Early success of Rams run game a credit to offensive line

After finishing the 2019 regular season 26th in the NFL in rushing offense at 93.7 yards per game, the Rams enter Week 4 of 2020 tied with the Browns for the NFL's No. 3 rushing offense, averaging 170.3.

Ask quarterback Jared Goff or running back Darrell Henderson Jr. what's been behind the early success of Los Angeles' run game, and they'll tell you that it starts with those primarily responsible for creating the running lanes needed to make it effective.

"I think I've said it a few times, but up front we've been really solid," Goff said during a video conference with reporters Wednesday afternoon. "Those guys are really starting to gel. I think (OL Austin) Blythe is really starting to come into his own as a leader up there and really communicating well. Then I just think the level of play by those guys and their level of ownership right now is at an all-time high and still trending up."

According to data collected by ESPN Analytics, the Rams have the third-highest team run block win rate in the NFL at 73 percent.

Broken down by position along the offensive line, Rob Havenstein has the seventh-best run block win rate among offensive tackles (81 percent), Austin Blythe fifth-best among centers (74 percent). Filling in for an injured Joe Noteboom, second-year pro David Edwards ranked third among offensive guards (80 percent) following Week 3.

"We're just getting a lot of movement," said Henderson, who leads the Rams in rushing with 201 yards on 35 carries. "O-line doing a good job, and the receivers doing a great job also blocking. Everybody's doing a great job."

When a reporter pointed out that group included much of the same personnel from last year, Henderson responded that everyone feels more comfortable this year. Edwards, and Corbett especially, are examples of this.

Last week, Austin Corbett was fourth among offensive guards (77 percent) in run block win rate. From Blythe's point of view, Corbett symbolizes the attitude and mindset of this year's Rams offensive line.

"That kid's strength and explosiveness is what sets him apart," Blythe said during a video conference with reporters Wednesday. "I mean, you guys have seen it – he comes off the ball and just mauls people. I think that's been a big reason why our run game's been good. We've just got a lot of guys that come off the ball, and their intent is to maul people. And he's one of them."

Of course, players like Henderson and veteran running back Malcolm Brown deserve some credit, too.

With more involvement this year compared to his rookie season, Henderson is currently tied with Cleveland's Nick Chubb and Baltimore's Lamar Jackson for the seventh-most yards per carry in the league (5.7). Henderson also has a pair of rushing touchdowns.

Brown has also been reliable, highlighted by his 18 carries for 79 yards and two touchdowns in L.A.'s season-opening win over Dallas.

That being said, it is still early. While early returns are promising, Rams head coach Sean McVay's expectation is for this production to be sustained the rest of the season.

"It is three games, so there's a lot of football (left to be played)," McVay said during a video conference with reporters before Thursday's practice. "I don't think anybody remembers what you do after three games. I want to see us continue to do it, but I'm very pleased. I'm not surprised because of the confidence I have in our coaches and our players."

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