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2014 PFF Offensive Line Rankings: No Team Drops Further Than the St. Louis Rams

Pro Football Focus released their year-end rankings for the NFL’s offensive lines on Thursday. Between 2013-2014 no team dropped further than the St. Louis Rams...

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Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Rams’ offensive line struggled in 2014, and you don’t necessarily need statistics or grades in order to see that the product on the football field had regressed.  A season-ending injury suffered by Jake Long forced the Rams to shuffle players along the offensive line; one of which was rookie Greg Robinson, who was asked to immediately step in and protect Sam Bradford’s...Shaun Hill’s...Austin Davis...yeah, Shaun Hill’s blindside.  Former Pro Bowlers, like veterans Scott Wells and Davin Joseph, are no longer effectively getting the job done.

Doing your homework and having supporting data certainly doesn’t hurt matters though.  And that’s exactly what Pro Football Focus has done prior to ranking the 2014’s season-end offensive line rankings.

Before we dive into this year’s ranking, let’s have a look at what PFF had to say about the Rams’ O-line at the end of the 2013 season.  Note: The Rams ranked 26th in 2012

13. St Louis Rams (26th)
PB: 17th, RB: 9th, PEN: 26th

Stud: Many, ourselves included, wondered if Jake Long (+25.8) was done. He’d enjoyed a great start to his career in Miami but two so-so years left a lot to be desired. Well, this was the year he came back with a bang, and it’s a horrible shame his season ended with an ACL and MCL tear.

Dud: He may be a former first-rounder but Chris Williams (-21.8) is just a liability as a lineman. Far too much pressure, not enough good run blocking, and he’s the team’s weak link on offense.

Analysis: A step forward but perhaps not as much as they would have like to see. They nailed it with the pickup of Long and got surprisingly good play from Joe Barksdale, Shelley Smith and Rodger Saffold at guard. That would suggest a higher finish, but the interior trio of Williams, Harvey Dahl and Scott Wells really didn’t play up to the level that was needed of them.

No surprises here.  Jake Long did indeed play at a high level in 2013.  Chris Williams, however, did not.  The Rams were cognizant enough to ensure that Williams wasn’t in a Rams’ uni in 2014...the same can be said for Dahl.

Scott Wells, however, remained the team’s starter heading into - and for the duration of - the 2014 season.  The play of the veteran center, who turned 34 yesterday [Jan. 7], continued to decline last season.  As did the play of offensive guard Davin Joseph; another former Pro Bowl player, who the Rams brought in via free agency prior to last season.

As a result, the overall play of the offensive line suffered last season, and they’ve taken a huge step back on the PFF rankings as a result:

31. St Louis Rams (13th)
PB: 30th, RB: 28th, PEN: 28th

Stud: It doesn’t feel right to crown any player with a stud, with every lineman earning a negative grade. Rodger Saffold was the best of a bad bunch despite a shoulder injury.

Dud: It might be the end of the road for Scott Wells who was terrible in pass protection. You don’t see centers give up that much pressure that often.

Breakdown: Yuck. Given the investments the team has made this was something of a stunner. Jake Long went down, after a strong start the play of Joseph Barksdale fell off a cliff and Davin Joseph played exactly as you’d expect him to (not well). Then there was Greg Robinson who looked lost as the line tried to find a role for him. Will he be better in 2015 now the team has committed to him at left tackle?

The Rams ultimately fall from the top half of the league [13th] in 2013 to the second worst in the entirety of the NFL in 2014.  No other NFL team saw such a drastic drop. Their steepest fall - in terms of PFF grading - regarded the team’s ability to run block.  They plummeted from being a Top 10 team in the category last year, to 28th in 2014.

Regardless of stats, grades, or rankings, it’s evident the Rams have their work cut out for them in the offseason.  Jake Long may never play another down in the league, and it remains to be seen if they’ll part ways [and find upgrades for] starters like Scott Wells and Davin Joseph.

Jeff Fisher may have three vacancies he’s trying to fill along his offensive line in 2015.  If he’s not able to fill them, and quickly, the Rams’ offensive line may not be his concern in 2016.