THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – The Rams' run game is back, which in turn is helping the passing attack and opening up the entire offense as a whole.
For any of that to happen, though, it requires a strong effort up front. Coincidentally, early returns on the 2020 version of Los Angeles' offensive line are promising.
"You've seen what we talked about last year has come to fruition," Andrew Whitworth, the most experienced member of the group, told reporters during a video conference Friday afternoon.
There's proof in both traditional statistics and advanced analytics.
Statistically, the Rams are fifth in the NFL in total offense – ninth in passing and third in rushing.
From an analytics standpoint, the 38-year-old Whitworth's 97 percent pass block win rate is good for sixth among all offensive tackles in the league, according to ESPN. As a team, the Rams have the seventh-best run block win rate, helped by two of those young players who gained experience last year: Austin Corbett, whose 77 percent run block win rate is fourth-highest among all NFL offensive guards, and Austin Blythe, whose 73 percent run block win rate is sixth among centers.
Amid all the injuries the Rams' offensive line endured last year, Corbett and Blythe were bright spots. Blythe started at right guard, moved to left, then took over for Brian Allen at center after Allen's season-ending knee injury in Week 10. That shuffling led to Corbett plugging the hole at left guard, and he showed enough there to retain a starting role, though at right guard instead. Blythe also retained his starting job at center.
"I mean, a lot of these guys that we believed in that were young, just had no experience, and you get out there and play in real games and get a little bit of trial by fire, and get out there and experience things, it started to come together the last part of the season last year," Whitworth said. "The play got better and better."
Whitworth sees that same toughness and physicality in second-year pro Edwards, who is now stepping in for Joe Noteboom (calf) following Noteboom's placement on injured reserve. Like Corbett and Blythe, Edwards gained valuable experience as a rookie last year (six starts in 10 games) and is well-positioned to step into a starting role.
"Dave, that's how he's wired," Whitworth said. "He'll fit right in because that's the style of football he's used to playing at Wisconsin, that's kind of the player he's been when he's stepped in for us, because that's really the style he plays and what he's best at. I expect him to step in and do well."
Sunday presents perhaps the biggest challenge to date for Los Angeles' offensive line, going up against a Buffalo defensive line that has contributed to the NFL's No. 3 run defense and No. 5 total defense.
Pass this test, and it only further solidifies the progress that has been made.
"They really have," McVay said, when asked how well the offensive line has been doing in the run game and limiting sacks through the first two weeks. "They've done an excellent job."