LA Rams offense struggles with injured center Brian Allen

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The LA Rams offensive line has played rather poorly in the past two games, which just so happens to coincide with the injury suffered by starting offensive center Brian Allen. For a quick history refresher, the LA Rams offensive line struggled in 2019, the last season that Brian Allen started at the offensive center position for the team.

Now the team is struggling on the offensive line, and you can bet it has something to do with Brian Allen and the elbow injury that he suffered during the Tennessee Titans game.  Well, struggling is a relative term. We’ll explain that in a moment. For now, suffice it to say that Brian Allen is a swinging barn door in terms of allowing quarterback sacks.

Now I’m not trying to bash the guy. But the LA Rams offense is predicated on protecting quarterback Matthew Stafford. Entering Week 9, the team had only allowed eight quarterback sacks in eight games. That number doubled overnight, and the injury to Allen has played a huge part in that.

Rams roster – center shortage?

He earned the starting role at offensive center after the pads went on. Early in the season, he played very well and was one of the key contributors to giving quarterback Matthew Stafford time to carve up opposing defenses.  But a check-up at his Pro Football Focus 2021 grade shows that while he is still a respectable 74.5 grade for the year, he has allowed five sacks and has committed five penalties.

That is the most sacks allowed by any NFL center this year, and he is tied with the fourth-most penalties in the NFL as well. That’s never a good sign because the center should not be getting false starts, so that leaves offensive holding, something that NFL officials have been reluctant to call in recent years.

I guess the part that is so surprising to me is the fact that an injured center continues to start. That exposes one of two problems on the Rams roster. Either the Rams coaching staff has zero confidence in backup center Coleman Shelton, or the coaches simply are unable to envision a change at that position, in spite of recent struggles. Shelton had a good training camp. Why haven’t the Rams given Allen a chance to heal up?

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Domino effect

One of the problems with playing an injured center is the stress that decision causes to the other offensive linemen. Defenses have clearly targeted stunts and blitzes to take advantage of Allen’s injury, forcing both David Edwards and Austin Corbett, the offensive guards, to cheat inwards and help out. That, in turn, opens pass-rushing lanes to their outside. As a result, Edwards has allowed three quarterback sacks.

While Corbett has been a stone wall, right tackle Rob Havenstein has allowed four quarterback sacks. What about nearly 40-year old left tackle Andrew Whitworth? As you may have guessed, Big Whit continues to dominate, surrendering just one quarterback sack so far this season.

Unfortunately, this is the same pattern as 2019, when the Rams offensive line struggled at the center, left guard, and right tackle. The remedy then was to commit to playing two tight ends more frequently while committing to a more balanced run/pass ratio.

Just like 2019, the Rams’ average pass radius has shrunk dramatically from passes averaging 12.3 yards in Week 1, to passes now averaging under 6.0 yards in Weeks 9 and 10. Just like previous seasons, the Rams’ past two games have thrown for two touchdowns and four interceptions. And just like 2019, the Rams pass protection has been horrific, yielding seven quarterback sacks in two games.

As the Rams try to regroup over the BYE week to figure out a better strategy, hopefully giving the quarterback better pass protection is part of that discussion

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