Throughout the 2021 offseason, the center position was considered a major position of need for the Los Angeles Rams. After failing to bring back Austin Blythe, that left Brian Allen who wasn’t great in 2019 and hadn’t played since getting injured that season, and Austin Corbett who was drafted as a center.
Free agency came and went and the Rams didn’t sign a center. The draft came and went and the Rams passed on Creed Humphrey, Kendrick Green, etc. at the center position. Former Chiefs center sat in free agency after the draft and the Rams never were even rumored to have interest.
The original plan was for Austin Corbett to play center and Bobby Evans to take Corbett’s spot at guard. That was the case for the majority of training camp. However, heading into the final weeks of camp and the beginning of the preseason, the Rams made an unexpected switch.
The Los Angeles Rams would move Austin Corbett back to his preferred position at guard and start 2018 fourth round pick Brian Allen. It was a move that I heavily criticized the Rams for. Among players with at least 500 snaps at center in 2019, Brian Allen’s 58.6 overall grade on Pro Football Focus was the eighth worst. The team had gone with Corbett at center all offseason and made a very late switch.
A lot of fans didn’t the decision. Some called for Colman Shelton to get an opportunity and still wondered why Austin Reiter still remained a free agent. Reiter was the only Chiefs offensive lineman to earn a positive PFF pass blocking grade in their Super Bowl loss.
Outside of Matthew Stafford, Brian Allen might have been the player that Los Angeles Rams fans were most excited to see play on Sunday Night against the Chicago Bears. Allen had one holding call and gave up one sack. But for the most part, the fourth year center held his own against a good Bears defensive line.
It’s difficult to quantify offensive line grades, with Pro Football Focus being the only real source that does so. With that said, Allen graded decently on Pro Football Focus against the Bears. The Los Angeles Rams center had the second-highest run grade with an 82.1. That matched up with ESPN’s run-block win rate stat in which Allen ranked fourth with a 78%.
On Henderson’s touchdown, it was Allen that sealed off the defensive lineman for Austin Corbett and then got to the second level and handled two linebackers to open a hole for the score. Allen was simply dominant in the run throughout the game.
Allen ranked 19th out of 31 centers in pass protection with a score of 56.1 on Pro Football Focus. However, he really only had two negative plays. As mentioned, Allen had the holding penalty in the first half and then gave up the offensive line’s only sack which could be put Stafford for holding the ball too long.
The center from Michigan State got pushed around little bit, but would catch up and hold his ground long enough for Stafford to either adjust or give him enough to throw the ball.
Overall, Brian Allen exceeded expectations. He’s not likely going to play at an all-pro level and will have his weeks where he struggles. He’ll have a big test against DeForest Buckner this week against the Indianapolis Colts and then the following week when the Rams host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Los Angeles Rams gambled on Allen in 2019 and it didn’t pay off. However, players improve and it looks as if Allen did just that. Despite not playing in almost two years, he got stronger and learned from his experience in 2019. It also helps to have a veteran quarterback like Stafford behind him.
The Rams took another risk on Allen by starting him this year. To this point, that decision looks like it might pay off this time around.
It’ll be interesting to see how Allen does throughout the rest of the year over an 18 week season. It’ll obviously be crucial for him to stay healthy. However, Week 1 was a positive sign and a reason for optimism.