Brian Allen is back for the Los Angeles Rams, not only as the starting center, but also in the center of controversy. Rams fans have had a love/hate relationship with the fifth year player from Michigan State, who now returns to L.A.’s offensive line, after missing the past five games with surgery to clean up a knee problem.
Knee injuries are not new to Allen, he went down midway through the 2019 season, missed all of 2020 rehabbing that injury (alongside a bout with COVID-19), and finally in 2021, played a substantial part of the season with a “minor” torn UCL in his knee. The current problems may very well stem from last year, but Allen told reporters in an October 26 video conference, that the current problem started back in the spring.
“...I’ve been dealing with this awhile, it probably started in March or April, just loose bodies (in his knee)... I was hoping it would go down (the swelling) and I wasn’t really active in training camp as I wanted to be. I finally got the swelling down and it’s Wednesday morning and we’re playing Buffalo the next day and I'm getting 50cc’s drained out of my knee. It’s kind of an uncomfortable feeling going out there on one and a half legs.
Injuries have made the Rams offensive go from bad to worse. Having a different starting lineup in each of six games is not conducive to success for a unit that depends on cohesion and communication. But as Huey Lewis once said, “Sometimes, bad is bad”. How bad have the Rams been?
It does not matter the outlet, they all come to the same conclusion. Allen returns to a unit that by nearly every metric, has been one of the worst in the NFL. Football Outsiders has L.A. 32nd running and 26th passing, ESPN ranks them 28th in run block win rate and 23rd versus the pass, and Pro Football Focus calls their line the 29th best (worst?) in the NFL.
Can one guy help?
One area where Allen can provide immediate relief is communicating line blocking calls. With Jeremiah Kolone at the pivot, opposing teams were able to pierce the scrimmage line with stunts, twists, and loops, leveraging Kolone’s inexperience. Rams offensive coordinator Liam Coen is looking forward to Allen’s return and what it means to the entire offense
“Getting B.A. (Brian Allen) back is a huge win for us,” Coen said in a video press conference, “just from a communication standpoint. Just being able to play, get all these guys on the same page, the comfort level that he has with Matthew (Stafford) and our other players is huge... I wouldn’t expect a lot of scheme change just because we have one player back in the mix, I think that it really helps our communication, which is where a lot of the issues did lie...let’s continue to take the next step forward, getting B.A, back in the mix, (and a) little more consistency up front, which we haven’t had.”
Another area is toughness, Allen is not an athletically gifted player who wins on size, length, and speed-to-power skills. He measured 6’ 1” and 298 lbs. at 2018 NFL Combine with his arms a little over 32” long. He overcomes his limitations with grit, tenacity, and functional strength. Sean McVay loves his hard-nosed attitude and weighed in on Allen’s return from injury,
... I love Brian Allen. I love the competitor. I mean football is so important to him. He is so invested in this thing... If you’re playing against him, you’re saying, ‘This guys’s a dick’, if he’s on your team, you love him...you can definitely tell he was a former wrestler... I think it’s an identity that's necessary, especially when you just look at what those offensive linemen are asked to do snap in and snap out... There’s a toughness, there’s a grit, there’s a competitiveness that’s absolutely necessary and vital to be successful. He brings that.”
Rams C Brian Allen on what it was like to watch the O-line struggle through injuries: "It’s like watching your brother get beat up and you can’t get in there for the sucker punch."— Gary Klein (@LATimesklein) October 26, 2022
Love him or hate him
It does not matter whether fans are pro or anti Brian Allen, his return to the lineup is a considerable upgrade from Jeremiah Kolone. If you like Coleman Shelton better, that is a debate that can be had in a just few weeks. Starting the season, the Rams braintrust thought the offensive line would be stronger with Allen as starting center and now he is back— in the “center” of the storm