For the first time under head coach Sean McVay, the Los Angeles Rams have questions at offensive line. While the Rams had one of the worst offensive lines before McVay’s arrival, with the signings of veterans John Sullivan and Andrew Whitworth, the team surged to the top of the league.
2019 will be different, however, with the departures of Rodger Saffold and Sullivan and no veteran signing in free agency, that leaves Brian Allen and Joseph Noteboom to carry the load.
Drafted out of Michigan State in 2018, Allen will take over the duties at center from Sullivan. The former Minnesota Vikings center dropped his level of play last season. Therefore this very well could be addition via subtraction. Still, Allen remains unproven and will take over a lot of responsibility, assuming starting the role. We continue our roster previews with the offensive line and Brian Allen.
Allen played 37 snaps during his rookie season, which included a season-high 18 against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 17. According to Pro Football Focus, he graded at 77.5 in pass protection and didn’t allow a single hurry.
Despite his lack of experience, the Rams trust Allen heading into his second year. After a “red-shirt” rookie season, he will take over the starting center duties from Sullivan.
Coming out of Michigan State, Allen was applauded for his toughness and strength at the point of attack, specifically in the run game. However, his lack of size and athleticism made him a day three selection. NFL Network’s Lance Zierlein projected Allen as a seventh-round pick or priority free agent. However, the Rams liked what they saw and took him in the fourth round.
Allen will give the Rams a physical presence upfront. Given his lack of experience, there will undoubtedly be speed bumps, but if everything works out, Allen will be the team’s center of the future.
As is the case with most of the starters on this team, there isn’t much of a battle here. Unless Allen is a complete disaster in the preseason, this will be his position for 2019. Given the lack of experience behind him, it doesn’t seem likely that even if Allen plays below average that he would lose the starting role.
Three Plays on Tape
This rep from C Brian Allen has me HOWLING. The disrespect!!!! pic.twitter.com/ye3AS6lyOn
— Kyle Crabbs (@GrindingTheTape) June 18, 2018
This first play comes from Allen’s time at Michigan State. You can see how Allen dominates his man, staying in front of his defender. While this play breaks down, all of the pressure comes from the outside. At the end of the play, you can see Allen throw his guy to the ground.
.@MSU_Football C Brian Allen with a good rep here controlling Deadrin Senat as a NT. pic.twitter.com/7c2EMzobu3
— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) January 15, 2018
This play comes from the East-West Shrine game practices, but Allen’s strength at the point of attack is evident. A former wrestler, Allen knows a lot about leverage and how important it is to get low. Allen completely overpowers Deadrin Senat who was drafted in the third round by the Atlanta Falcons.
This play comes from the preseason, but again, you can see Allen’s strength and dominance at the point of attack. PJ Hall is two yards behind everybody else on the Oakland Raiders defensive line due to Allen’s dominance and “bully” mentality.
Are the Rams asking too much of Brian Allen?
Let’s face the facts here. The Rams have had a 10-year veteran playing center the last two years. To go from that to a second-year player getting his first real NFL experience at the position is worrisome.
Center is the most critical position on the offensive line outside of left tackle. The center makes the calls upfront to keep everybody on the same page. The Center has to know where the blitz is coming. So much goes into the position that while Sullivan’s play certainly dropped, having that level of IQ on the offensive line was beneficial.
2019 Outlook and Role
There will be questions surrounding Allen has he heads into 2019, and he will have a lot to prove. However, he is the Rams’ starting center. The only other option would be for the Rams to move Austin Blythe to center and play Allen or another player at guard. Sullivan also remains a free agent. If the team needed him to come back, that could also be an option.
With that said, Allen learned under Sullivan season, which could only help his developmental process. However, the former Spartan remains an unknown. The Rams drafted Allen with the intent that he would be the team’s starting center this year. They exuded confidence in the second-year player as they didn’t draft or sign anybody this last offseason.
Chances of Making the Final Roster
There is no chance that Allen doesn’t make the final roster. The Rams didn’t make an effort to re-sign Sullivan or draft or sign another free agent despite having plenty of opportunities.
The Rams have shown plenty of confidence in Allen all offseason. Whether that confidence was shown in bad faith is yet to be seen, but Allen will get plenty of opportunities to make the most of the starting role.