Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
The St. Louis Rams franchise can boast that it was once home to one of the NFL's greatest offenses. Unfortunately - as the franchise stands today - the St. Louis Rams are one of the worst in the NFL. So why does this current blue and gold team make moving the football look so hard to do?
The Rams rank 25th in total offense and 29th in scoring offense through 13 games this season, and it was grossly apparent on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. The Rams were shut out in the first half of play by a defense - that while rich with talent - has been consistently ranked in the bottom third of the league all year (21st overall today). To put it bluntly, the Rams bad offense was worse than the Bills bad defense. So the question becomes, " why is the Rams offense so bad"?
Before I can even finish typing my last paragraph I can already hear someone screaming about how bad the offensive line is. And according to all the armchair draftniks, the St. Louis Rams must use every single draft pick on an offensive lineman. But is the offensive line really the primary problem? Football Outsiders graded the Rams offensive line 13th in run blocking and 22nd in passing blocking. The top half of the NFL in run blocking is pretty good, and 22nd in pass protection isn't great, but still doesn't account for the bottom feeding ranking in scoring offense. However, the Rams do rank 16th in rushing offense and 22nd in passing offense which does tell us that our offense yardage output does seem to correlate pretty adequately to our offensive line.
The same thing could be said across the board in the NFL. The offensive line grades in rushing and passing directly correlate to their ranking in offense. For example, the 49ers have the #1 graded run-blocking offense line, and rank #2 overall in rushing offense. Detroit ranks #4 among pass-protection grades, and currently has the NFL's top passing offense. So what does this mean? It means that the Rams do in fact need to upgrade their offensive line to improve their offense. There is no doubt coaching has played a role in the success that this group has experienced to this point. But, we can see a direct correlation in the Rams offensive production - and in the leagues offensive production - in relation to the offensive lines performance. So as much as coaching has helped, the Rams will need better players to truly improve this part of their game.
Unfortunately, I'm afraid the Rams woes do not end at the offensive line. Even though we can see a correlation between the rankings in passing and rushing output - and the grades Football Outsiders accredited the to Rams lineman - we still don't have an answer for being one of the worst 3 teams in scoring.
The Rams best graded receiver - according to Football Outsiders - is obviously Danny Amendola, but even Danny is only ranked 29th overall. The receiving core as a whole averages out to be one of the worst graded in the entire NFL. This ends up being a pretty nasty combo. In this case, you take an offensive line that is graded in the teens in rushing and early twenties in pass protection then pair it with one of the worst receiving corps in the league, and you have the formula for an ineffective passing game.Simply put, these two poor graded elements of the offense work against each other making the offense much worse than it would be if only one of these elements was poorly ranked.
For those waiting for the Bradford blame, here it is. As mentioned above, we have a deadly combination of bad receiving and bad protection. This is the formula for an ineffective and erratic passing attack, and unfortunately for the Rams, that's exactly what they have. Sam Bradford is actually doing his job very well. In fact, it's hard to pick out many mistakes that he personally makes play-to-play. He also grades out towards the middle of most QB rankings, but it's the fact that he can't take over a game that really hurts the Rams. At this point, it appears that Sam Bradford is only able to produce to the level around him (statistically). It will be interesting to see how this evolves the next few years as other pieces are upgraded.
Finally, I will leave the run game out of this conversation. The Rams rank pretty highly in rush offense in the NFL. We have been inside the top 10 at times during the season, and seem to understand this part of the game pretty well. However - as ESPN reminds us every 5 minutes - this is a passing league, and until the St. Louis Rams can get things squared away in the air they will continue to struggle.
It's up to Jeff Fisher, Les Snead, and most importantly Brian Schottenhiemer to play to the strengths of this team, and develop a more talented and effective group on offense for this young Rams team. That means running the ball, developing the young talent around Bradford, and bringing in upgrades to the offensive line and receiver position. It takes a lot of work to turn a bad offense around. As the Rams essentially begin their playoffs this week, it's more important than ever that the offense improve sooner rather than later. What do you think the Rams biggest offensive problem is, and can it be fixed this year?