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Rams Shuffled OL is Key to Playoff Push

The Rams will likely be without three of their Week 1 starters along the OL this week. Getting this new group to gel is THE key to any playoff hopes the Rams have.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Offensive Line is holding this team back - no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Even when this group was 100% early in the season, they were struggling. But with both starting guards on season-ending IR and RT Rob Havenstein still fighting a calf injury, this is going to look much different today than at the start of the season.

Yes, injuries are unpredictable. They are out of a teams control and can derail a season in a hurry. But what the team can control is handing a massive contract to a player who just can't stay healthy (hello Rodger Saffold). Calling this unit bad only adds insult to injury, but it's a harsh reality that's been thrust to the forefront after Nick Foles was benched.

The more disappointing part of this situation is that the performances of the healthy individuals - namely Greg Robinson - have been abysmal. No one was expecting Tim Barnes to be All-World at anything. He was the best choice among mediocre players and has performed as such. But these two need to step up their game and help these newbies through the learning curve as fast as possible. Considering G-Rob is severely behind his learning curve, it's going to be interesting to see how he handles that new role.

All that said, let's take a look at the group that will suit up against the Ravens in comparison to the start of the season.

LT: Week 1 Greg Robinson vs Week 11 Greg Robinson

Big #73 has been a big disappointment this season. He's struggled with the mental aspect, with fundamentals, and with general football knowledge. We all hoped that the Rams Franchise lineman - I refuse to call him a franchise LT - would progress in 2015, but if anything he has regressed greatly from week 1.

LG: Jamon Brown vs Cody Wichman

This is the scariest part of the whole OL situation for me. G-Rob plays his best with a veteran presence at LG to help him with the mental part of the position. But this week, he will be lined up next to Wichman - who we know no more about than we did in the beginning of the season.

C: Tim Barnes

As mentioned earlier, Tim Barnes is going to be Tim Barnes. Save for Rodger Saffold getting injured, he's the best known commodity along the OL. He had a concussion last week, but looks to be back on track to doing Tim Barnes things vs the Ravens.

RG: Rodger Saffold vs Garrett Reynolds

Rodger Saffold is a good guard. Not $6M / year good, but a solid guard. He's the OL version of Sam Bradford. He's got the talent, but just can't stay healthy. Bringing in a veteran that can replace his versatility this offseason was one of the best things Snead could have done. But let's not fool ourselves here...there's a significant talent drop betweein the two players.

RT: Rob Havenstein vs. Andrew Donnal

I was big on 'Big Rob' before the draft and I was stoked when they picked him up. But unfortunately he's been struggling with injuries the past few weeks. So one mammoth of a man will be replaced by another at RT in Baltimore. Donnal is a major unknown and - similar to Wichman - hasn't been mentioned much since his roster preview in July.

Bottom Line

It's easy to look at all 5 positions and see a significant drop in production from week 1. This week's game has a similar feeling to me in regards to the OL. A lot of unknowns, just with more disappointment involved. It's a good thing that the Rams drafted so many lineman. If they hadn't, we might be seeing Isaiah Battle at RT this week.

If the Rams are going to regroup for a playoff push, it starts here. Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin can only take this team so far by themselves. They may be spectacular talents, but without quality blocking their impact will always be limited.

The OL needs to get their shit together -  in a hurry - or this season is going to continue going downhill.