I: The off-field smile, the on-field snarl
While I have a great deal of respect for the Rams rookie interior offensive lineman Steve Avila, I think that his performance in 2023 was truly just the tip of the iceberg. He had a lot to pick up in his rookie season. Even with all of that on his plate, he showed up time and time again in my post-game reviews as a player who sought to engage in that extra block, who would keep his head on a swivel and rush to help out a teammate.
As some elder family members would often inform me if I was particularly industrious: "He likes to stay busy." That was certainly the case for Avila, a young man who truly had great optics for his role in 2023. And while he did not necessarily get high marks consistently in 2023, I do believe that the foundation is laid, the stage is set, and the 6-foot-3, 332-pound offensive guard will show up and dominate in 2024.
Whether or not you accept his grade, Pro Football Focus assigned Steve Avila a grade of 61.1 for his 2023 performance, As part of their assessment, they attributed two quarterback sacks and two penalties as his responsibility, in 1,147 offensive snaps. That seems to warrant a far higher grade in my honest opinion, but that is their determination.
What I am most looking forward to in 2024 is seeing how the offensive line performs as a group once more. Even as the group was essentially six guys who mixed and matched all 17 games (with one or two exceptions), Avila was the rock of dependency, showing up to play and start in each and every game.
The Steve Avila who lines up next season is not the same player who lined up last season. He has 17 games and well over 1200 offensive snaps against some of the best NFL defensive linemen. That is not experience lost. It's all there, and will be the foundation that he will build on for this year's performance.
Offensive lineman is a tough role to master as a rookie. The job needs more than personal performance, but requires high levels of understanding the capabilities of teammates, diagnosing what defenses are trying to do, communicating with others, and recognizing patterns and moves of defenders. The more experience an offensive lineman has, the more polished their performance.
I believe that Steve Avila is the most likely to take a huge step forward in 2024. Do you agree? Who do you believe will have the most significant improvement in 2024 over their 2023 performance? Let us know in the comments section of our Facebook page.
And thanks for reading.