What exactly is the “hype train?” Well, it’s my way of shining a light on players, coaches, or aspects of the team that deserve more credit. This week’s new passenger on the hype train? The offensive line.
So, let’s start out with the stats to put things in perspective. The Los Angeles Rams are averaging 30.3 points a game, which is 1st in the NFL. They’re also averaging 4.2 yards per carry as opposed to an embarrassing 3.3. yards in 2016. RB Todd Gurley has logged 4 games with over 100 yards, something that happened zero times last year. And how about pass protection? Well, they gave up 49 sacks last year. Seriously. 49. And 26 sacks during Goff’s seven starts in his rookie season. Jared Goff has been sacked 10 times through seven games this year.
Ok, so the O-line has improved. Great. However, what’s interesting to me is that the the organization only added two new pieces to the starting five -- LT Andrew Whitworth and C John Sullivan. Those two pieces, compounded with the departure of NFL draft bust LT Greg Robinson, were instrumental in the re-invention of the offensive line. But was it enough? I think what’s not getting reported on is how the coaching staff has handled the other three positions. Specifically, RG Jamon Brown.
I’ll admit that I’m a fan of RG Jamon Brown. It’s probably because he’s been an underdog since he joined the Rams organization. Even in the preseason, which was only a couple of months ago, Brown struggled mightily to get enough leverage to play the position properly and it looked like the decision to not draft an offensive linemen was going to be a huge mistake. However, Coach Aaron Kromer accepted the task of coaching these guys up, changing their positions, and basically made it work.
Here is what Pro Football Focus says about Jamon Brown’s productivity in the past couple of games:
For the second week in a row, right guard Jamon Brown did not surrender a single quarterback pressure on, this time on 39 pass blocking snaps and finished Sunday's game with the highest pass blocking grade on the line with an 86.3. Brown's 77.5 overall grade for the game is the highest grade earned in the 2017 season and 16th best among guards through Sunday's games. After leading the league in QB pressures allowed through the first five weeks of the season with 19, Brown has now gone two straight games without allowing a single pressure on 64 pass blocking snaps. Brown is one of only three guards out of 41 eligible to have not allowed a quarterback pressure over the last two weeks and holds a 100.0 pass blocking efficiency.
What stands out to me is that the Rams coaching staff took a player that was basically a backup tackle or guard and made him into a dependable starter that’s playing at a peak level.
Again, the coaching on this team is outstanding. Kromer has these guys playing beyond their talent level, which really exciting. They’re buying in.
But let’s not just focus entirely on Brown because this whole reason why this unit is successful right now is that they’re a unit. They enter the field together. And Andrew Whitworth has taken the role of the wise leader that is mentoring these guys on how to play the right way. He’s made Rodger Saffold and Rob Havenstein play up to his level (as much as they can) and it’s been absolutely incredible when you think about how this O-line was playing last year.
This is why I love football and more to the point, the 2017 Los Angeles Rams. The offensive line doesn’t look like a top tier unit on paper, but because of their coaching, their camaraderie, and their passion to be great... they have exceeded expectations.
So, yeah... Todd Gurley, Jared Goff, and the receivers will get a lot of the credit, but Coach Kromer’s guys are going to be a huge part of the Rams’ success going forward.