The Los Angeles Rams have had some pretty inconsistent, oftentimes awful, play from their offensive front in recent years. Big contracts have been paid to has-been free agents and top drafts picks squandered on No. 2 overall draft picks.
But 2017 was different. The Sean McVay era provided a quick turnaround in offensive production - at all levels - allowing the team to make the an unprecedented leap from worst to first.
At the end of the 2016 season, Pro Football Focus ranked the offensive lines for all 32 NFL teams. The Rams dropped in at 27 on that list. Rodger Saffold earned top overall grade (80.7), top run-blocking grade (80.7), and top pass-blocking grade (78.6). He was probably the only bright spot along the offensive front.
McVay and company (huge shout out to Aaron Kromer) saw fit to quickly right the ship after taking over in 2017 — bringing in veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan. On either side of the aforementioned Saffold, both played admirably last season. The entire line stepped up in a big way, playing a large part in making the Rams one of the league’s most effective offenses in 2017.
As a result, you’ll find them much higher on PFF’s 2017 season-ending O-line rankings:
6. LOS ANGELES RAMS
Total pressures surrendered: 151
Best player: Rodger Saffold
Combinations used: 9
A unit that went from being a liability to becoming the strength of the team, the Rams’ offensive line had a surprisingly solid season. Veteran guard Rodger Saffold had his best season to date, while right guard Jamon Brown was able to bounce back following a tough first month when he struggled against Washington and San Francisco. In addition, free agent acquisitions John Sullivan and Andrew Whitworth were still able to perform at a high level at the ages of 32 and 36, respectively. However, Whitworth has finally showed signs of a slight decline as he surrendered six sacks in 2017, the most he has allowed in a single season since his rookie campaign in 2006. Overall, the line gave a big help to our Comeback Player of the Year Todd Gurley as Rams running backs averaged 1.90 yards before contact, the fifth-most in the NFL.
Kudos again to Saffold for being named the team’s top performer last season. For once, he had some very stiff competition.
It remains to be seen what will happen with (center) John Sullivan, who is set to be a free agent. Austin Blythe could be potentially slide in as the team’s starter if they decide to let Sullivan walk. And while Whitworth was an incredible upgrade over Greg Robinson, they’ll soon need to find a viable replacement at left tackle.
Stay tuned. The Rams don’t necessarily have any dire work to do along their offensive front, but they’ve got a few very valuable veterans who are on the wrong side of 30.