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Rams Looking for OL Improvement, Consistency

Posted Mar 3, 2017

One of the issues that plagued Los Angeles' offensive line in 2016 was its inconsistent starting lineup. That's something HC Sean McVay plans to change in 2017.

INDIANAPOLIS — Friday morning, offensive lineman for the NFL’s incoming rookie class did their best to impress decision makers from around the league with their on-field drills. From the 40 time to the shuttle run, there’s plenty of data coming out of these days for those evaluating prospects.

For the Rams, the five men up front will likely be a point of discussion throughout the offseason — and for good reason. Without much continuity due to both injuries and performance, Los Angeles could not find any consistency on its offensive line, and the unit struggled both as individuals and as a whole.

“The ’15 season was better than the ’16 season in the run game and the pass game,” general manager Les Snead said Thursday regarding the offensive line’s performance. “You take that ’15 season — a lot of those guys are the same guys. In terms of sack-to-pass-play [ratio], we ranked in the top five, which is good. But this year, we ranked in the bottom 30. Same group, same QB for the most part, same running back.”

The Rams drafted Rob Havenstein, Jamon Brown, Cody Wichmann, and Andrew Donnal in 2015, all of whom have contributed in the last two seasons. Rodger Saffold, Greg Robinson, and Tim Barnes have also started the majority of games from 2015-2016.

“When it's that drastic a change from '15 to '16, you’ve now got to figure out why,” Snead continued. “Was it the individual? Is it more than that? Do we need to add anybody? Do we need to subtract? So it's going to be a big offseason in terms of subtracting, adding, and trying to figure out if we can get those guys back.”

While the players may have been the same, the inconsistent lineup aided in to the group’s troubles. L.A. started seven offensive line combinations in 2016, including six different groups of five in the last seven games. Between Robinson’s deactivation in Week 16 and Havenstein’s injury in Week 17, Saffold started at left guard, left tackle, and right tackle in the Rams’ last three matchups.

“I meet Rodger Saffold for the first time, I’m like, ‘Good gosh, I can’t even find you on the tape the last handful of games,’ he’s moving all over the place,” head coach Sean McVay relayed on Thursday.

That’s part of why McVay is keeping in mind most members of the Rams’ offensive line are young, and therefore likely still have room to grow. But that evolution will have to start with a more consistent starting five.

“Being able to have a center and a guard, or a tackle and a guard play together for weeks at a time where they are able to develop a rapport like a receiver and a quarterback is something that can’t be undervalued or under-appreciated,” McVay said.

There is still much work to be done to determine 2017’s initial lineup — work that may continue through much of the offseason program, if not into training camp. It may start with a position change for Robinson, who has been the club’s primary left tackle since midway through the 2014 season.

According to Snead, the Rams are currently evaluating where Robinson best fits going forward.

“Whether he’s left tackle, left or right guard, right tackle — all of those things are probably on the table,” Snead said. “Everything except center. He’s definitely not going to be a center next year.

“I don’t know if we ever sat down with Greg and said, ‘Yay or nay, are you for this or not?’” Snead continued regarding changing positions. “There’s different body types that play those positions, and there’s not many people with Greg’s body type on the planet, and those guys usually fit at tackle. You’d love for it to start there and then go from inside.”

Snead also addressed Havenstein, saying the right tackle played through being banged up most of the season after missing almost all of training camp. That may have been a factor for why after a successful rookie year, Havenstein had a tough sophomore campaign.

“That’s just Rob. He’s going to play, he’s not coming out of the lineup, even when he easily could have,” Snead said. “But also on that, I think he’ll tell you, too, injuries are one thing, but when there was a slump, you can’t just say, ‘All right, next year, I’m 100 percent, I’m going to be better.’ You have to go back to the drawing board and figure out, from a technical standpoint, what that is.”

Leading the improvement process will be new offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, as he’ll do his best to take what Los Angeles already has and get the most out of those players. While the Rams may be taking stock of possible additions — not just through the draft, but also in free agency — most of the members of the offensive line have a chance to contribute in 2017 and beyond.

“I do know this: We’re definitely inclined to try to figure out who in house is going to be one of our best five,” Snead said. “And not just best five, but No. 6, No. 7, because that means something on game day. But we’re also talking about, ‘Hey, what’s the advantage of adding someone in free agency, even the draft, to help that unit out?’

“It’s a puzzle that we’re trying to figure out now,” Snead added. “But there’s definitely going to be some guys in house that are in our lineup next year.”