Of the many famous football clichés, "Everything starts up front" tends to ring true year after year. And new offensive line coach Aaron Kromer is tasked with ensuring the Rams have the best group in the trenches week in and week out.
Entering his 17th year as an NFL coach, Kromer has a bevy of experience leading successful offensive lines. He was the OL coach in New Orleans when the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV, also serving as the club's running game coordinator. Then Kromer spent 2013 and 2014 as the Bears' offensive coordinator, helping guide a unit that set franchise passing records. And at his most recent stop, the Bills led the league in yards rushing in 2015 and 2016 with Kromer as offensive line coach.
It's Kromer's goal to bring that kind of dynamic attack to Los Angeles.
"It's a great opportunity," Kromer said last Friday. "I've been lucky — my first 11 years as a coach, I made the playoffs a lot of times. And then hit a couple places where we haven't won as much, but we were No. 1 in rushing at Buffalo. We broke Chicago Bears records in Chicago on offense, so I feel like we've still had a lot of success.
"I hope we can carry that into this place, into the Los Angeles Rams, and use that knowledge of what brought victories, what brought success to help this team," Kromer added.
Teaching the Rams' new offensive system to the group up front will be a process, but one made easier given Kromer and head coach Sean McVay's coaching lineage. It's been well documented how McVay learned under Jon and Jay Gruden. The elder Gruden brother was also the one to give Kromer his start in the NFL, hiring him as an offensive line assistant with the Raiders in 2001.
"Our backgrounds are similar … in that Jon Gruden and Bill Callahan trained me to be an NFL coach right out of college coaching. And Sean McVay, right out of college, was trained by Jon Gruden," Kromer said. "And so we have the same philosophy — although there's tweaks here and there that we're going to work together to find the best answer. And so that's how we felt good and strong about working together."
It's still early in the evaluation process, but the youth and size among the Rams' offensive line stick out to Kromer.
"Being young, they move well because they have young knees, and young hips, and young ankles. So they move well as a group," Kromer said. "They're 310-plus across the board, 320. And you're always looking for the bigger, the faster, the better."
It's no secret Los Angeles finished No. 32 in total offense last year, with issues across the board. And while some of the problems can be attributed to the offensive line, Kromer sees them as collective.
"The group needs to get better," Kromer said. "So how are you going to do that? You're going to try to do your best of coaching the guys you have, maybe finding some guys to help, and just continuing forward. I think it's a process, but I think with Sean McVay's leadership, his ability to communicate the way he does, his competitive greatness — I feel like [that's] going to rub off on this team."
When it comes to offensive line personnel, one name that has consistently come up is 2014 first-round pick Greg Robinson, who was deactivated for two games in 2016. Much of the discussion has centered around whether or not there may be a position change in his future from tackle to guard.
McVay said last Friday that is still up for discussion.
"Obviously, when you look at some of the things he's able to do, you see the athleticism," McVay said. "In space, when he's pulling around and using some of those parameter schemes that they did offensively last year. He's a guy that we're excited to get around."
As a group, though, Kromer said chemistry and communication between the five men on the offensive line is crucial for offensive improvement.
"The challenge is that you take this young group and you develop them and mold them into what you're looking for," Kromer said. "And we hope that we have character in this group. We hope that we can communicate in this group. And we really hope that they have competitive greatness — that they want to block their man more than that guy wants to make the tackle."
And with a young offensive line and young quarterback, it's important both position groups make progress together.
"The quarterback is going to run the ship. He's in charge," Kromer said. "The center then at that point is the next in charge. So we have to make sure that they understand the system together, That they can work together and communicate what we're trying to get done.
"So that's our job as coaches," Kromer continued, "to get that to them in a way that they can relate it to each other and have success from there. So like I said, it's a challenge, but it's a challenge we look forward to."
Look back at the 2016 season with some of the best shots by photographers Jeff Lewis and Ric Tapia.