THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Although the Rams re-signed Coleman Shelton, they also saw starter David Edwards and veteran in-season depth signees Ty Nsekhe, Oday Aboushi and Matt Skoura depart in free agency, so it's understandable that experts consider offensive line to be a potential position of need for Los Angeles entering the 2023 NFL Draft.
If the Rams were to address offensive line in this year's draft, there are a couple key traits they look for in a prospect, according to offensive line coach Ryan Wendell – one of them being toughness.
"Generally, when we're looking for offensive linemen in the draft, we're looking for players that are, first of all, tough enough to play offensive line at a high level," Wendell told theRams.com. "You need to be a guy who likes contact, who likes to seek contact, who won't turn away from it, because at this position, on every play, you're going to make contact. There are other positions on the field that allow you to not have to do that, but on the offensive line, you have to be willing to stick your face into that contact and hit people and to get hit every play."
The other is intelligence. They're not looking for "rocket scientists," Wendell explained, but the player should still be smart enough to process what's going on around them.
"We're looking for guys that can understand that they're going to working with a lot of moving parts, a lot of movings things around them," Wendell said. "The defenses can line up wherever they want, and so those guys have to make fast decisions in really tight spaces, so they have to have good processing speed and be smart enough."
Of course, recognition alone isn't enough when it comes to processing. It's also critical that they're able to communicate with their teammates.
"So we're looking at guys that can communicate with the guys around them clearly and quickly, that can see the defense through the same set of eyes with the other five guys, that can understand the reactions that are going to happen, and that they can take what they learn in the meeting room to the field quickly."
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Wendell said he's been a lot of very tough and very tough smart offensive linemen. Asked for an example from his playing or coaching career, he pointed to former Fresno State and New England Patriots teammate Logan Mankins.
Wendell said that Mankins was "all-day tough," seeking out contact every play and looking to move people, never backing down from anyone. Mankins was also mentally tough in that he was always going to do what's right for the team.
"I think he's a great example of a guy that's like, all Logan cared about was playing football and his family and his guys on the team," Wendell said. "Logan, who knows what his grades were, he's one of the smartest players I've ever been around because he's an inherently smart man, he understands how things work. So it doesn't matter what your grades are, it matters how quickly you can process information."
Should the Rams end up with rookie offensive linemen this year, Wendell looks forward to working with them.
"Every year you're gonna get new players, whether they're rookies, whether it's in the draft or free agents, or you're gonna get veteran free agents and things like that," Wendell said. "There's always excitement of getting new players that come in, because all of us that have become coaches, we became coaches because we like to see players get better. So when you have a new player, it's a new experience to watch those guys come in and see what they can add to the team and try to do the best you can to help them get to that point. So I'm really excited about the guys that we have in the room. But there's going to be new faces, and it's going to be great to see what they can add to this team this year."