The Athletic’s Mike Sando has a great piece up today on the concern for each NFL team as highlighted by NFC executives that he’s talked to.
Some of them are pretty obvious.
For the Cleveland Browns, it’s that the offseason hype and the rebarbative personalities (hello, Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham, Jr.) might be too much for Freddie Kitchens in his first year as head coach. For the San Francisco 49ers? Health especially with QB Healthy Reportedly coming back. The New England Patriots? Well...it has to end eventually. Not sure when or how...but it has to.
For our Los Angeles Rams though, the concern is that the offensive line might regress with two new starters and LT Andrew Whitworth hitting 38-years old after Week 14 this season:
The worry: The offensive line and Todd Gurley aren’t quite as good, leading to regression on offense.
“Every offense gets exposed to some degree when playing from behind, but it’s exaggerated with that offense, because they are so reliant on play-action and their tackles don’t have quick feet. We saw it in the Super Bowl. Now, you lose Rodger Saffold, a top-10 guard. You wonder if Andrew Whitworth finally hits the wall at 37. Gurley has the knee. I do think (Darrell) Henderson could be one of the steals of the draft who could have an Alvin Kamara-type year, which would obviously be big.”
It’s obviously a fair concern, and the Rams aren’t without a few. But there’s plenty of reason for optimism here too. Last year’s line was one of the best in the league and the best Rams line in memory winning the 2018 Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Year award. While there are two new starters, bringing three members back from the award-winning line is hardly a rebuild. And there’s reason to afford Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator/Co-Offensive Coordinator Aaron Kromer a benefit of the doubt given the job he’s done developing this line over the last two years.
RG Austin Blythe went from being a the roster fringe on the Indianapolis Colts in 2016 to a reserve role on the Rams in 2017 to a starting gig in 2018. To get that kind of development from a seventh-round pick who didn’t even spend his rookie season with you is a pretty strong bullet for Kromer. Having had a whole year to train up new starting LG Joseph Noteboom and C Brian Allen is at least a leg up on the transition.
If anything, this just reaffirms the strength of the position the Rams are in going into the season. The concern might be an obvious one, but it might be much, much easier to rectify and/or work around than other teams’ pressing concerns.