The returns were immediate.
QB Jared Goff found more time to operate the offense under new Head Coach Sean McVay. RB Todd Gurley found more room to run and Gurley was offered significantly more protection on dump-offs and screens leading to a huge jump in impact in the receiving game. In 2016, Gurley took 43 receptions for just 327 yards. A year later under McBae with Big Whit leading the way, he racked up 788 yards on 64 receptions.
But perhaps the biggest impact Whitworth had was on the young roster off the field.
Whit signed as a 35-year old with his best years behind him, but that didn’t mean he didn’t still have good football left to play. A veteran who had seen lean years and...well, less lean years, Whitworth had been through the ringer. Spending 11 seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, Whitworth has never found a chance to contribute to an extended playoff run. The 2017 season offered him a chance to counsel younger counterparts. And while the Rams weren’t able to get beyond that Wild Card Round threshold, Whitworth comes back to the 2018 Rams as an elder statesman with the chance to guide a new generation of NFL offensive linemen.
Going into last season, Pro Football Focus ranked Whitworth the 36th best player in the NFL. In November, I made the case that he was the team’s MVP. And now, his peers are validating that assessment by voting him the 87th best player in the NFL.
The Rams just racked up a bunch of offensive linemen in their class from the 2018 NFL Draft. Perhaps nothing bodes better for their futures than having one of the best offensive linemen guiding them forward.
Here’s to hoping Whitworth continues to prove why he’s one of the best in the NFL.