St Louis Rams offensive line is still the biggest weakness


In the 2015 NFL draft, the St. Louis Rams used four of their nine selections on offensive linemen. Rob Havenstein, Jamon Brown, Andrew Donnal and Cody Wichmann were all brought in to revitalize one of the weakest areas on the roster. This piled on from 2014’s selection of Greg Robinson with the second overall pick, with the intention of turning him into the franchise left tackle.

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Surprisingly, S.t Louis currently ranks third in the league allowing an average of just 1.4 sacks per game, a marked improvement on 2014’s 25th ranked 2.9 sacks allowed per game. While the Rams have the lowest total of first downs with 166, they have picked up an average of nearly 8.2 yards per play when on first down – conversely the best in the NFL. So has the young line really been that bad? 

Dec 7, 2014; Landover, MD, USA; St. Louis Rams center Scott Wells (63) prepares to snap the ball against the Washington Redskins during the first half at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The problem is that while the stats may point to a line that keeps the quarterback relatively safe in terms of pass protection, the Rams offense is not designed around the passing game. The Rams want to run the ball, and they have the man to do it in Todd Gurley. What the line has failed to do is consistently create holes and block to give Gurley the opportunity to gain good yardage.

The Rams have one of the most experienced offensive line coaches in Paul Boudreau who has coached lines in the NFL since 1987, working with eight different franchises in that time. Interestingly, in twenty-eight seasons coaching offensive lines, Boudreau’s teams have ranked in the top ten for total offense just four times. While much has been made of head coach Jeff Fisher’s win-loss record, particularly with regard to the offense, there are also questions to be asked about the supporting cast. 

March 2015 saw the Rams trade former number one overall draft selection Sam Bradford to the Phildelphia Eagles. In doing so, they freed up an acre of salary cap space. With proven veteran offensive linemen such as Mike Iupati, Stefan Wiesniewski, Orlando Franklin – not to mention the Ram’s own Joe Barksdale – all hitting free agency, it is still a head-scratcher as to why the Rams made no real attempt to bring in a big name veteran lineman. Perhaps the failure of the likes of Scott Wells and Jake Long made the coaching staff more inclined to reinforce the line through the draft, rather than make a splash out in free agency to bring in a veteran.

Whether the blame lies with coaching, inexperience, injuries or game design, the fact remains that the St. Louis Rams do not have an offensive line to be envied. It is an old cliché that games are won and lost in the trenches. The Rams certainly have a defensive front to be feared, but on the other side of the ball it is a completely different story. The truth is that it does all begin up-front, and until the Rams can get the offensive line sorted the team is unlikely to be real challengers.