Los Angeles Rams: Analyzing the Current State of the Offensive Line

by Blaine Grisak
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One of the biggest questions for the 2022 Los Angeles Rams is the offensive line. They’ll be losing Andrew Whitworth and Austin Corbett while likely starting a rookie in Logan Bruss. Offensive line play is important. While the Rams don’t necessarily need an elite offensive line, they need a competent one.

Offensive line play is crucial to the success of any offense. Matthew Stafford can certainly operate outside of structure more than Jared Goff could, but even Stafford needs protection. Last season, the Rams got their best offensive line play since 2018. The result was a return trip to the Super Bowl.

However, as most remember, the season after the Super Bowl loss to New England, the Rams offensive line struggled and was ranked 31st by PFF. The result there was 9-7 and missing the playoffs for the first time in the Sean McVay era. With the question marks surrounding the offensive line this season, let’s take a look at this group.

The Starters

Pro Football Focus ranked the Los Angeles Rams offensive line 11th heading into the 2022 season. This is eerily similar to the beginning of the 2019 season when they ranked the offensive line 13th.

There’s no completely replacing the retired Andrew Whitworth for the Rams’ offensive line, but one of the most underrated offensive linemen in the NFL is taking his place. Joe Noteboom has never been a full-time starter for Los Angeles, but he’s been fantastic whenever on the field. Noteboom allowed only five pressures on 142 pass-blocking snaps last season.

There are certainly some similarities as the Rams will be lacking the continuity that they’ve built over the last two years. Let’s take a deeper look at the Rams’ projected starters.

LT Joseph Noteboom

There’s no doubt that this is a prove it year for Joseph Noteboom. The Los Angeles Rams have been grooming and developing him for four years under Andrew Whitworth. They likely didn’t think they’d be waiting this long for the heir to Whitworth to take over, but here we are.

Noteboom signed a three year contract extension in the offseason and will be taking over for Whitworth at left tackle. Those are some big shoes to fill.

How many teams with a left tackle the caliber of Whitworth replace that player with someone else with starting experience in that system and experience in the playoffs? It’s definitely a “prove it” year for Noteboom, but it’s not as if he’s been just sitting for 4 straight years.

In games where Joseph Noteboom has played at least 50 snaps at left tackle, the Los Angeles Rams are 6-3. Some of those wins came against the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals in 2020 and then the Tampa Buccaneers – including last year in the divisional round of the playoffs.

In these games, Noteboom never had a pass-blocking grade under 68 and his 86.3 pass-block rating against the Buccaneers was the best in his career. After struggling at left guard in 2019 and 2020, the Los Angeles Rams moved Noteboom to left tackle where he’s flourished when given the opportunity.

He’s never had a game with a pass-block game lower than 60. In fact, of the 10 games that Noteboom has started at left tackle, he’s had a grade up 80 or higher in four of them. From weeks 11-17 in 2020, Noteboom had the sixth-highest pass-blocking grade among tackles that took at least 80% of their teams snaps in those weeks.

Noteboom needs to prove that he can stay healthy, but it’s very possible that he’s a very solid left tackle this season.

LG David Edwards

David Edwards may not be a pro bowl caliber left guard, but he’s very solid. For drafting Edwards in the fifth round, he’s turned out to be a very good player. The Los Angeles Rams are known as a team to trade away high draft pick for proven players. To be able to do that however, you have to be able to hit on late picks. Among guards drafted in 2019, Edwards had the fourth-highest pass-blocking grade last season. Overall, he was still in the top-25. That’s very good value.

Edwards has a tendency to get overpowered at times. Last season, his 35 pressures led Rams offensive linemen. This will be the final year of Edwards’ rookie deal. Depending on how he performs, could determine whether or not he is brought back. Edwards has improved, specifically in pass protection every year since being drafted. Now being the veteran on the left side, the Rams will expect him to take another jump.

C Brian Allen

Many had written off Brian Allen as an option for the Rams center position last season – myself included. In fact, I called the Rams moving Allen to center a mistake and said that it showed that Snead and co. mishandled the offseason. While Creed Humphrey would be nice, Allen showed that he can be a starting caliber NFL center.

The Los Angeles Rams committed to Allen this offseason with a three-year deal. That extension was well-earned as Allen was the sixth highest graded center via Pro Football Focus last season. His 87.4 run-blocking grade also ranked sixth. Where Allen needs to improve is in pass protection. His five sacks were tied for the most among centers last season and he ranked 34th and 25th in true pass sets.

There’s a lot of potential with Allen and the film shows that. He had one of his best games of the season in pass protection in the divisional round of the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Allen stone-walled Vita Vea and played a big part in that win.

Similar to Noteboom, Allen needs to prove that he can stay healthy and show that last year wasn’t a fluke. The center out of Michigan State struggled mightily in 2019 and ended the season on injured reserve with a MCL injury. Aside from inexperience, an issue with the 2019 offensive line that featured Allen was injuries. Coleman Shelton showed he has capable to fill in, but Allen plays a key role on the offensive line and will need to be available.

RG Logan Bruss

The biggest question mark on the Los Angeles Rams offensive line heading into 2022 is by far Logan Bruss. This isn’t necessarily because  Bruss isn’t a good player – he very well might be. It’s more just because he’s a huge unknown. What we do know, is that Bruss was a perfect fit for the Rams and should fit in seamlessly.

As a right guard at Wisconsin, Bruss allowed just one sack in three years. With that said, we should definitely still expect some rookie speed bumps this season. It’s possible that Bruss’ rookie season is much like David Edwards’ who also came from Wisconsin. Edwards showed strong potential, but had his rough moments, notably against Pittsburgh and Dallas. Still, he showed starting potential in his first start and in the final game against Arizona. 

The Rams have done well drafting linemen in the mid-rounds and watching them succeed. They’ll hope for the same path for Bruss. He’ll be playing next to Rob Havenstein which will hopefully help his development. Bruss will bring a much needed attitude to the offensive line as the Rams look to replace Austin Corbett.

RT Rob Havenstein

What is there to say about Rob Havenstein? When he isn’t playing hurt, Havenstein is a top-three right tackle in the NFL. This season more will be expected of Havenstein from a leadership standpoint. Playing next to a rookie, he also may be given more responsibility and asked to do more.

Without Whitworth, Havenstein will be the veteran of the group. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him get a captain designation. While he has a tendency to lose to elite speed rushers, his bad games are average at worst. Havenstein might be one of the more underrated players on the Los Angeles Rams that isn’t talked about enough.

Key Depth

C Coleman Shelton

Shelton played in three games last season, starting two for Brian Allen. While he showed that he can be a formidable fill-in option, this isn’t someone that you want starting week in and week out. There were times last season where Shelton was eaten alive by the opposing defensive line. In both starts, he didn’t have a pass-blocking grade above 51 and allowed four pressures.

As a player in his third year in the system, Shelton provides good depth. If Allen goes out for a game or two as he did last year, Shelton is a player who has experience doing that. Depending on which scenario plays out, the Los Angeles Rams are going to learn a lot about the center position this season. When it comes to center, you don’t need an elite player, but you absolutely cannot have a bad one. A bad center is very noticeable.

LT AJ Jackson

Alaric “AJ” Jackson got significant playing time in one game last season. Once he settled in, you would never have known that he was an undrafted free agent. He allowed two pressures in pass protection against the Vikings, but had a run-blocking grade of 90.8. Only Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein had higher single game run-blocking grades.

At Iowa, Jackson was the only player in the 2021 NFL Draft class with more than 40 starts at left tackle. He only went undrafted due to inconsistency and poor testing numbers. If Joseph Noteboom gets hurt, the Los Angeles Rams could rely on Jackson. It’s uncertain if he could handle that role, but he played well in his lone opportunity last season.

The Rest

RT Bobby Evans

After a rookie season that started with promise, Bobby Evans has never developed into the third round player that the Rams drafted. Following his first three games as a rookie, he allowed 20 pressures in four games at right tackle. He was tried at guard in 2020 and didn’t look much better, if not worse. In his lone game at right tackle last season, he allowed three pressures.

It’s right to question whether or not Evans makes the roster this season. He has experience, but the Rams have other players that may have passed or will pass him on the depth chart. He’s on the final year of his rookie deal and will need a big year for the Rams to bring him back.

LT Tremayne Anchrum

The Los Angeles Rams drafted Tremayne Anchrum in the seventh round in 2020. While we haven’t seen a lot of him outside of the preseason, he’s someone that the team really likes. He can play all five positions on the offensive line, but is best suited at tackle.

Anchrum will likely continue to be a depth piece and won’t see many starting reps. However, he’s someone that I believe that the Rams would trust in that spot if his number is called.

RT AJ Arcuri

AJ Arcuri was drafted this season as a right tackle. My assumption is that Arcuri could be the replacement for Bobby Evans next season. Arcuri is a big, powerful tackle with good hands. He has the tools that Kevin Carberry will be able to work with and develop. It’s unlikely fans see a lot of him this season outside of the preseason. However, he could be someone to watch down the line.

Conclusion

When looking at the Los Angeles Rams offensive line, it’s easy to see why some may be concerned. However, looking at it with a glass half-full mentality, there’s also a lot of potential here. When given the opportunity, Joseph Noteboom has played very well at left tackle. If he can stay healthy, there’s little reason to think he can’t fill in nicely for Andrew Whitworth. While it would be crazy to think he can play at Whitworth’s level, he should be a solid replacement.

Rob Havenstein is now the veteran player on the offensive line. He’ll be given a leadership role and be expected to be the voice of the offensive line group. Havenstein has been very solid throughout his career and we shouldn’t expect anything different this season. When healthy, Havenstein is a top-10 right tackle in the NFL.

At the guard spots, David Edwards has high potential and will be expected to take another step. Logan Bruss could have some rookie speed bumps, but that’s to be expected. Brian Allen wraps up the interior and will be looking to build off what was a very good 2021 campaign.

For depth, AJ Jackson and Coleman Shelton each have fill-in experience and Tremayne Anchrum shouldn’t be slept on. The Rams have a very solid group of starters and depth with experience. The depth is extremely underrated. Yes, the Rams are losing Whitworth. However, they also aren’t replacing him with a rookie.

The Rams offensive line got a preseason ranking of 11th from PFF. If things work out, they have the ability to jump above that mark. For now, that ranking is fair and we’ll see what this group can do. Unlike 2019, the Rams at least have a quarterback who is better outside of structure and doesn’t need a perfect environment to succeed.

 

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