Is this the last hurrah for LA Rams IOL Austin Blythe, or merely a new chapter of his NFL Career
The LA Rams made a lot of duct-tape adjustments to the NFL offensive line. While the Rams stalwart offensive line plummeted from among the elite to the 31st-ranked offensive line in one season, nobody believes the 2019 season was a one-off anomaly. Injuries began to afflict the offensive line, and the Rams promoted their backups. But NFL rosters typically carry eight offensive linemen on the active roster. The Rams turn styled through nine players who saw starting action, plus an additional two offensive linemen who saw snaps in games. In fact, Austin Blythe saw starts at center, right guard, and left guard.
What we have mentioned in passing, but failed to address directly, is the way players were shifted around the offensive line, sliding into roles they had not prepared to play specifically for those roles. Austin Blythe prepared to play right guard, and yet he finished the season at center. David Edwards prepared to play offensive tackle, but he ended up playing at the right guard. Austin Corbett never practiced with the Rams offensive line. Rather, he signed up in midseason. In short, the LA Rams offensive line was in free fall, and the final starting five configurations of Andrew Whitworth, Austin Corbett, Austin Blythe, David Edwards, and Bobby Evans was an emergency parachute that the Rams popped just in time to avoid crashing into the ground.
OL gets a chance to reset now
The Rams offensive line may have been a work-in-progress throughout the entire 2019 NFL season, but this 2020 offseason has allowed the entire group to hit the reset button. Now, players who guessed at what to do in 2019 and practice and learn their positions fully in 2020. So the patchwork processing of Austin Blythe a season ago, with injured shoulders and ankle, is over. Now he gets to practice as a center for the first time in a Rams’ jersey. And he gets to do so in full health. When he was healthy in 2018, he earned an impressive Pro Football Focus grade of 76.4. Of course, he played through injuries for the second half of the 2019 season.
Due to the number of season-ending injuries last year, I’m inclined to believe that the struggles of players were linked to minor injuries that the players simply suited up with. We know that to be the case for both Blythe and Whitworth. How much of a difference can full-health and practice make for an offensive lineman taking on a new role? A huge difference. So much so that we have already gone on record asserting that the Rams offensive line should rebound nicely this year.