The Los Angeles Rams field one of the oldest starting offensive lines in the NFL. How much responsibility does the group take for the resurgence of the entire offense?
In 2016, the Rams were among the league’s worst offense due to their play on the offensive line, rookie quarterback, and forgetful play callers. In the offseason, they added veterans Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan to the group. They shuffled Rob Havenstein and Jamon Brown who were significant contributors in 2016. Rodger Saffold was the lone starter playing the same position entering 2017.
Now, the offense is No. eight in yards per game, No. 10 in turnover ratio and No. two in points per game. The stability up front is a large part of the improvement up front. Entering Week 14, the Rams had the No. five run-blocking unit per Football Outsiders. The website ascribed meaning to each of the team’s running plays and compared it to the NFL’s average yards per carry.
Head coach Sean McVay came from a Washington team that has a culture of a physical offensive line. He brought this to LA as well as more modern offensive concepts. The Rams appear to be using more bunch receiver sets. They’re utilizing tight ends for more pass-catching opportunities. Los Angeles gets the ball out faster. They will use more play-action passes and take more chances downfield. The Rams offense balances screens with both zone and power run plays.
The Rams favor running the ball inside the two guards but they’re also very good at getting to the second level. Football Outsiders ranked them as the No. two unit at blocking the second level entering the matchup versus the Eagles. That is a big reason why running back Todd Gurley has already eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards in 13 starts. Quarterback Jared Goff can also thank his offensive line for helping him throw 3,383 passing yards and 22 touchdowns in 13 games.
Collectively, the Rams are good athletes on the offensive line. They blend a good combination of size, agility, quickness and acceleration.
The offensive line has very good competitive toughness. They are disciplined and focused before the snap as well as aggressive at the point of attack. They will compete versus all levels of competition and they fight hard to make additional blocks downfield.
Los Angeles displays good play strength by visibly knocking back defenders on their pass sets as well as in 1-on-1 blocking scenarios.
Their mental processing speed is very good as they are able to process multiple run blocking schemes and pass protection.
For run blocking, they can work off zone double teams and find the appropriate backer. Also on zone plays, they are good at creating horizontal push and run schemes by maintaining their footwork, leverage, and hand placement. They also can have good play speed as they are able to get upfield and process where the secondary defenders are on toss and screen plays. They are solid at attacking secondary defenders with balance and power.
As a unit, the offensive line is good with their hands. They show good punch timing and placement in both run and pass sets. In the run, they are good at pushing and extending defenders to finish blocks. On drive and power blocks, they can create push at the line of scrimmage and open lanes for pullers and the ball carrier.
In pass pro, they have solid balance versus faster and stronger opponents. They use good punching timing and placement to visibly knock back lesser defensive linemen. The offensive line uses good mental awareness and functional strength to ride defenders away from the passer. They also do a very good job of passing off stunting defensive linemen and finding delayed blitzes. The left side of the line has very good anchor to handle the bullrush of defenders. The right side and center are solid at dropping anchor and holding grown versus better competition.
Upfront, the offensive line can get off the ball by players with very good play speed. Defenders with a good get-off and quicker hands can get in between gaps to stuff the run.
The offensive line can struggle to reach edge defenders on outside zone runs due to hands and foot speed. Also on zone, the line can struggle to attack athletic second level defenders with balance, power, and explosion.
Defenders with more very good play strength will stalemate this offensive line as their pad level can get high.
In pass pro, this unit can get beat by faster defenders. Edge defenders can get tackles off balance due to footspeed. As a unit, they can stop their feet and allow pass rushers with good counter moves to pressure the quarterback. This group can struggle to defend good power and bull rushes too. Their pad level can get high, they will allow elite defenders to get their hands on their chest and they will visibly push the interior linemen into the lane of the quarterback.
The Los Angeles Rams offense has drastically improved this year and they can thank the cohesion on the offensive line. Offensively, the passing game has taken some pressure off the line. Not only do they get the ball out faster to limit sacks by opposing teams but this has taken extra defenders out of the box too. Thus, the run game has been able to take care of mismatches as well as set up the offensive line.
This offensive line has a few weaknesses that can be exposed by elite defensives. However, the offense does a good job at hiding the offensive lines deficiencies with execution and play calling.
Thus, the offensive line gets an A for being the surprise turnaround on a surprising Rams team. The o-line earned this grade as they use their experience and collective play to limit their own individual shortfalls. They are a good unit that is playing very good and almost elite on a consistent basis. Upfront, they set the tone for the entire Rams season and they can continue to do this as Los Angeles gets ready for the playoff push.