Can the LA Rams trust OC Brian Allen enough to start in 2021?

Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

The LA Rams entrusted first-time NFL offensive center, Brian Allen, enough to start on the offensive line in 2019, a year after the team had competed in the Super Bowl. While that did not end well, there were a number of factors contributing to that disappointing debut.  And since that time, the LA Rams have had every chance to change their mind about keeping Allen on the roster to compete for the starting role at the offensive center position.

But they chose not to do so. Instead, the Rams were both and positive in virtually every status update about Brian Allen.

In fact, a year ago, the team re-signed veteran Austin Blythe to a one-year deal. Yet when the team had an option to bring him back at a very affordable price, they elected not to do so. Austin Blythe had started for the LA Rams in their Super Bowl team at right guard and has since started at offensive center. He was both versatile and experienced. He is now also gone.

So the Rams kept Brian Allen but watched Austin Blythe leave the team at a bargain price in free agency. Clearly, I’m missing something. It’s simply not adding up for me. So it’s time to troubleshoot my thought process and see where I might be going wrong.

Three basic facts

Let’s start with some of the basic facts that we know about the current situation.
Fact I – We know that the LA Rams started offensive center Brian Allen to kick off the 2019 NFL season.
Fact II – We know that Allen suffered a devastating injury in the 2019 season. The injury was so devastating that he lost the last seven games of that season, plus a significant part of the 2020 season.
Fact III – Perhaps most of all, the LA Rams time and opportunity to address the offensive center position for two years, and did not act to do more than bridge a gap.

Have the Rams eyed Brian Allen’s return to a starting role all this time? They signed offensive center Cohl Cabral to the roster in 2020 and placed him on the practice squad a year ago. But the moment that Brian Allen had fully rehabbed his knee, the team found reason to cut Cabral from the practice squad.  At the time, we predicted that would complicate the Rams 2020 NFL season. And here we go, a complication for 2021.

I can’t speak for the Rams. I haven’t spoken to the coaching staff, nor to the front office. All I can do is report what the team is doing, and the hand that they are showing. As it stands now, the most likely starter at the offensive center is Brian Allen.

If Allen was not injured so severely to end the 2019 season, the team may have found a way to ease him into the 2020 lineup. The injury to David Edwards at the left guard spot could have been addressed with either Austin Corbett or Austin Blythe to the left guard position the other to the right guard position and Brian Allen to the center position.  Of course, that didn’t happen either.

So we are stuck in the cross-fire of mixed signals.

Mixed signals? Really, Rams?

The Rams have invested heavily into the quarterback position. Not a rookie. Not a scrambler. A fixed-position veteran pocket passer named Matthew Stafford. And the team invested enough into acquiring him that it doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes Detective Agency to know that the Rams will need to add depth to the center competition.

While the Rams are almost certain to draft a center now, they’ve just tipped their hand to the other 31 NFL teams, many of whom are in the market for an offensive center. So the other teams now know that the Rams will be shopping for a center as early as 57. Per the 2021 NFL Draft tracker, only two players have a ‘will be a starter in two years’ grade: Alabama’s Landon Dickerson and Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Quinn Meinerz. It is certainly within the scope that the Rams could watch as many as three or four offensive centers come off the board by the time they step up to the podium for the first time.

In terms of offensive centers, I like five prospects for the Rams in this draft so far: Alabama’s Landon Dickerson, Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Quinn Meinerz, Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey, Ohio State’s Josh Meyer, and Penn State’s  Michal Menet.  Of course, there are more prospects to review and that could mean adding names to this list.

On the other hand, we’ve pushed for center Coleman Shelton to get a chance to compete at the position for two years. He was a dominating center for the Washington Huskies in college, and he has yet to impact the NFL  Perhaps this is the year that he does exactly that.

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Meanwhile, the player with seniority for the role is Brian Allen, We know that he is not highly regarded among the fanbase, but he appears to have the confidence of the coaching staff so far. And if he is the player who ends up starting for the team, then he will certainly have our support.  However else you see it, one thing is obvious. The Rams are committed to a future with a far more likely chance of Brian Allen starting at the center position than before. The team may have something up the sleeve, but if the cards were played today, it could very likely end up with Allen hiking to quarterback Matthew Stafford.