In following up to Bill Williamson’s post on Monday about Gil Brandt ranking the LA Rams as one of the best offensive lines in football next season, I wanted to highlight what they say about the unit on FootballOutsiders. What was surprising to me wasn’t that they had slipped overall of course, but that they improved in adjusted sack rate.
As Brandt noted on Twitter, there surely is a “PFF group think” that impacts how people talk about a lot of things in the NFL, but perhaps more so than anything it impacts the offensive line talk because there’s so little that the average person can do to dispute. Or even the above average person and the great person. Few, if any, people seem to understand the magic that goes into a successful line other than dumping a ton of first round picks and money into it. So any resource that claims to have a tangible number to assign to a player or a whole line unit gets a bump merely by having something to share.
“Player A had the highest grade, Player B had the lowest grade” and so on. It’s simply something and there are few outlets providing an alternative to offensive line evaluation unfortunately.
One such place is FootballOutsiders and they too aren’t going to make you feel warm and fuzzy about knowing which players and units are good and which are bad. They do a great job though of getting as close as they can to fair analysis of what the line could potentially be responsible for when it comes to run blocking and pass blocking, mostly featuring adjusted line yards for the former and adjusted sack rate for the latter.
In 2018, the LA Rams ranked first in adjusted line yards at 5.49 yards per attempt. According to FO, “a team with a high ranking in adjusted line yards and a low ranking on open field yards is heavily dependent on its offensive line to make the run game work.” The Rams were 16th in open field yards. The quarterbacks were sacked 33 times and LA ranked sixth in adjusted sack rate.
Then in 2019, the Rams fell to 19th in adjusted line yards at 4.27. Consider just how good they were a year before as the New Orleans Saints now ranked first with 4.92 adjusted line yards. They were 29th in open field yards. Perhaps the line did a little bit better in the running game than has been advertised.
As a pass blocking unit, LA moved up to first in adjusted sack rate after allowing 22. Now, sacks are heavily dependent on scheme and the risks that a quarterback is willing to take more so than simply watching offensive linemen get beat over and over again by guys who they weren’t supposed to get beat by so quickly. But the Rams didn’t come close to getting beat up overall in sacks allowed.
Next season, the Rams bring back pretty much the whole unit and few new faces. This has been concerning for many but it could be that Sean McVay and Les Snead agree with Brandt that they won’t do too poorly with the guys they had last season. Then again, trusting anyone to tell you how an offensive line will do next season is almost certainly a mistake.