One of the most surprising things about the St. Louis Rams offense this season was just how much the unit struggled running between the tackles. Last year, even as the worst offense in the league, the Rams could be counted on to have an exciting running game, mostly because of Steven Jackson, but also because they had a strong interior offensive line.
This year, however, the unit struggled and runs up the middle, where they ran 60 percent of all carries, attained just 3.63 adjusted line yards, ranked 27th in the league, according to Football Outsiders' stats. Last year's stats weren't much better thanks to injuries and knuckleheaded RG Richie Incognito who was sent packing before the season's end.
Adam Goldberg, usually a backup offensive tackle, served admirably in the right guard spot this year. Despite his noble efforts, the Rams just couldn't get the running lanes they needed, not to mention occasional struggles in pass protection as stronger and faster defensive tackles found favorable matchups in the middle. Beefing up the right guard spot is one of the Rams top offseason priorities.
Scheduled for unrestricted free agency, New England's Logan Mankins figures to be one of the premier names on the market, even in a buyer's market and with the usual caveat about whether or not a CBA happens. It looks like Mankins will not be back with the Patriots in 2011. Maybe.
With few outstanding free agents on the roster, they could choose to franchise Mankins. Even with the murky CBA situation, teams can start using franchise tags in February. Of course, Mankins held out in 2010, returning only so that he could qualify for free agency. So even if he gets hit with the franchise tag, he could hold out and demand a trade.
At just 28 and with guards now getting free agent tackle money, Mankins would be another expensive addition to the Rams offensive line, one that already features two pricey free agents (Jacob Bell and Jason Brown), a first round pick (Jason Smith) and, ironically enough the cheapest of the bunch, a second round pick at left tackle (Rodger Saffold). Spending big free agent money on a guard seems unlikely with so many other needs, like receiver, that could command financial resources. Besides, there are guards available in the draft and likely upgrades available in the second tier of free agency. It's one of those positions where diligent front offices can find value without necessarily dropping big bucks. Another thing to consider is that with some offensive weapons at wide receiver, the Rams offense will automatically open up more of the field.
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