Sam Bradford is entering his fourth NFL season. And for the first time in his career fans aren't saying "I hope Sam doesn't get killed this year." But instead saying "If everyone stays healthy, this offensive line could be very good." Fans are saying this because the current coaching staff and front office have tried to turn a weakness into a strength.
In Bradford's inaugural season in 2010, the St. Louis Rams starting offensive linemen were, from left to right, Rodger Saffold, Jacob Bell, Jason Brown, Adam Goldberg, and Jason Smith. That season, the Rams offensive line gave up 34 sacks and gave up the eleventh most QB hits in the league, with 79. On that 2010 offensive line, only 2 of those guys are still in the NFL. Those two being Saffold and Smith. Smith was signed by the Bengals pretty recently, but he will struggle to find a spot on the final roster because he is not very good.
Speaking of not very good, how about the 2011 offensive line? In Sam's sophomore season, the Rams allowed a league-high 55 sacks. And they gave up 114 QB hits, the most in the NFL as well. Sam Bradford played in only 10 of the 16 games that year, and the Rams went 2-14. The week one starters in the trenches in 2011 were: Rodger Saffold, Jacob Bell, Jason Brown, Harvey Dahl, and Jason Smith. 3 of the 5 starters on this line are still in the league. Over 50 percent! Woo! All jokes aside, there were a lot of injuries that year, but still, only 2 of the 5 week one starters are legit offensive line starters in the NFL, being Saffold and Dahl.
In 2012, the Rams offensive line improved from 2011, which wasn't hard to do. The week one starters were: Saffold, Rok Watkins, Scott Wells, Dahl, and Barry Richardson. However, Saffold was hurt for a few games, Watkins played in just one game, and Scott Wells missed a lot of games due to injury. Last year, the Rams gave up 35 sacks and 81 QB hits. If it wasn't for the injuries those numbers would have gone down.
Finally moving on to this upcoming season, 2013. The Rams offensive line looks as good as it has with Bradford under center. My projected starters coming into this year are Jake Long, Rok Watkins, Scott Wells, Harvey Dahl, and Rodger Saffold. Beyond that, guys like Barrett Jones, Joe Barksdale, and Shelly Smith provide great offensive line depth for this upcoming year. That is exciting. Barring any injuries, this offensive line will be very good. When is the last time we have been able to say that?
Most people that follow the Rams will agree that the 2013 offensive line will be the best that Sam Bradford has worked with.The Rams have replaced draft bust Jason Smith with all pro Jake Long. And have moved on from the washed up Jason Brown to previous Pro Bowler Scott Wells. The improvement of the offensive line since 2011 is indicative of the direction the St. Louis Rams, as a whole, are headed under Les Snead and Jeff Fisher.