Ranking The Rams Offensive Line In The NFC West

Los Angeles Players Stretching At Fans Open Practice. Photo Credit: Ryan Dyrud | LAFB Network
Los Angeles Players Stretching At Fans Open Practice. Photo Credit: Ryan Dyrud | LAFB Network

Ranking The Rams Offensive Line In The NFC West

4. Seahawks 

Projected Starting Offensive Line:

LT – Duane Brown 

LG –Damien Lewis 

C – Ethan Pocic 

RG – Gabe Jackson 

RT – Brandon Shell  

Quality Backups:

Cedric Ogbuehi

Jordan Simmons

Jamarco Jones

In front of every great quarterback, there is a great offensive line. That is a universal truth. Well, almost universal. This isn’t true for Russell Wilson. The Seahawks offensive line is mediocre at best and is a couple of tiers below their NFC West cohort. Warren Sharp’s Football Preview ranked Seattle’s o-line 18th and PFF ranked them 20th. They aren’t among the worst in the league, but certainly below average.  

Wilson holds on to the ball longer than most quarterbacks and gets sacked at a high rate, yet the team continues to win at a high rate. What’s even more confounding is they have been defying statistical probability when it comes to winning one-score games. What makes this contradiction all the more maddening is the possibility that they haven’t invested in the offensive line exactly because Wilson single-handedly wills his team to victory. This leads to one of the greatest football imponderable questions; “How good would Wilson be if the Seahawks actually invested in his protection?”

The good news for Wilson is that Duane Brown is still an elite tackle. His PFF grade ranked him 5th best among tackles. On the other end, Brandon Shell was an upgrade at right tackle in 2020. He is a good pass blocker and an adequate run blocker. 

Seattle signed Gabe Jackson, in essence, to replace the retired Mike Iupati. Jackson’s acquisition is a lateral move in terms of skill, but it also will result in Damien Lewis moving to the left side of the line for the first time in his career. As a rookie, Lewis played 90% of the team’s offensive snaps last season and was impressive as a run blocker, but struggled against the pass rush. 

This brings up why the Seahawks are ranked so low. The interior of their o-line is bad against aggressive pass-rushing teams. In 2021, Seattle will face a top 10 pass-rushing team 11 times. Five of those games are against the very best in the league, including Pittsburg, Washington, New Orleans, and the Rams twice. These defenses should easily be able to pick apart this line. Now whether or not they can stop Russell Wilson is another question. 

3. Cardinals

Projected Starting Offensive Line:

LT – D.J. Humphries 

LG – Justin Pugh 

C – Rodney Hudson 

RG – Justin Murray 

RT – Kelvin Beachum 

Quality Backups:

Brian Winters

The Cardinals’ offensive line has two very high points. D.J. Humphries, who emerged from last season as one of the best left tackles in the league. He made the jump from good to great and is projected to continue on that path. The other high point is Rodney Hudson at center. He was ranked the 8th best center by PFF and he got the best grade of any center in the NFC West. 

The rest of the line struggles to keep up. 

The good news is they have invested in blockers that can hold up in Kliff Kingsbury’s air raid offense which asks Kyler Murray to throw deep down the field. This means the line has to hold up long enough for the receivers to get downfield.  Arizona’s offensive line kept Kyler from feeling the pressure. He was only sacked 27 times and he was under pressure 106 times which was 21st in the league. The Cardinals are the only team in the West to have five linemen that all have a PFF pass rush blocking grade of 70 and above. 

Run blocking is another story. At a glance, the Cardinals had a good season running the ball. But a lot of that had to do with Murray. If you subtract his rushing yards from Arizona’s rushing total they were the second-worst rushing team. Of course, the offensive line had something to do with Murray picking up 52 first downs and scoring 11 touchdowns with his legs.

That said, a good chunk of those yards came from broken plays. In a more traditional running game, this line is subpar. Kenyan Drake, who was the team’s leading rusher, averaged 4 yards per carry, 41st  in the league, and averaged 2.3 yards before contact which was 30th. Yards before contact is a stat that does reflect on the offensive line in that it shows if and how well they are opening up running lanes for their rushers. This made them supremely one-dimensional. 

Another area of concern for the Cardinals is a serious lack of depth. If any of the starters get hurt, there is a stark decline in talent behind them. Especially if Humphries or Hudson suffers an injury. The Cardinals have the oldest starting offensive line with an average age of 30.2 years. While life after 30 for a lineman isn’t the same as every other position in football, the risk of injury does go up with age. 

2. Rams 

Projected Starting Offensive Line:

LT – Andrew Whitworth 

LG – Dave Edwards 

C – Austin Corbett 

RG – Bobby Evans 

RT – Rob Havenstein 

Quality Backups:

Joe Noteboom

Sean McVay and Les Snead both expressed faith in the currently rostered linemen. There are plenty of reasons that they should have confidence. All four of the returning starters played some of the best football of their careers last season. 

It should be assumed that Snead and McVay’s confidence comes from their knowledge and expertise in the realm of football. In a true act of faith, they put their money where their mouths are and did not pick a lineman in the draft. So their faith must be based on a certain amount of verifiable facts. But despite the fact that they do know a thing or two about this, we should allow room for some skepticism when it comes to this full-throated endorsement of the Rams front five because it seems like their confidence is based on a few assumptions. 

The biggest assumption is that Austin Corbett will seamlessly move to center. The center position is like pushing a rock up a hill while also doing your taxes and that takes some practice to get good at. He was a tackle in college and has been a guard so far in the NFL. 2020 was his first year as a week 1 starter. In 2019, He started several games because of injuries, but for the most part, he struggled. Will he play like the guard we saw in 2020 at a brand new position? 

With Corbett moving to center, Bobby Evans will likely fill his former spot. The assumption with Evans is that he won’t be a massive liability as a starter, which will require significant improvement from him. Similar to Corbett, Evans was given playing time in 2019 because of injuries, and also like Corbett, he struggled, but also demonstrated some promise and improvement. 

There is also an assumption that the unit will be as healthy as they were in 2020. Andrew Whitworth was the only lineman to miss a significant amount of time. The Rams lack quality depth outside of Noteboom, and moreover, the backups lack experience. 

The Rams added two intriguing linemen as undrafted free agents. Both Alaric Jackson and Jordan Meredith were graded highly by PFF coming out of college, but they may lack the size and athleticism to compete in the pro game. They are certainly developmental prospects and both have a shot at making the team. 

With all that said, the Rams offensive line is anchored by Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein. They offer plenty of skill to keep this unit ranked highly among the offensive lines in the NFC West.

[pickup_prop id=”5153″]

1. 49ers

Projected Starting Offensive Line:

LT – Trent Williams 

LG – Laken Tomlinson 

C – Alex Mack

RG – Aaron Banks 

RT – Mike McGlinchey 

Quality Backups

Daniel Brunskill

Tom Compton

Senio Kelemete

The 49ers and the Rams took opposite approaches to their offensive line this offseason. The former drafted Aaron Banks in the second round and scooped up Alex Mack in free agency. They also threw a heap of money at Trent Williams. It is hard to argue with this approach. They have upgraded at every position over the last few years. Joe Staley was a very good tackle, but Trent Williams is one of the best. Mack may be on the backside of his career, but he is still better than Ben Garland and knows how to operate within Shanahan’s offense. They have also developed former first-round pick Laken Tomlinson into a quality starter and another first-rounder, Mike McGlinchey, has been a consistent performer and has improved since moving from guard to tackle. 

This kind of investment gives the 49ers the edge over the Rams in this ranking. Drafting and signing players have given them more depth than the Rams. If it were a dollar-for-dollar ranking the Rams would beat them out. The 49ers spend about $10 million more than the Rams, but this unit is too good on paper not to get the top spot.

So, for those of you keeping score. The 49ers have 4 first-round picks and the 48th overall pick in 2021 starting on their offensive line. This is very important for the 49ers because everything out of Santa Clara points to the 49ers starting Jimmy Garoppolo. Protecting a QB that has missed 23 games due to injury over the last three seasons has to be priority number one. 

The two big concerns for this line are health and holding up in pass protection. The 49ers have three linemen that are over 29 in Mack, Williams, and Tomlinson, and San Francisco has been an injury-prone team, so their depth will help if someone does get injured. They also struggle in pass blocking. Only Williams has a PFF pass-blocking grade over 65. Luckily, the Shanahan offense relies on quick throws and gashing the defense with speedy running backs. So this isn’t as pronounced a liability, but there may be an instance in which Shanahan might want to throw the ball deep. Hypothetically, let’s say when he’s down a few scores late in a Super Bowl.