The biggest story of the Los Angeles Rams 2019 season was regression of the offensive line. After being a top-tier unit in 2017 and 2018, the group took a major step back in 2019. In fact, they were named one of the league’s worst groups.
Between the losses of Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan and inexperienced replacements combined with injuries, the group was an overall disaster last season.
However, that the group took a step forward towards the latter half of the year. With a full year of experience and more experience playing together, the Rams offensive line at least has some promise heading into 2020. The biggest question is, what will the starting five look like.
There are three spots that are more or less locked in place. Andrew Whitworth will be the team’s left tackle. They brought the veteran tackle back for a reason and it wasn’t to be a backup or slide in at guard.
After Brian Allen went down with injury last season, Austin Blythe took over at his natural position. However, even before that he was the bonafide center playing guard. Blythe made all of the protection calls at the line of scrimmage. The result was better center play and therefore better offensive line play.
Lastly, despite a down 2019 plagued with injury, Rob Havenstein will be the team’s right tackle. It wouldn’t be surprising however to see Havenstein on a short leash and potentially on the trade block. With Bobby Evans in the fold, the team does have other options. If Havenstein wasn’t the ninth highest-paid right tackle, there may be more of a camp competition.
So, now that we can expect the left tackle to be Whitworth, the center to be Blythe, and the right tackle to be Havenstein. Those are three solid rocks to rely on. Now we just have to fill in the gaps.
Option 1: Whitworth, Corbett, Blythe, Edwards, Havenstein
When all is said and done, this should be the starting five on the offensive line. The biggest question mark will be David Edwards at right guard, but putting two Wisconsin guys right next to each other could be a good thing for chemistry on that side.
Edwards played well at guard last season, despite being drafted as a tackle. The Rams like their offensive linemen to be versatile and Edwards is just that. Edwards started on the left side last season, but was eventually moved to right guard. Left guard has been Austin Corbett’s natural spot and where he played well after the team traded for him from Cleveland.
Option 2: Whitworth, Corbett, Blythe, Evans, Havenstein
This is essentially the same lineup as above, but it just proves the fact that the left guard and right guard positions are going to be wide open. These will be open competitions to be won and lost.
I do believe the Rams see Evans more as a tackle, whether that’s taking over for Havenstein in the more immediate future or being the heir apparent to Whitworth. Evans played on both sides of the offensive line at Oklahoma which just shows how valuable of a piece his in this group.
Evans did get some time at guard last season and given his experience on the right side, he could be guy to start in that spot Week 1.
Option 3: Whitworth, Noteboom, Blythe, Evans, Havenstein
Here’s a name that we haven’t seen yet – Joseph Noteboom. The Rams selected Noteboom in the third round of the 2018 NFL draft. After not playing his entire rookie season, he was named the Week 1 starter at left guard last season. The former TCU product tore his ACL and MCL in Week 6, ending his season.
While Noteboom was up and down in the six games that he played, that was to be expected given he was essentially a rookie. Him starting is going to obviously depend on his play in camp, but also where he is at health-wise.
Option 4: Whitworth, Noteboom, Blythe, Edwards, Havenstein
Same group but with Edwards in place of Evans. As mentioned earlier, this just goes to show how much of an open competition this is going to be. Edwards and Evans were both drafted in the same draft class and both had their moments when they played well last season.
It’s highly unlikely that both players will start, but at the very least it shows the bright future of this group.
Option 5: Whitworth, Corbett, Blythe, Noteboom, Havenstein
This last option is less likely, but still an option. The biggest question mark would be moving Noteboom to the right side. If that’s something that he proves he can do and do well, it should certainly be considered.
Both Corbett and Noteboom will be going into their third season in the league while Noteboom will be in his third year in the system. That’s something that neither Edwards nor Evans can say they have. Going for the experienced group might be the best way to go at least early on especially without preseason and shortened OTA’s and training camp.