Following Andrew Whitworth’s decision to ride off into the sunset after winning the Super Bowl, the Los Angeles Rams have struggled to find stability at the left tackle position. The team extended Joe Noteboom, but a torn achilles ended his 2022 season. In total, the Rams played five different tackles on the left side last year.
The left tackle position became an open competition this offseason with Alaric Jackson coming out on top. However, with Jackson’s hamstring injury in Week 3, Noteboom moved from guard to left tackle against the Indianapolis Colts.
While Noteboom finished the game, it didn’t come without a cost. Now, Noteboom is set to miss the game on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles with a groin injury. Outside Week 1, the former third-round pick has dealt with a new injury every week.
Outside of Week 1, Joe Noteboom has been on the injury report every week this season with a new injury.— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) October 6, 2023
Week 2: Ankle
Week 3: Shoulder
Week 4: Knee
Week 5: Groin
The stability at the left tackle position is a primary cause of concern on the Rams offensive line. They’ve already started three different players at left tackle in 2023. Because of Noteboom’s inability to stay healthy and needing to move to left tackle last week, they’ve also played three different players at right guard.
At this point, Noteboom is simply a player that can’t be relied on from a week-to-week basis. The same can be said about Jackson, but it’s been a common theme throughout Noteboom’s career.
When he became a starter in 2019, Noteboom started the first six games before being placed on injured reserve. He was placed on injured reserve after two starts in 2020. Last season, Noteboom made in six starts before once again being placed on injured reserve. This year, he’s missing his first game after four weeks.
The best ability sometimes is availability and Noteboom quite simply hasn't been available. When he has been available, he also hasn’t done enough to warrant his spot back in the lineup. Noteboom is the 69th ranked guard according to Pro Football Focus this season and his 13 pressures allowed are the fourth-most. Noteboom had a pass-blocking grade of 34.8 last week at left tackle which would have ranked 61st among tackles via PFF. His three quarterback hits allowed were tied for the most.
Noteboom was up-and-down filling in at LT for the Rams. Feel PFF was harsh on him, but there were certainly some moments.— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) October 4, 2023
Loses his balance here and falls. Pressure comes from the left side. pic.twitter.com/03xzN6dteK
It’s fair to wonder if Noteboom has started his last game as a member of the Los Angeles Rams. While it may be a lot to assume, in the case that both Jackson and Kevin Dotson remain healthy, does Noteboom get inserted back into the lineup?
The Rams have made it clear that Jackson is the team’s left tackle. Dotson meanwhile will be making his second-consecutive start at right guard against the Eagles. Last week against the Colts, Dotson was the third-highest graded guard in run-blocking. If Dotson plays well again, it’s hard to see the Rams inserting Noteboom back in that spot.
Right now, it seems like the best offensive line combination is Jackson, Steve Avila, Coleman Shelton, Dotson, and Rob Havenstein.
With Noteboom’s contract, it wouldn’t be an easy decision to keep him on the bench as a sixth offensive lineman. However, that is probably the role that he’s best suited to play. Noteboom has shown time and time again that he can’t be depended on over long stretches of time.
This isn’t to say that Jackson is the long-term answer at left tackle either. There are some serious doubts there as well. He went on injured reserve last year and has dealt with injuries again this season. Still, he’s undoubtedly one of the Rams’ best five offensive linemen. In the case that he does get hurt, Noteboom can provide some depth at that spot when healthy.
The Rams can talk about the need for an edge rusher or even a young quarterback. With that said, priority number one this offseason has to be finding stability at left tackle. La’el Collins was released by the Cincinnati Bengals. It will be interesting to see if the Rams show some interest there. Even if they do, left tackle has to be a position addressed in the draft to find a long-term solution.
In order for the Rams offense to succeed, they need to be able to protect Matthew Stafford. He’s the quarterback that gives them the best chance to win over the next two years at minimum. It only makes sense to do everything possible to keep him healthy and upright. That starts at left tackle. While Los Angeles has tried everything to make that solution be Joe Noteboom, after another injury, it’s fair to wonder whether or not he starts another game.