There is a good chance that nobody in history has ever played more snaps at left tackle than Andrew Whitworth and that alone should make the former Rams, Bengals offensive lineman a worthy addition to the Hall of Fame one day. But if the 16 seasons he played in the NFL are not enough to get him into Canton, maybe the LA Rams’ first year without him will do the trick.
The Rams have only played two games so far this season, but it appears that the Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons have both gotten the better of L.A.’s offensive line. Perhaps no team had a worse defensive line in 2021 than the Falcons.
In Week 2’s 31-27 win over Atlanta, perhaps A.J. Jackson was the team’s best offensive lineman, at least according to PFF. Jackson was not even a starter when Sunday began. Rob Havenstein had a comparable (but not very good overall) grade, while Joe Noteboom, David Edwards, and Coleman Shelton all seem to be off to poor starts.
Perhaps it is to be expected when the offensive line has undergone so many changes from the championship unit they had with Whitworth last year: A new left tackle, and since Brian Allen’s injury, a new center and a new right guard. The Rams are now down to their third option at right guard after Tremayne Anchrum broke his leg as a replacement for Shelton.
And yes, I will say this for about the 15th time in the last two weeks: Maybe this is how a new offensive line plays together during their preseason and right now the Bills and Falcons have acted like L.A.’s “preseason warmup” for their actual starters. Noteboom is a Week 1 starter at left tackle for the first time ever, Edwards is no longer playing to the right of Whitworth, Shelton is a starter for the first time ever and he’s now playing at his “secondary” position on the line, and Jackson is a first-time starter too.
Only A.J. Jackson was playing in the preseason, but not as a right guard.
What has this led to? Well, the Rams rank 31st in average run yards gained before contact: 1.2. They are only 0.1 yards away from ranking dead last. Over at FootballOutsiders, the Rams rank 29th in their offensive line rankings, including 26th in “stuffed rank” (number of times stuffed behind LOS) and 29th in second-level run blocking.
Exacerbating the issue is that the Rams do not have elite running backs, as L.A. only ranks 26th in rushing yards after contact too. The team has yet to have a broken tackle in the ground game, according to Pro-Football-Reference.
So what that leaves us with is an offensive line that struggles to run block and running backs who are not adept at creating their own yards. Usually a team is looking for one or the other, but right now the Rams don’t have either and the team ranks 31st in rushing yards and 32nd in yards per carry after two games.
One would assume that a 28-3 lead would lead to more rushing yards. But when it came time for L.A. to do that, to run the clock down, Matthew Stafford threw nine pass attempts on 12 plays when the Rams had a 28-10 lead, leading to a field goal. On the Rams’ next drive, Cam Akers had three carries and gained a total of one yard. L.A. tried to punt, but that was blocked, leading to the Falcons getting back into striking distance.
There doesn’t seem to be trust in the run game whatsoever, giving defenses the confidence to put more defenders in coverage.
#Bills-#Rams— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) September 9, 2022
BUF coverage/blitz rates last night…
Cover 2 — 38.8%
Cover 3 — 34.7%
2-Man — 10.2%
Cover 4 — 8.2%
Cover 1 — 6.1%
Blitz rate = 2.0%
Disciplined zone defense — with front four pressure/disruption.
The Rams next face the Arizona Cardinals in attempting to get their offensive line right. Last season, the Rams averaged about 110 rushing yards per game against Arizona in three contests, which would double their season total if they did it on Sunday. L.A. is also 26th in adjusted sack rate, with pass protection also being questionable up to this point; the Cardinals only have one sack in the first two weeks.
Will the Rams get right against Arizona with what is going to be their third different offensive line combination in three weeks?