I don’t know if I want to tell you exactly because it might tip hands, but I think philosophically I can tell you it’s probably, duh, right?
This was Los Angeles Rams’ GM Les Snead’s response to being asked what his team’s biggest needs were in a recent sit-down with L.A. Times’ Gary Klein at the Senior Bowl.
Snead opened up a bit, without revealing too much, about working with Sean McVay and the new staff this offseason to fill in holes on both sides of the ball, as well as provide insight on how the team would potentially approach the NFL Draft and free agency period.
Providing a bit of clarity to the aforementioned “duh” comment, Snead added:
We’ve got to figure out how to improve the offense and how that looks and what position groups you start attacking first. We want to move the ball, we want to get first downs and we want to score points. That’s going to be addressed at all angles.
Without coming out and explicitly stating it, being able to do any of the things Snead mentions begins and ends with having an effective offensive line. It all starts up front, right?
And it’s fair to say the Rams’ offensive front not only underperformed in 2016, but took a big step back. After having invested so much in the offensive line in 2015, players such as Rob Havenstein (2nd round), Jamon Brown (3rd), Andrew Donnal (4th), and Cody Wichmann (6th) oftentimes looked lost last year.
Klein, who’d also met with Snead at the Senior Bowl prior to the 2016 season, touched on the matter, asking the Rams’ GM about the minimal return on investment from the lineman selected in that draft haul.
It’s probably more complicated than just the sophomore slump…I’m looking forward to working with Sean and his staff and if you want to call it sifting through and figuring that out…We did acquire some young players but I’m a realist to know some might not be there yet, some might be on their way to getting there, and some of them might not be who we thought they are.
Reading between the lines, it sounds as if at least one of the Rams’ offensive lineman taken in 2015 could be shown the door this offseason; assuming there’s not a drastic turnaround in their on-field performance.
But this shouldn’t, and doesn’t, apply only to those finishing up their sophomore seasons.
Perhaps there was no more disappointing offensive player for the Rams in 2016 than left tackle Greg Robinson. Since being drafted No. 2 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, Robinson has yet to meet the expectations that come along with his draft status. Some may point to inadequate coaching, but the clear lack of effort last year, which lead to him being consistently beat by the defender, and mental errors indicate otherwise. Entering the fourth year of his rookie deal, Robinson, despite his $6.7M contract, will likely stick in 2017. Whether or not it’s at tackle remains to be seen, but if his performance in the upcoming year looks anything like it did last season comparisons to Jason Smith and “bust” references will only become more prevalent.
Tim Barnes has no business returning as a starter, and center needs to be a primary focus for the Rams’ this offseason. Cody Wichmann and Andrew Donnal often mimicked turnstiles, and Rob Havenstein - who had a very promising rookie season in 2015 - didn’t look the part of a starting right tackle last year .
Les Snead didn’t come right out and say it, but it’s no secret (duh) the Rams need to make major changes along their offensive line this offseason.
A question worth pondering until free agency begins on March 7 is which bucket the Rams’ current crop of offensive lineman find themselves in: one of the players who’s “on their way to getting there” or “not who we thought they were.”
Maybe an even better question is what Snead intends to do to ensure the Rams make the correct personnel decisions, in both FA and the draft, in 2017 — moves that won’t continue to set the team back, but get them going in the right direction.
The ambiguity of whether or not Jeff Fisher was making the calls is a thing of the past. It’s time to start getting it right, Les.