The Los Angeles Rams traded OL Greg Robinson today after years of mismanagement and an inability to coach him up into a productive, consistent tackle. That the Rams recouped a sixth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft is a bit of a surprise to me, honestly.
With Robinson gone, here’s how things are looking for the line depth chart as we head toward training camp late next month.
Robinson could have been an option here to back him up, but in his absence, the Rams have a few fallbacks. Rodger Saffold has experience here from his first three NFL seasons prior to Jeff Fisher’s arrival. There’s always an option to pull the inverse of the Robinson move and flip your right tackle to the left side; Jamon Brown has experience at left tackle from his college career at Louisville. Andrew Donnal , Darrell Williams and Pace Murphy are reserve options as well.
Saffold’s currently sitting in the starting slot. While he’s played every position save for center in his NFL career, he seems pretty locked in here. The caveat I’d throw out is that I think there’s a chance if things look rough on the right side and the staff, primarily OL Coach Aaron Kromer, think that the best way to improve things is to move Saffold over to RG or RT and promote a reserve LG it goes down that way.
The only listed guards on the official team roster are Saffold, Brown and Cody Wichmann. Rookie UDFA Jake Eldrenkamp will get looks in camp as well. The risk here is that an injury will require a mid-season FA plug. Given Saffold’s injury history, the chances that happens are well north of 0.
John Sullivan was signed in early April; the starting slot is currently his to lose. The only other legitimate options are Demetrius Rhaney, a seventh-round pick from the 2014 NFL Draft, and Austin Blythe, a 2016 NFL Draft seventh-round pick whom the Rams scooped from the Indianapolis Colts.
This might be the biggest position of need on the line in 2018.
Somewhat surprisingly, the new staff kicked former RT Rob Havenstein inside here back in March in the wave of shuffling the new staff instituted. I’m not certain he stays there through training camp and the preseason into Week 1, but we’ll see.
As mentioned above, the only other options are seemingly Brown, Wichmann and Eldrenkamp if he can make the roster or the practice squad with Saffold a play that would require a fill-in at LG.
Along with Havenstein moving inside, Brown was pushed to his college position after two seasons at guard. Perhaps worringly, Brown juggled time with Wichmann last season. That he couldn’t hold off a position challenge doesn’t necessarily bode well for him moving forward. That being said, there’s a new coaching staff to embolden. If they feel comfortable they can develop Brown into a capable full-time starting right tackle, so be it.
Should Brown falter or suffer an injury, you’ve got former starting experience in Saffold and Hav. Like left tackle, Williams and Donnal are around as deep reserves.
We’ll have to see what the 53-man looks like. Last year, the OL was 10-deep. Right now, the Rams are carrying 13 linemen on the 90-man. Given the weakness at center and the inexperience in position on the right side, there’s cause for concern. Whitworth obviously provides a talent boost at LT, but at 35-years old his decline is approaching. When it hits, it’s likely to be swift.
Overall, it’s already a radical departure from the 2016 offensive line which, in itself, is a positive change. We’ll have to get some game action to see how this group, assuming it even holds to our first preseason contest, fares out the gate. In the wake of the Robinson trade though, there’s reason to hope for more competence from this unit than we’ve seen in recent years.