The St. Louis Rams offensive line. Where to begin? On one hand, they are the biggest weakness of the team, but on the other hand, Paul Boudreau had done an amazing job with them and they are vastly over-performing. They are still horrible, but at times they look amazingly mediocre. This is by far the toughest position to grade. Let's do it!
D+ : I had them originally graded with a "C", but then realized that this is a new day. We are ranked 28th in pass protection, which means this group has failed. With that being said, the talent that is out there has performed admirably. Paul Bordeau definitely gets an "A". As this group gets healthier, we should all hold them to a higher standard. I think we all are excited, that given the unfortunate circumstances this group has faced, that we haven't experienced the same results as last year. I think this group will be the one that improves the most in 2013, and if the Rams are healthy, we should start to see some of that progress towards the end of this year.
D+: Honestly, this line has played above their talent level. We have street free agents serviceably filling in. Would you start them everyone was healthy? Of course not. But for now, they'll do.
C: This group has played well beyond expectations, but that doesn't mean that they're a better than average unit. I would suspect both OT and OG are very high on the list of priorities for this upcoming offseason.
C-: Ok, this should've been an easy F, it wasn't really addressed in the offseason and especially after those injuries. No idea what the coaches are doing, but I'm buying it. Let's see a healthy OL work this week, some positive addition in the offseason and the line will be much improved.
C: While everyone - including myself - has been hard on the OL unit this season, no one can claim they haven't played their hearts out in every game. OL coach Paul Boudreau has worked flat out miracles as he's mixed and matched 18 players across the line so far this season. The line does need to improve though. Sam Bradford needs a line he can believe in on every play. Robert Turner has been a flat out "baller" this year filling in for high price FA Scott Wells at center. Harvey Dahl's play has had a few titches, but I tend to think that has more to do with his trying to do his job and help out whoever the right tackle is on every play. Wayne Hunter has played so well after being acquired from the Jets for bust Jason Smith, I wouldn't be shocked if Rodger Saffold is moved to the right side when he returns from injury. The most intriguing moves to be made in the next couple weeks will be who Jeff Fisher cuts from this group to make roster room for Saffold and Wells when they return.
D The line was decent, and at times good, but this offensive line needs a lot of work. It doesn't seem fair to grade this line since only two of the starters right now will be starting after the bye week, but it's been like that all season. The other guys are good depth guys, but I'm sure Sam will be happy with his real line back. The Rams just can't run their real offense without the starter.
B - According to a recent poll that I just made up, 9 out of 10 NFL fans can't name a single offensive lineman on the Rams. That's why I'm cutting them a little bit of slack. This unit lacks continuity and experience, yet they consistently outperform their low expectations. Assistant coach Paul Boudreau has done a phenomenal job getting his players prepared. Still, Sam Bradford is getting hit far too often, and running lanes between the tackles have been almost nonexistent. The makeshift offensive line has impressed fans and, with 2 starters set to retake their roles, the unit should only improve; however, this area remains the No.1 need and concern heading into the off-season.
D: I have to give credit where it's due; Paul Boudreau has done an amazing job with the offensive line. The biggest surprise so far has been Wayne Hunter, who seems like he will become a good third tackle. Turner is serviceable enough as a LG, and the jury is still out on Scott Wells. They've done a good enough job for Richardson and Jackson, but they still have issues with pass protection.
B: First off, this offensive line is one of the worst in the league, so don't take my grade as thinking this unit has performed well, because it hasn't. My grade is a B because going into the season with this unit, I expected a complete and utter diaster for the Rams' offense. Seriously, we had a rookie at LG and one of the worst OTs at RT. Then our LT was injured and Rok Watkins went down. Then Wayne Hunter, also one of the worst offensive tackles, took over for Saffold and the Rams resigned Quinn Ojinnaka, a player who they released in pre-season, to take over LG. Then he was cut because he was turrible. Surprisingly, the offensive line has found a way to not suck that badly, and the Rams offense, while still horrible, has found a way at times to be effective behind this unit. For beating my expectations, they get a B. Thank you Paul Boudreau.
Ryan Van Bibber
B: Remember when the Rams had high-priced free agents and first-round picks along the front five? Me neither. I chose to forget that iteration of the offensive line, the one that cost a few million per sack allowed. I prefer this bunch of fill-ins, castoffs. According to Football Outsiders, this offensive line has an adjusted line yards mark of 4.01, the best number since 2006. That's a run blocking measurement. The group is still struggling on the edges, at tackle, allowing a sack rate of eight percent. That should get better when Saffold returns, but the days of blaming the offensive line for the Rams offensive struggles are over.
Next, we finally move to defense with the defensive line.