Fixing LA Rams running game starts with Coleman Shelton at RG

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

The LA Rams may have drafted rookie offensive lineman Logan Bruss. But so far, the nod for the starting right guard spot goes to Coleman Shelton. While it may not be a popular opinion, I’m okay with it. Nah, who’s kidding who here? I like where this is going, and I like it a lot.

The key to success in working with NFL positional groups is to find a way to get the best players onto the football field. For the LA Rams offensive line, those five best include Coleman Shelton, and that seems to be the direction of the team’s starting offensive linemen.

When you think of Coleman Shelton, it may be difficult to view him as more than a rotational offensive lineman who has served the team quite well as a plug-and-play stopgap measure to the team’s previous injuries along the offensive line. But Shelton is more than just a segue player to slide into the cracks when the team needs to patch a hole. He is a bona fide accomplished offensive lineman who has worked very hard to earn playing time.

And that appears to be all coming together for him this season, as he is staking his claim to the last remaining starting role on the LA Rams offensive line that is up for grabs.

Shelton is a bit like Philadelphia Eagles star center Jason Kelce, who was a bit like Indianapolis Colts star center Jeff Saturday before him.

Saturday is 6-foot-2 and weighed 295 pounds, and was an outstanding offensive center for the Colts. Kelce is 6-foot-3 and weighs 299 pounds, and has been an outstanding offensive center for the Eagles. Shelton is 6-foot-4 and weighs 299 pounds. So there is plenty of examples that demonstrate an NFL offensive lineman need not be 320+ pounds to succeed as an NFL offensive lineman.

The LA Rams have historically drafted offensive tackles and moved them inside. But Shelton played a number of roles for the Washington Huskies, including center, both guard positions, and left tackle. He is a strong, physical, agile, and very aggressive offensive lineman who seeks contact at the line of scrimmage and downfield as long as the play is alive.

As good as data analytics have advanced in measuring NFL effectiveness, there remains a lag in terms of measuring just how effective an offensive lineman is in a game, or for an entire NFL season for that matter. Offensive linemen oftentimes have to hang their hats on the performance of other players.  Running backs gaining more yards on the ground. Fewer quarterback sacks. But the real proof is what you see on the football field.

We noted last year that whenever the team had Coleman Shelton on the offensive line, and Sony Michel in the backfield, the Rams rushing attack was far more effective. Of course, starting center Brian Allen was fighting through mid-season injuries. But Shelton was a huge difference maker, oftentimes blocking one or two players downfield as well.

The Rams need to run in 2022. Shelton starting at right guard is a hugely positive step to making that happen.

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