Among the larger, more important questions surrounding the St. Louis Rams this offseason is whether or not offensive line coach Paul Boudreau can get results out of a front five that has been known for its struggles lately. The Rams' season may hinge on his ability to turn around that group. How exactly he plans to do that is a bit of a mystery, that Football Outisders decoded a bit of on Tuesday with this look at the Atlanta line against the Giants in the playoffs last season, which was coached by Boudreau for the last four years.
Let's take a look at what might be a sneak peak at the Rams' line.
[Center Todd McClure] was asked to do much more than centers usually are. It was pretty clear that any uncovered guard was coached to help out towards the tackles as opposed to inside towards the center, and as a result, McClure was one-on-one in pass protection far more often than most centers are.
The Rams spared no expense upgrading their center position, signing Pro Bowler Scott Wells away from the Packers. Pushing unoccupied guards outside will help Jason Smith and Rodger Saffold, both of whom struggled last season.
Speaking of the guards, Harvey Dahl was able to thrive in Atlanta under Boudreau. Acquired by the Rams last season, he was the team's top blocker. He should be ever better in this system, which seems to emphasize nastiness from the guards.
Rather than focus exclusively on preventing sacks, they often took the chance to bury their helmets in the rib cages of defensive ends that were engaged with the tackles. There were times when a Giants defensive end would see the guard coming to help, then veer wide, outside of his rush lane, to avoid a rib shot.
The Rams still have to fill the hole at left guard.
Tackles have to play smart in this system. With the guards tasked to assist, this breakdown of the Falcons notes tackles playing to that assistance, knowing where it's coming from and how to push defenders to maximize the assistance. After watching Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith struggle against pass rushers, particularly the speed guys, that extra assistance and playcalling designed to account for those things could turn the Rams line into a more than adequate unit, not to mention the obvious benefits for Sam Bradford.
Besides the nuts and bolts of the details, there's one thing that stands out here: cohesion, five players working together, roles in sync with those around them. Last year's injuries certainly made that impossible, so again we ca see where health should contribute to some improvement from the Rams in 2012.
A sentence early in the write up from FO sums up what the Rams are hoping for from their offensive line:
This group may not be the most athletically gifted, but they make up for it with cohesion and a mean streak.