Even under normal circumstances, repeating as NFL Champion is bucking long odds. For the Los Angeles Rams, an injury-riddled offensive line has the team struggling to mount a consistent attack. L.A. has has been forced into a different starting line in each of 2022’s five weeks.
Week 6 will be no different, starting left guard David Edwards was placed on the Injured Reserve List early this week with a concussion. Bobby Evans has been the go-to replacement, so far. but has really struggled in all phases. Rams fans will go berserk if he is inserted as Edwards’ replacement. Brian Allen’s “minor” knee injury is still keeping him out of practice and has already designated as out for this Sunday’s game with the Carolina Panthers.
Will trader Les Snead swing a deal? Doubtful. Opposing teams in contention, and most teams still are, won’t want to deal unless they can cut a fat hog. Any trade, major or lesser, would have to be made on the cheap, L.A. has just south of $5 mil in cap space to negotiate with, according to overthecap.
So who’s left on the roster?
Unless the Rams elevate Chandler Brewer or AJ Arcuri from the practice squad (PS), the only other possible candidates are recent additions Oday Aboushi and/or Matt Skura. Aboushi was signed as a free agent to the PS on September 14 and was activated to the roster a week later. Skura, another free agent, joined L.A.’s PS on September 21 and was upgraded to the 53 this Tuesday past. Both are NFL veterans with past starting experience and need a little introduction to Rms fans.
Oday Aboushi, 31, has bounced between seven teams since being drafted by the New York Jets at #141 in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. At the NFL Combine he measured at 6’ 5” 308 lbs. with 33 7/8” arms and 10 5/8” hands. He timed a 5.4 forty, 7.92 3cone, and 4.84 shuttle. In the explosion drills, he leapt a 23.5” vertical, 9’ 2” in the broad, and pushed 17 reps at the bench. In his defense, he did improve his numbers at Virginia’s (his alma mater) Pro Day.
Primarily a tackle in college, Aboushi was projected to guard in the pros. His lack of relative athleticism makes him susceptible to speed rushers. By moving inside he made the most of his attributes, a physical, mauling mentality, good get-off, and IQ. A natural in-line blocker, he play to and through the whistle. That good first step helps him get to the second level in short spaces. When he latches those big hands onto the opposition, has the leg drive and power to move them off the line.
Who was the Cards biggest breakout player in 2018? We say Oday Aboushi, who was a stud on the offensive line for the 2nd half of the season. pic.twitter.com/I6bnGr5oKC— PFF ARZ Cardinals (@PFF_Cardinals) February 28, 2019
His biggest weaknesses are reaction skills and consistency. Even with the move inside, speed too often beats him and although he has a good punch, he can be little late with his hands. Keeping a low pad level and bending his knees also show up.
Although not a scheme fit for the outside zone, that won’t make much difference, the Rams are using very little of it these days. Aboushi could thrive in the L.A.’s new schemes, he is best going forward/downhill and does strike well in space. He spent his whole rookie season as a healthy inactive, but has logged 47 starts in the eight years since. He earned a starting guard role with the Los Angeles Chargers last season, but was shelved for the year with a knee injury after five games.
These are the first four plays of film I watched of new veteran RG Oday Aboushi.— Tyler Schoon (@tylerjschoon) March 20, 2021
Am I in for a treat? pic.twitter.com/Cy42Ck1ZGW
Matt Skura, 29, was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Baltimore Ravens after the 2016 NFL Draft. He was a two-time All-ACC center at Duke and spent his rookie season on the PS. He spent four seasons with the Ravens, garnering 51 starts at both center and guard. Skura suffered a serious knee injury in 2019, tearing the ACL,MCL, and PCL in his knee. In his last season with the Ravens, he was benched for struggles snapping the ball in shotgun formations.
"It's a remarkable achievement in all honesty. For @Matt_Skura62 to be playing in the opener is a tribute to him and our trainers and doctors." pic.twitter.com/lyVJlU5iZa— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 14, 2020
After signing a 2021 free agent deal with the Miami Dolphins, where he was expected to win the starting job, the snap troubles continued and the “Phins let him go in final cuts. He rebounded to the New York Giants PS, was activated soon after and logged 14 starts. He played primarily at guard (713 snaps) and only 56 at center. His 50.8 Pro Football Focus score was dominated by a poor performance in pass protection, 29.5 rating, allowing 10 quarterback hits and 32 pressures. To come full circle, his run block score was 61.4.
At the 2016 NFL Combine, Skura measured in a little over 6’ 3” and 305 lbs., solid numbers for work in the pivot. Good length at 35 1/4” arms and hands (10”). He timed 5.39 in the forty, a 7.89 3cone, and 4.76 in the shuttle. He added a 8’ 7” broad jump and 27 reps on the bench.
Obviously with those numbers, Skura wins on technique and IQ. He keeps his pads low, knees bent, has adequate lower body strength. He is not a mauler or physical presence, but rather knows how to use his length and read defenders first step. Understanding angles and recognizing opposing moves helps him overcome his lack of athleticism. He plays clean with very few penalties over his career.
For a finesse blocker, his quickness and athleticism are lacking. He is more of a seal blocker than a mover. Injuries have sapped even more burst. Skura, even at his best, was only an adequate pass blocker, having problems with setting an anchor. And of course, the snap problems cannot be glossed over.
There was a time when Skura was a regarded center, but injury and shotgun snap yips have relegated him to “was” status. He is smart, technically proficient, and has the experience to read opposing defenses, their structures, and make the correct counter calls. Honestly, the lion’s share of his struggles have come at guard of his problems instead of his comfort zone in the pivot.
Communication, chemistry, continuity
As of now, it’s hard to project the Rams making wholesale changes from outside the organization. Things may be different after the Carolina Panther game and Rams Offensive Coordinator Liam Coen said as much in Thursday’s video conference,
“Is this the time to re-evaluate everything we’re doing up front? Sometimes you just don’t have a lot of time to do that in a one-week span...So maybe that’s something we look at after this game... But I do think right now, a lot of issues we had in this past game were communication, and everybody being on the same page. And when you have multiple different players playing up front in every single game, there’s no chemistry. There’s no continuity that you’re able to build on, because it’s been a little bit of a carousel with those guys.”
For the time being, the Rams are gonna dance with who they brung. Maybe late arrivals Oday Aboushi and Matt Skura will get a chance to show their moves. Hopefully they can move with groove and not have two left feet.