Despite the NFL season being just a few weeks away, the Los Angeles Rams still have several questions on the offensive line. While the left tackle competition seems to be all set with Alaric Jackson coming out on top, there are questions that remain at center and right guard.
However, at least one of those open competitions should also be closed and that’s the competition at right guard. With his play in the preseason, Tremayne Anchrum has earned the opportunity to start. Anchrum has been the Rams’ right guard since OTAs and has been a consistent piece on the right side. It’s time for the Rams commit and make Ancrhum the starting right guard for the beginning of the regular season.
Throughout the two games in the preseason, only Zach Thomas, Mike McAllister, and Warren McClendon Jr. have played more snaps than Anchrum. Anchrum is the only player out of the four that has not given up a single pressure according to Pro Football Focus. He’s one of 20 players at guard to play more than 60 snaps this preseason and not allow a pressure. His 87.9 pass-blocking grade via PFF ranks fifth.
Of course these are just preseason snaps and Anchrum has been getting a lot more playing time than other starters on the offensive line. However, because of how he’s been playing, he’s earned the opportunity for a larger role. That’s especially considering who his competition is.
Up until last week, it seemed as if the right guard position what Anchrum’s to lose. That was until Joe Noteboom lost the competition to Alaric Jackson at left tackle. With Steve Avila having the left guard position on lockdown, the only other spot that the Rams could realistically still play Noteboom was at right guard — so that’s what they did.
The issue is, Noteboom didn’t missed practice time last week and also didn’t participate in the second preseason game. Despite Anchrum taking the majority of the snaps at right guard all offseason, the Rams inserted Noteboom into a right guard competition.
One of two things are true here. Either the Rams see Noteboom as one of their five best starting offensive linemen and are trying to find a way for him to play. Contrarily, the Rams paid Noteboom a three-year, $40M contract just last offseason and restructured his deal earlier this summer. The other option here is that the Rams are trying any way possible to get Noteboom and his contract on the field to contribute.
At what point do the Rams just admit defeat with Noteboom rather than try to force him to be something that he’s not? When do they figure out that the square peg doesn’t fit in the round hole? Injuries have been an issue and that’s bad luck. It’s certainly something worth noting.
However, over the past six years, the Rams have doubled down and tripled down on Noteboom with not a lot of return. The former third-round pick has done well as a swing tackle and spot-starter. That may simply be what he is in the NFL, especially coming off of a major injury. It’s not ideal, especially with his contract. However, it might also just be the fact of the situation.
For five years, Noteboom was seen as the heir-apparent to Andrew Whitworth at left tackle. Unfortunately, that has never come to fruition and it’s important for the Rams to realize that. Again, it’s not the ideal scenario, but it might be the best scenario at this point to make Noteboom a swing tackle and be ok with that decision. That depth is something that the Rams didn’t have last year and, again, that’s a role that Noteboom has shown that he can thrive in.
Throughout the offseason, Ancrhum has garnered praise from the media. Back in early August, The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue noted that Anchrum, along with Avila, looked to “very clearly” have the lead at the two guard spots. It seems curious to attempt to make this type of change so close to the season when the offensive line is trying to build consistency. Noteboom has played a combined total of 12 snaps at right guard in his college and NFL career.
Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFluer touched on the offensive line continuity this week. LaFleur said,
“They’re going from left tackle to right guard in some instances, and then, obviously, just shuffling around within right guard to left guard, what have you...When there is a time where we have the same five guys out there for a string of plays, how well are they working off of each other? How well are their combinations? How well are they passing off games? Every day is an evaluation, not just to see where the best five are going to be, but to see how those guys are working together.”
Prior to the preseason, TurfShow Times’ Kenneth Arthur wrote that the Rams needed to have a decision on the offensive line after the Chargers game. About the offensive line competition, he wrote, “The longer they go on, the more it starts to look like L.A.’s offensive line will have competitions for months to come.”
Well, here we are heading into the final preseason game and the Rams have yet to announce a starting center and another competition has opened up at right guard. Does the offensive line eventually became a stable situation or will it remain fluid heading into the regular season?
It’s important for the Rams to begin to build some cohesion and consistency on the offensive line. While it would be nice for Joe Noteboom to be apart of that starting five, it may not happen. With the way that Anchrum has performed in OTAs, training camp, and the preseason, the former seventh-round pick has earned his opportunity.