Skip to main content

Rams News | Los Angeles Rams -

The Los Angeles Rams take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3 of the 2021 season
Brian Allen's comeback key piece to success of Rams offensive line
Overcoming adversity faced in the last year and a half, center Brian Allen has become an important part of the success of the Rams' offensive line. 
By Stu Jackson Oct 11, 2021
Photographs By Jeff Lewis and Brevin Townsell / LA Rams

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Having started before, returning to that role again this season wasn't surprising for Rams center Brian Allen.

"It's been a lot of fun," Allen said last week. "We've been playing good. Things are going well, and proud to be back out there. This is kind of always been a part of my plan, so really, I don't know – I've always kind of expected it."

Not everyone else necessarily held the same view, though, as external speculation said the Rams needed to acquire Austin Blythe's replacement via the draft or free agency after Blythe signed with the Chiefs this offseason.

Still, Rams head coach Sean McVay maintained a stedfast belief that their internal options were more than capable candidates.

So far, Allen has proven him right.

Emerging from a difficult 18 months, Allen has become a key part of the strong, physical play by the Rams' offensive line this season, as well as the way the offense as a whole under quarterback Matthew Stafford has functioned.

"He's one of those feel-good stories that you love so much about working with people like him," McVay said after Week 1. "I want to continue to see him do what he's done and build off of that, but really pleased with Brian. Really happy for him."

As McVay alluded to, the last year and a half – really, nearly two years – threw multiple obstacles at Allen.

He was named the Rams' starting center in his second season (2019), then suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Steelers in Week 10. Five months later, he tested positive for COVID-19 and couldn't come to the facility for three weeks. He said last August the timing was unfortunate because was entering a critical part of his rehab.

Then the 2020 season came and went with Allen not playing in a single game.

While Allen was able to practice at the beginning of the 2020 season, he later dealt with knee swelling in early November that landed him on the injury report and prevented him from practicing, then left him a limited participant for the next month. Even when he got past that and resumed full participation, he did not see the field.

All told, he was inactive for 13 of 16 regular season games. The other three, he was active but didn't end up playing.

Yet when reflecting on last season, Allen indicated the challenging time shaped him for the better.

"Last year I wasn't really ever healthy," Allen said. "I was out there, I was on the roster. I wasn't really in a position to play, I'd say. I think there were a lot of weeks where Monday they told me, 'Hey, keep practicing,' and that was a lot of weeks, and then had some setbacks here and there. So just going from being the guy to someone who's kind of just a practice player, I know it's tough at first, but at the end of the da, I think I use that to my advantage as well. Just going out there, keep getting better and kind of understanding that the season's to rehab my leg and work on a couple different things that weren't the best in the past just keep improving."

Allen said last year there were a couple of weeks where he felt really good about being able to play, only for his knee to get "dinged up" around Week 10. He then had to get his knee drained twice a week.

"Felt really good before that, and then that happened, and then kind of went to s–– again for the whole season," Allen said.

Knowing his knee hadn't been right in a year-and-half, Allen said he went into it focusing on having the mindset "as if I still had a coming-off-a-surgery-type offseason." He went to rehab twice a week, "saw a lot of body workers, chiropractors, massage people," and did physical therapy with one of the Cardinals' trainers in Arizona – all so that he could show up healthy and "strain and put power through" his knee not just during training camp, but however long the Rams season would go.

His work would pay off.

After Austin Blythe departed in free agency, multiple experts projected the Rams using one of their earliest draft picks this spring on a center. There was also frequent speculation on social media about who the Rams should sign to replace him.

The Rams never utilized either avenue. In head coach Sean McVay's eyes, the candidates were already on their roster in Allen, Austin Corbett and Coleman Shelton.

When the Rams began their 2021 offseason program, Corbett was initially their starting center before they switched to Allen early in training camp. Allen has remained the Rams' starting center – and returned to the position he held in 2019 – ever since.

Entering Thursday night's game against the Seahawks, Allen had the third-highest run block win rate among qualifying centers in the NFL at 76 percent, according to ESPN. In the passing game, his communication has helped operate an offense that has so far produced an NFC Offensive Player of the Month in wide receiver Cooper Kupp and two-time NFC Offensive Player of the Week in quarterback Matthew Stafford.

"He's been great," Stafford said, when asked him after the team's Sept. 30 practice about the rapport between him and Allen. "He thinks like me, which is great. He thinks like the quarterback, and he sees things the way I see them. He's making protection calls as I'm thinking them and saying them. We kind of work together. We talked through things at the line of scrimmage. I think that's the way it should be. Just have a conversation up there about what we want to do. How do we want to try to accomplish the goal of the play and go from there."

Offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth, the self-described "papa bear" of the group due to his experience, said that with each member of group, there's a story and a way they got there. Allen is "one that you're extremely proud of," Whitworth said.

Whitworth pointed to Allen overcoming adversity when taking over for John Sullivan at center, noting that it took Sullivan – "arguably one of the best centers of his generation" – 12-13 years to become that type of player, while Allen was thrust into a starting role in his second NFL season and as defenses were playing the Rams "completely different," giving them looks they had never seen.

"And then he gets the injury that he has, that, a lot of guys, to be frank, don't come back from," Whitworth said. "For him to work as hard as he has to be the player he is right now, and to understand things the way that he does, man, it's awesome to see and it's something that's rewarding for all of us. Because you see hard work, you see dedication, you see a guy it means a lot to, you see things go in a positive way for them, I think it's uplifting and something that's inspiring to a group."

"For him to work as hard as he has to be the player he is right now, and to understand things the way that he does, man, it's awesome to see and it's something that's rewarding for all of us. Because you see hard work, you see dedication, you see a guy it means a lot to, you see things go in a positive way for them, I think it's uplifting and something that's inspiring to a group." Andrew Whitworth

That trial-by-fire experience has shaped Allen in a positive way, according to Whitworth. Allen has had enough time where he's played different types of players – both on the Rams and other teams – to understand what kind of style of player he's going to be.

Collectively, it has a wide-reaching impact.

"The more you see that out of him, you see him mature, and that confidence he's playing with is something that like I said, confidence – it wouldn't matter if it's from the youngest guy on the team or the oldest, confidence is contagious. And so when you see a guy that's confident, that contagiousness, it feeds the other guys."

Allen's mindset the rest of the season? "Just keep building" and "taking a step week-to-week" as a collective unit.

"I think our offense has done that and know we know our offense is going to go as the o-line goes, and I think that's what you've seen now for three weeks, just each week taking another step, getting a little bit better, find an area of weakness this week, fixing it and just keep on improving," Allen said after Week 3. "It's been encouraging to see. We're (in) Week 3 and you guys say we're in midseason form, and I still don't think we're close to the ceiling, so it's exciting. It's just reassuring, all the hard work we've been doing. Just excited to see what the team looks like in December and January, and, hopefully February."

back to top

Related Content