Whether or not Rams head coach Sean McVay opts to start some of his key players against the L.A. Chargers on Saturday or not is inconsequential the number one decision he needs to make by this weekend: Who is going to be the L.A. Rams starting five offensive line?
The Rams did what they had to do this offseason to get under the 2023 salary cap and clear out any potential players on the roster who weren’t part of the long term vision, but the end result is that McVay wasn’t comfortable naming his best left tackle and wasn’t ready to name his best starting center.
Okay, fine. McVay didn’t want to make any major decisions like that until he had a better idea of who was healthy and performing the best in training camp.
Now we are almost three weeks into training camp with the first preseason game on Saturday and joint practices against the Las Vegas Raiders next week, could it be about that time for McVay, Mike LaFleur and offensive line coach Ryan Wendell to have clarity on who the best left tackle and center on the roster are this year?
And once the Rams decide on center, they’ll also basically be deciding on right guard: Two decisions makes three.
In his L.A. Rams training camp report for SI, Albert Breer notes that Joseph Noteboom is back from injury (again) but not guaranteed to start over Alaric Jackson despite being one of the highest-paid players on the team. That’s okay, Noteboom shouldn’t be handed a starting job just because of his contract.
But does McVay now feel confident that he knows whether Noteboom, who he has known for five years, or Jackson, who started six games last season, is the best option at left tackle? Because like the saying goes “If you have two quarterbacks, you actually have zero quarterbacks”, it would not be ideal if neither of these two options has asserted himself as a must-start player to protect the most important player on the team in Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks.
Similarly, McVay has had five years of Brian Allen. Benching him, starting him, benching him, starting him, and then extending him. Is Allen, who started seven games in 2022, or Coleman Shelton, who started 13 games last season, the better player to start at center?
As soon as McVay makes a clear decision at center, he can then key the team into who is starting at right guard be it Shelton or Tremayne Anchrum.
One of the major issues for the L.A. Rams in 2022 was obviously the injury mayhem that happened on the offensive line, but the symptom was that those five players could never develop any chemistry together because there wasn’t continuity. Now would be as good of a time as any to come in the future for the Rams to know who their starting five offensive line is going to be for the season.
The training camp competitions are understandable and probably the best practice for this current Rams team. But the longer they go on, the more it starts to look like L.A.’s offensive line will have competitions for months to come.