It’s easy to look past the trenches when reviewing a team at the midseason point. However, the Los Angeles Rams offensive line is a large reason why they are back in playoff contention this year.
What Others Say
Reviews around the web rave about this group for good reason. Even if they don’t blow people off the ball or play with imposing aggression, they find ways to win and help move the ball down the field.
Currently, L.A. ranks 9th in passing yards and fifth in rushing yards. They faced Philadelphia, Washington, Seattle, and San Francisco which are top-12 defensive line versus the runs by Football Outsider’s rankings. Buffalo, Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York Giants, and Miami are all in the top half of d-lines at rushing the passer per Football Outsiders. Football Outsiders also ranked Los Angeles No. 2 in adjusted line yards. This stat assigns responsibility to the line based on yardage and then adjusts them based on down, distance, and formation. The Rams are 1st in pass protection, according to Adjusted Sack Rate too.
Pro Football Focus ranks left tackle Andrew Whitworth as the unit’s best player with an 86.3 grade. Starting center Austin Blythe, guard Austin Corbette, and starting tackle Rob Havenstein all grade positively in the good region. Guard Joseph Noteboom and Davide Edwards are the weak links on the left side. Noteboom had a 42.4 grade but he went down with injury. It’s a versatile group with players experienced at multiple positions.
The unit is in their first year under offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell. However, Sean McVay has been the primary offensive play caller since he became head coach. The team gets the ball out quickly in the pass. This unit only allowed 10 sacks and they average 138 rushing yards a game. They use a lot of fakes and multiple backs to keep the defense on their toes.
What do we know and expect from the Rams offensive line after half the season?
The Rams offensive line offers solid strength, athleticism, bend and play speed. L.A. brings very good competitive toughness as the o-line sells fakes very well and rarely give up assignments presnap. They are good at extending run defenders, positioning themselves between the ball, and moving defenders laterally. This group is also good at using hands, play speed and mental processing to work up to the second level on backside zone. In the pass, they bring very good mental processing to recognize and pass off stunts and blitzes. Corbett is good at looking backside if he isn’t pass blocking. They are good at using arms to lockout defender with adequate hands and pass rush plans. Whitworth is especially good at this. Collectively, they fight back to recover by riding rushers out of the pocket if they are beaten by the first move. The Rams line will also run downfield and cover.
The interior linemen as a whole can get beat off the ball by really good getoffs. The interior line will also get pushed back by really good hands, play strength, and leverage. They can miss in the open field due to adequate balance and athleticism.
Collectively, they lack strength the leverage to get a strong push backwards in one-on-one run blocks. They can struggle to push up to the second level due to adequate strength on zone blocks. Both tackles can struggle to reach longer ends with good hands and play speed. This group doesn’t always aggressively finish blocks. In pass blocking, Edwards’ adequate leverage will struggle with more explosive d-linemen with good hands and leverage. Adequate anchor and leverage can get pushed back by a strong bull rush in the pass. He also can get caught leaning.
Blythe punch timing can be late and he will catch more explosive defenders including blitzers. He will also get knocked off balance by defenders with really good hands as he can stop his feet on contact. Whitworth can get beat across his face on the backside due to a very good get off. Both tackles can struggle with speed on the edge as their pad level can get too high.
Ultimately, the Rams won’t wow with athleticism or strength on their o-line. However, this group makes up for their lack in brute strength or natural athleticism with mental processing and competitive toughness that fits with their zone scheme as well as quick passes and play action heavy scheme. Playing with a lead helps this group too.
Still, Los Angeles deserves credit for having the patience to develop this versatile group. They’ve had some injuries but are not afraid to move players around. Individually, the offensive line isn’t without their flaws but this group is playing at an elite level together. They deserve an A- for that. The minus is mainly for the loss versus Miami.