What of the offensive line? No one group has the ability to directly impact the performance of the other groups quite like the offensive line. Quarterbacks without protection see their completion percentage drop and are often picking themselves up off the turf far too often. Receivers find that plays begin breaking down before they can complete their routes. Running backs find holes closing far too quickly, preventing them from getting to the second level of the defense.
Looking at the offensive line for the Rams, there is not a single player that comes without real questions. Greg Robinson has yet to prove he is the answer at left tackle. Jamon Brown and Rob Havenstein showed promise as rookies, but both suffered injuries that slowed their growth. The one member of the line that might be looked at to provide some real veteran leadership for this young line, Rodger Saffold, might be the biggest injury question mark of them all.
Saffold has played in 16 games only twice in his 6-year career. During this same time period, he has 3 seasons in which he has played in 10 games or less. The injuries have been enough of a concern to make Saffold another potential target to be cut heading into the offseason, potentially creating a scenario in which the offensive line becomes even younger and more inexperienced.
Last but not least, will the Rams continue to be held back because of the offensive philosophies emphasized by the coaching staff? Jeff Fisher has not had a team finish in the top half of the league in both points and yards in over 10 years. Since joining the Rams, his teams have yet to crack the top 20 in either category. Despite changing coordinators, and replacing players at key positions such as quarterback, the Rams continue to find themselves near the bottom of the league in almost every key offensive statistic. Can his ball-control style of offense still produce enough points to win in this league?
All of the questions about the offense create a kind of a “chicken and egg” dilemma for the Rams. Is a new QB the answer to putting the offense back on track? Or is a top-shelf wide receiver the answer to elevating an average QB? If the running game can be sound, does this nullify the need for great QB-WR combo? Or is a better passing attack needed to elevate the running game? Do any changes to the skill positions matter if the offensive line isn’t addressed first? Will any players struggle if the coaching staff continues to insist on taking such a conservative approach? Or might more dynamic players make those conservative plays look far more creative?
There will be many stories discussing the best moves for the Rams in the weeks leading up through free agency and the draft. These options will be discussed and debated over and over, but the final takeaway may be this: There is no sure-fire right answer to fixing the Rams on the offensive side of the ball. Any choice introduces risk, either because of uncertainty surrounding that particular position, or because problems in other areas might hold back that position from reaching its full potential.
All of the questions about the offense create kind of a “chicken and egg” dilemma for the Rams.
The move to Los Angeles, combined with the release of two very popular members of the team means the pressure will really be on the organization to make the right decisions this offseason. The positive here is that there will be a number of viable options both in free agency and the draft that can help address any of the issues discussed above. Whether the Rams ultimately look to the draft, free agency, or both to address their offensive shortcomings, it will be very important for them to get it right this time around.