The Los Angeles Rams took a risk this offseason when they decided not to add a single offensive lineman. While you could have agreed with a decision not to take a tackle or even a guard given the depth that they had, a center seemed like a must after losing Austin Blythe in free agency.
Most of the same pieces will still be in place, but the Rams offensive line is going to look a lot different in 2021. From left to right – Andrew Whitworth, David Edwards, Austin Corbett, Bobby Evans, and Rob Havenstein.
Bobby Evans will be a question mark at right guard. However, potentially even a larger question mark is Corbett at center. Since trading for the former 33rd overall pick, Corbett has played at guard for the Rams. He’s played pretty well there too, which is why there might be some hesitation from fans to move him.
Corbett was a big part of the Rams’ turnaround on the offensive line towards the end of 2019. In fact, he was a big part of being named PFF’s No. 3 offensive line last season.
Austin Corbett has obviously never played center for the Rams. But he’s also never played the position in the NFL or college. At Nevada, Corbett was a left tackle prospect. With that said, draft pundits saw him as someone who could move inside to guard or potentially center. His lone live reps at center came at the Senior Bowl.
When the Browns drafted Corbett is 2018, he started rookie training camp at left tackle, but didn’t last long before being surpassed on the depth chart. The Browns traded Kevin Zeitler to the New York Giants in order to open up a spot at right guard for Corbett.
That move didn’t work out either. Corbett was overwhelmed and didn’t have a feel for the new position. After the first two experiments failed, Corbett exclusively took snaps as the No. 2 center. According to Jeff Risdon from Browns Wire:
“Except Corbett has been at his absolute worst at center. His snapping remains rudimentary at best. Moving him to center means he’s more often isolated against bigger defensive tackles, exacerbating the impact of his lack of strength and anchor ability. Pair that with his complete lack of natural instincts at the position, and it’s been a disaster.”
The Rams traded for quarterback Matthew Stafford in the offseason. In order for Stafford to be successful, it’s impeccable that the offensive line keep him protected. The Rams are putting a lot of faith in Corbett to play arguably the second most-important position on the offensive line.
A lot goes into playing center. As much as fans might not want to hear it, it’s not as easy as just moving over one spot – just as it’s not as simple as just moving a tackle inside to guard. There’s some different technique, a center has to be able to call out protections, and a center is quite literally the anchor of the offensive line.
Despite being drafted 33rd overall, Corbett started exactly one game for the Browns and the start didn’t come at center.
The question becomes, how much of Corbett’s past do you completely throw out the window? There’s no doubt that he has played much better since being drafted by the Rams. However, all of those snaps have been at guard. Despite Brian Allen’s porous play in 2019, the Rams opted for Austin Blythe at center instead of Corbett.
With experience on the interior of the offensive line, it’s certainly possible that Corbett can play center. All of this isn’t to say that he can’t do it. However, outside of backup reps in Cleveland and the current snaps in OTAs with the Rams, he hasn’t done it before.
Is he a better option than Brian Allen or Coleman Shelton? In all likelihood, the answer to that is yes. Was it worth not bringing back Blythe or drafting a center? That is to be determined.
The trade for Austin Corbett is one of the best moves that Les Snead has made as a general manager. They’ll be asking a lot of Corbett this season as they ask him to move positions and take on more responsibility. It will only be a matter of time before we find out whether or not that was in fact the right move.