Will The St. Louis Rams Be Ok Without Joe Barksdale?


Earlier this week, former St. Louis Rams right tackle Joe Barksdale signed a one year contract with the San Diego Chargers in what left many disappointed. On a very bad Rams offensive line, Barksdale was one of the few lineman that did in fact block from time to time.

However, letting Barksdale walk should come as no surprise. The Rams addressed needs on the offensive line through the draft, specifically at right tackle where Barksdale played. In the second round of the 2015 draft, the Rams drafted Rob Havenstein out of Wisconsin to presumably be their right tackle of the future.

In Havenstein the Rams drafted a mauler in the run game and someone who has plenty of experience at the position.

Yes, it would have been nice to bring Barksdale back, but he wasn’t a necessity. Barksdale was a solid  part of the offensive line, starting 29 games over the past two seasons, and it is because of this that fans started to see Barksdale as a necessity when in fact he wasn’t.

Some went as far to say he was the number one priority for the Rams in the offseason. The truth is, Barksdale is an average to above average right tackle at best. While he did have a good 2013, last year and the year prior, he did consistently get beat by better competition.

This was most recently proven last season when he was completely dominated by Kansas City’s Justin Houston and Washington’s Ryan Kerrigan. The fact of the matter was, Barksdale is an average right tackle.

He has reached his ceiling, Havenstein on the other hand, we dont know what his ceiling will be, but we do know that he brings the physical play that Barksdale did not.

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Many have blamed Davin Joseph and the inexperience at quarterback that gave Barksdale issues, but looking at the stats and performances, that is only partly true. Against the Chargers last year, Joseph ended up with a positive grade at 5.1, meanwhile Barksdale came out exactly even with a 0.0 grade.

Against the Raiders, a weaker competition, Joseph ended up with a -2.5 grade while Barksdale excelled against a team who had one of the worst defensive lines in football putting up an impressive 1.7 grade.

In possibly his worst three game stretch against the Cardinals, 49ers, and Chiefs, Barksdale managed a grade of -4 or worse in those three consecutive games. Meanwhile, Joseph accumulated a grade worse than -1 just once.

The stats are simply inconsistent and dont back up that Joseph was the reason for all of Barksdale’s struggles. Watching the film, while Joseph did cause some issues, Barksdale did get beat one on one on plays in which Joseph held his own plenty of times.

Going back to Barksdale’s good year in 2013, it wasn’t all that impressive as many make it out to be.

As you can see Barksdale was only in the top 15 right tackle on three different occasions, two of which were against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears who aren’t known for their dominant defensive lines.

On the other hand, against teams like the 49ers, Seahawks, Cardinals, and Cowboys, Barksdale allowed a total of 17 total quarterback pressures. Not to mention his run blocking wasn’t anything worth bragging about recording a negative grade in three of six divisional games and forgettable performances against the Colts and Panthers.

This is all while the Rams are trying to build a team in which the main focus is running the ball. On the offensive line the left tackle is said to be the pass blocking tackle, the tackle that protects the quarterback’s blind side while on the other hand, the right tackle is meant to be the run blocking tackle.

With Barksdale, this obviously was not the case as his run blocking grades dont show that run blocking was his specialty. Several times over the past two years the Rams have not been able to generate push up front on the offensive side of the ball.

Now, this wasn’t all Barksdale’s fault, but as the stats show, he didnt hold his own against some of the more dominant teams. This was also without Davin Joseph and instead Harvey Dahl.

When all is said and done, Barksdale is a player that is nice to have, you can certainly do a lot worse. He is a player that excels against weaker completion, but his flaws come out against the better pass rushers and better defensive lines. The Rams are trying to rebuild their offensive line and that is seen with the complete overhaul this year as there will only be two returning players from last year.

Had the Rams drafted a guy like Cameron Erving, Brandon Scherff, or La’el Collins, keeping Barksdale would make sense as either of those three would have played inside. Barksdale is a tackle and has no experience playing inside at guard.

Les Snead said after the Rams drafted Havenstein, “With big Rob, he is ready to play,” Snead said. “He’s a right tackle, started a ton of games – never missed any. They run the ball well up there…He’s just a guy that knows his strengths and weaknesses and how to use them.”

Snead said that he’s a right tackle and he’s ready to play right now which is exactly what the Rams will do. Havenstein will start from day one and he will start at right tackle, the same spot that Barksdale played.

The Rams could have still brought in Barksdale in for depth, but after the last two years, he wouldnt have wanted to come back in a backup role. Instead he did the smart thing to take a one year deal elsewhere and prove his value as a starter.

Not re-signing Barksdale does not even rule out the possibility of bringing in another offensive lineman. It is possibly that the Rams bring in Justin Blalock to play guard while Jamon Brown develops in the early parts of the season. There is no question they could use some veteran assistance and leadership.

Blalock has been a solid guard in Atlanta. Had they not been switching offensive schemes, there is a good chance that they might have brought him back. Instead he is a player on the market that the Rams could bring in to play guard while their younger players grow.

Will the Rams be ok without Joe Barksdale? That is yet to be seen as we are unsure as to what Havenstein will bring to the table. However, the Rams are looking to the future, and with the declining performance of the right tackle over last season, the Rams are looking to get a tackle in Havenstein who can hold his own and be the right tackle of the future.

Next: Jeff Garcia Hired By The St. Louis Rams

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