Offensive line stats are a strange animal, but leave it to the guys at Football Outsiders to measure the grunts up front who make it happen. As anyone following the St. Louis Rams knows, head coach Steve Spagnuolo and GM Billy Devaney have made the rebuilding the offensive line a top priority, investing lots of money to get younger and tougher up front. How's the investment paying off so far?
Well, early in the season there were times when the line looked like the same old unit that caused so much consternation in seasons prior. It was a little rough at first, as players learned the system and how to function as a unit. The pass protection has been mostly solid all year long, with a few exceptions here and there. But over the last few games, the offensive line has looked like a much better, more cohesive unit, getting the best of both the Lions and the Saints defensive fronts. Let's look at some numbers.
(a quick note, FO uses the Adjusted Line Yards (ALY) measurement, which account for the OL's role in terms of yards gained on rushing plays, i.e. they take the running back out of the equation. Here's the full definition for ALY.)
First of all the total ALY for the Rams this year, through nine games is 4.08 ALY, good enough for 17th best in the league. Last season, that number was 3.73 ALY, and in 2007 it was 3.72 ALY. Both numbers from the past two seasons ranked 28th in the league.
The directional numbers are the most interesting, showing big jumps over the last two games.
Check it out, through week 10:
Left End, 4.61 ALY, 11th
Left Tackle, 6.28 ALY, 1st
Mid/Guard, 3.91 ALY, 23rd
Right Tackle, 4.71 ALY, 5th
Right End, 2.05 ALY, 30th
In two games, their ALY at Right Tackle have gone from 3.97 ALY to 4.71 ALY. Wow. That's a huge jump, and Jason Smith gets lots of credit for that. They've improved at Mid/Guard too, up from 3.74 ALY. I don't worry about the middle as much, since that's where the Rams 51% of the rushes, and teams are cramming the box to hold back Steven Jackson.