The most surprising performance of any player or unit on the Los Angeles Rams in Week 1 was the outstanding job done by an offensive line that had little opportunity for chemistry or continuity prior to beating the Seattle Seahawks 30-13 on Sunday. Most importantly, that lack of continuity was the Rams greatest weakness in 2022, but new offensive line coach Ryan Wendell has so far turned “next man up” into a strength for the current roster.
Some would say that offensive line coach is sometimes the second-most important coach on any staff and Wendell has L.A. off to a much better start than how that unit performed last season, which also made them Matthew Stafford’s most valuable weapon in Week 1. How many fewer yards do Stafford, Puka Nacua, and Tutu Atwell finish with if the offensive line doesn’t hold the Seahawks to zero sacks and only five pressures during the entire game?
Carroll on pass rush: We're disappointed we didn't get more activity from guys on the edge. We did a lot of different types of pressures but we need to do more to get it going. #Seahawks— Aaron Levine (@AaronLevine_) September 11, 2023
Wendell, who spent the previous four seasons as the assistant offensive line coach on the Buffalo Bills following a nine-year playing career with the Patriots and Panthers, had a monumental task ahead of him when he was hired by Sean McVay to replace Kevin Carberry. The offensive line only had one guaranteed starter before the draft, right tackle Rob Havenstein, and then added another when the Rams picked Steve Avila in the second round.
There was even some question if Avila would play guard or center, but quickly the team made the right decision to play him at left guard. Avila was one of the best players on the field when L.A. had the ball.
Rookie LG Steve Avila (OG1) was a legit difference-maker in Week 1 with his ability to anchor, set a firm pocket, recover and generate movement in the run game. Really nice debut. pic.twitter.com/WMrjnoTnEM— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) September 11, 2023
McVay and Wendell would then have to sort through a myriad of options at left tackle, center, and right guard, eventually settling on A.J. Jackson and Coleman Shelton for two of those positions. It wasn’t until last week, days before the opener, that the Rams finally picked Joe Noteboom to play right guard, a position he had never started at before.
With former undrafted free agents at left tackle and center, a player making his NFL debut, and another player starting his career over as a right guard, the Rams had one of the best offensive line performances in the NFL on Sunday.
Offensive line coach is a tricky job to judge, especially off of the back of only one game, but sometimes when it’s bad, you know right away that it’s bad. Sometimes when it’s good, you know right away that it’s good. Certainly Wendell’s debut as an offensive line coach with the Rams was anything but bad. If he finishes the season looking as good at the job as he started it, the Rams will go much further in 2023 than most people expected.