Perhaps it's simply an annual tradition to voice concerns about the state of the LA Rams offensive line, but it's one that continues on even after the team closes the 2023 season and readies for 2024. Is it merely habit, or do fans have legitimate reasons to gripe? Perhaps even more importantly, is it realistic for fans to place wholesale demands to upgrade the offensive line via the 2024 NFL Draft, when there are clearly other areas in greater need of attention?
What do I mean? Well, if you toss away the bias of individual player performance grades from services like Pro Football Focus, you may find that the collective performance of the Rams offensive line was very respectable in 2023.
Let's start by sharing that the Rams spent just over $28 million on their entire offensive line in 2023, but that number is already projected to jump to over $55 million in 2024. Those projections are tied to jumps in the cost of Joe Noteboom ($20 million), Rob Havenstein ($14.7 million), and Brian Allen ($7.3 million). If you expect the Rams to shave salary expenses from one or more of those contracts, you are on the right track. Any savings realized from lowering the salary impact of these contracts could be used to fund an extension for IOL Kevin Dotson.
And if the Rams extend Dotson, wouldn't that be enough to reset the group for 2024?
At 34 sacks in 2023, the Rams offensive line was the sixth best in the NFL in 2023. At an average of 4.3 yards per run, the Rams offensive line was the eighth best in the NFL In 2023. That ignores the fact that the Rams were primarily in 11 personnel, which is one tight end and one running back. It also ignores the fact that the team actually had 10 offensive linemen play varying degrees in 2023, with six different assigned starters and four additional offensive linemen who filled in for injured players.
Of the presumed 2023 starters, both LG Steve Avila and C Coleman Shelton suited up and started all 17 games. LT Alaric Jackson missed two games. RT Rob Havenstein missed three games. And RG Kevin Dotson missed the first three games of the season. Swing tackle Joe Noteboom handled some of the work, but Tremayne Anchrum Jr. shared some of the work in Week 2.
I believe that the Rams OL came together in 2023 because the group was healthy, roster changes were kept to a minimum, and even as the team had to fill in for injured players, the team was able to rely on the same backup to slide into various positions.
The team can certainly hope to improve play at any position on the roster. But is the offensive line so dramatically underperforming that a rookie addition would make the most significant impact on the team as a whole? Are other positionts in great need? Or has the team, just by developing 2023 rookies, ended the season in far better shape then the way the season started?
The front office does not always prioritize positional needs in the manner fans have expected. In the 2020 NFL Draft, many expected a number of additions to the offensive line, but the team only drafted Tremayne Anchrum Jr. The team may not view an offensive line that clicked in 2023 as a pressing need for 2024. If the team extends Dotson, I'm not even sure that I disagree.
What do you think? Should the Rams target offensive linemen in Day 1 or 2 of the 2024 NFL Draft? Is extending IOL Kevin Dotson enough? Or do you expect the Rams to take their chances on promoting Logan Bruss or another offensive lineman to take over for Kevin Dotson in 2024? Let us know.
And thanks for reading.