Whiz came to Arizona last season. Coach seemed content to let Ross start at right tackle while top-five pick Levi Brown worked his way into the lineup, but Ross injured his triceps in the preseason opener and Brown's maturation was expedited.

Brown and LT Mike Gandy played well as the starters last season, so the team cut Ross to get under the cap and re-sign superstar receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

Ross can win some battles at the point of attack but lacks the agility to get out to the second level. He also struggles against elite pass-rushers, although that can be masked by playing on the right side and/or protecting for a quarterback with a quick release (i.e. Tom Brady).

Ross is a blue-collar lineman who gets by on grit more than glamour. He's no longer a viable staring option, but he can provide good depth and hold down the fort for a few games if need be.


Arizona Cardinals offensive linemen Levi Brown (75) Oliver Ross (79) and Lyle Sendlein, far right, talk with assistant coach and offensive line coach Russ Grimm as the group walks off the field after football minicamp practice at the team's training facility Monday, May 14, 2007, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

 

While the Pittsburgh - Arizona connection lasted, Ross proved good enough to hold down the spot for another lineman with more potential in Brown. That wasn't the case in Pittsburgh where Ross became the starter after spending time working his way through the ranks for the Steelers.

Jim Wexell of SteelCityInsider.com shared his thoughts on the Ross signing.

Wexell noted that while the Patriots haven't had one of the best offensive lines the past seven season, they've managed to win three Super Bowls with that group. Though the unit is comparatively nondescript in Wexell's opinion, getting more from less seems to be the Patriot way. "…that trend continued with the signing of Oliver Ross," wrote Wexell. " The Big O is a massive brawler who can't move his feet or sustain his blocks."

Susceptible to injuries, Ross has had trouble staying on the field. According to Wexell, who covered him in Pittsburgh, believes that fans can expect that Ross will probably become a camp casualty in New England.

PatriotsInsider.com's Take:

Matt Leinart and Oliver Ross (AP Photo)

The Patriots currently have four tackles (Matt Light, Ryan O'Callaghan, Wesley Britt and Kaczur) and four guards (Logan Mankins, Stephen Neal, Billy Yates and Russ Hochstein) on the roster. The team also has a pair of reserve linemen in Dan Connolly and Jimmy Martin. Center Dan Koppen remains the starter with undrafted rookie free agent hopeful Ryan Wendell in reserve.

Ross isn't going to replace Kaczur or Light at tackle, and it's unlikely he'll supplant Neal at guard. Versatility is the draw to him for the Patriots. Ross has experience at multiple positions, making it possible for him to snare one of the coveted backup roles on the roster. If he can prove to be a viable option at tackle, either O'Callaghan or Britt my see their tenure in New England come to an end, more likely Britt. If Ross shows well as guard, then Billy Yates could be in trouble, though Yates' ability to backup center could keep him safe.

The Patriots carried nine offensive lineman on the roster much of last year. Martin, Connolly and Wendell are candidates for the practice squad. The current roster (with Ross) is at 13.

Prediction: Ross will heat up the camp battle for reserve offensive linemen. Barring a meltdown by one of the reserves already on the roster, or a seriously strong showing in camp by Ross, he will likely land back on the open market in September. The wildcard is if there's an injury in camp. Ross can help the Patriots running game, and that's something the team desperately wants to do. Will he get that opportunity though?

One other theory (read possiblity) is that the team can trade one of it's current tackles for another draft pick in 2009, much like they did with Brandon Gorin (a reserve tackle) in 2006 (link). That would clear a spot for Ross, and give the Patriots another draft pick to use on a developmental player to groom next year.

 

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