Los Angeles, Calif. – Prior to 2017 it seemed as though the Los Angeles Rams’ offensive line was always in flux. The Rams signed Jake Long and drafted Greg Robinson with the second overall pick, but neither worked out. Players were always injured and the team didn’t have the depth behind them to build anything.
Over the last two years that wasn’t the case. After going three straight years without playing a full season, Rodger Saffold gave the Rams stability at guard as he played the entirety of two full seasons back-to-back for the first time in his career. Les Snead and Sean McVay brought in Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan to give the team stability at center and left tackle. On the other side, Havenstein stepped up after a sophomore slump to give the offensive line stability on the right side.
For the first time since Orlando Pace was in horns, the Rams had a stable offensive line that stayed healthy.
2019 will be unlike 2018 and 2017. The offensive line is once again in a state of flux with two players having never started a game. Joe Noteboom, who the Rams drafted last season, will step in at guard, while Brian Allen replaces Sullivan at center.
The Rams could be entering the unknown again next year when Whitworth’s contract expires and he potentially retires.
When Snead drafted Noteboom, it was thought that he would be the heir apparent to Whitworth on the left side. With the second-year player now moving to guard and replacing Saffold, that seems unlikely.
Unlike in the past however, the Rams have prepared. Like last season when there was potential of losing Saffold and Sullivan, Snead drafted Noteboom and Allen. This year’s draft was much of the same when the team drafted Bobby Evans and David Edwards.
Via the Los Angeles Rams social media Edwards has been taking some snaps at left tackle with the first-team offense.
— Cameron DaSilva (@camdasilva) June 6, 2019
Could Edwards be the future left tackle for the Rams?
A former high school quarterback, Edwards began his career at Wisconsin as a tight end before making the switch to tackle. Because of this he lacks the typical polish that come with Wisconsin offensive linemen.
However, despite his raw ability, the talent is there, especially the footwork from being a former quarterback. The feet is where it all starts for an offensive lineman.
After his sophomore season, Edwards was named an AFCA (American Football Coaches Association) First-team All-American. As a junior, Edwards allowed just eight quarterback hurries and three sacks on his way to All-America honors.
The Illinois native returned for his senior season on the advice of Cleveland Browns legend Joe Thomas. He took a step back in 2018 as he battled through a shoulder injury, therefore affecting his tape and draft stock.
The 169th overall pick was the second offensive lineman taken by the Rams after they took Evans in the third round. A potential day-two selection, Edwards was good value on the final day of the draft for the Rams. He showed great run blocking ability and elite athleticism at Wisconsin. In fact, after his 2017 season, some experts pegged him as a top-20 pick.
The Rams run a zone-block running scheme and according to NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, Edwards showed good initial quickness to cross-face on backside zone blocks. Pro Football Focus gave him a 90.4% success rate in run blocking.
You can see in the play below just how successful Edwards can be in the run game. Edwards was able to open up a gap for the running back on 3rd-and-1 to get the first down. But it didn’t stop there in 2017.
— Brian Johannes (@Draft_Brian) July 12, 2018
Edwards’ quick feet are on display here. He bites on the initial inside move, but is able to quickly recover and keep his quarterback clean as the defensive end went outside.
— Brian Johannes (@Draft_Brian) July 12, 2018
Where Edwards struggles is when he faces power rushers. He hasn’t shown the strength in pass protection and can be prone to being bull-rushed into the quarterback.
When it comes to Wisconsin offensive linemen, the Rams have had success. They drafted Havenstein in 2015. Browns’ Joe Thomas and Cowboys’ Travis Frederick were Badgers as well. Wisconsin is known for being a factory for offensive linemen.
Edwards will get the chance to sit behind Havenstein and Whitworth and learn the game, much like Noteboom did. According to Rams offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, “[Edwards is] gonna play four spots. He’s gonna play at both tackles and both guards. [It’s] the fastest way to learn football, and then we’ll find out where he fits best.”
Edwards has massive upside but is extremely raw and his technique is rough. However, if Kromer can coach him up and he can return to his 2017 form, there’s no reason he can’t be successful. Thankfully the issues that he has can be addressed.
It’s promising to see Edwards getting first-team reps early in OTA’s. If he didn’t earn the reps or impress the coaches, he wouldn’t get them. While the left tackle position will obviously be Whitworth’s in 2019, the Rams just might have a day-three gem and their left tackle of the future in Edwards.