The trust and chemistry between an NFL starting quarterback and his starting offensive center get little press, but it is one of the most influential duos in the NFL. The LA Rams know the challenges that suddenly spring up when the center position is not stable. That's why the Rams need to weigh their decision over who to start at center very carefully. Over the span of his career, the LA Rams have found that keeping starting offensive center Brian Allen healthy is a bit of an uphill battle. It's worth the effort, though, because when he is healthy he can play well.
He was ranked as the 12th best offensive center in the NFL by Pro Football Focus recently, While that is a bit higher than expected, PFF does tend to rank pass protection and immobile offensive linemen higher. What does that mean? Well, Brian Allen tends to seek out one defender to block, and holds that block through the play until the whistle.
A more mobile and athletic offensive lineman like Coleman Shelton will block at the line of scrimmage and then travel downfield to look for linebackers and defensive back to block. As a result of that play, Allen would get a solid score for his block. But if Shelton attempts to block multiple players, he will be graded on each block.
It's that willingness to do more that enables the LA Rams' running game to be so effective whenever the Rams start Coleman Shelton as the center. Those peripheral statistics are not factored into PFF's individual blocking grades. Hopefully, someone on the Rams coaching staff has been making note of that.
The LA Rams roster for training camp is deeper at the offensive line than it has been in some time, and the Rams have most certainly invested into bringing in quality by drafting both IOL Steve Avilla and OT Warren McClendon Jr.
Still, no matter how good the Rams rookie play, the success of the Rams offense hinges on finding the right person to start at center. That is not just someone who can compete effectively at the position, but someone who can withstand the grueling punishment over a 17-game season.