We all know Los Angeles' offense improved dramatically in its first season with head coach Sean McVay calling the plays. Pairing a defense with a penchant for turnovers with McVay's big-play offense vaunted the Rams to finish as the league's highest-scoring team.
Ten of the Rams' 11 starters from last season return on the 2018 offensive unit. And five such key members reside on the offensive line.
Run game coordinator/offensive line coach Aaron Kromer helped shape the Rams' OL into one of the league's better units. Pass protection isn't all on the offensive line, but quarterback Jared Goff was sacked 25 times in 15 starts in 2017 after being taken down 26 times in just seven starts as a rookie.
And, of course, running back Todd Gurley went from 885 yards rushing in 2016 to 1,305 in 2017, also leading the league with 13 rushing touchdowns, 2,093 yards from scrimmage, and 19 total touchdowns.
All of those numbers help illustrate why it's a big deal for L.A. to have the same five starting offensive linemen heading into 2018 — left tackle Andrew Whitworth, left guard Rodger Saffold, center John Sullivan, right guard Jamon Brown, and right tackle Rob Havenstein.
"It's huge, I think getting another year to play under coach Kromer's leadership and guidance," head coach Sean McVay said this week. "We've talked about those veteran leaders on the left side over and over and they continue to do things the right way. You're seeing Jamon and Rob continue to take steps in the right direction. Those guys that have been here definitely offer some stability and kind of an understanding going into Year 2 of the system."
"It's kind of crazy, but when you have the same five guys on the line every single down it almost makes your wide receiver corps feel better, it makes the quarterback feel better, makes the running backs feel better," Saffold said recently. "You're just a more efficient offense, I feel like, when you have the same guys up front that you see every week."
That aligns with what Brown said on the subject, noting that with continuity — both in personnel and in playbook — comes confidence.
"Everybody is coming back, we are running some of the same things that we did last year, don't have to worry about the new systems or the new things that come with a new system," Brown said. "We kind of have that level of comfort to where we've been here before, we know some of the this. We hear something and it's like, 'Oh, we remember this from last year.' You're just picking back up on it."
McVay has acknowledged many times over the offseason how fortunate L.A. was last year to have its starters on the offensive line play each of the first 15 games of the season. The Rams were the only team in the league to have that happen, which is why it was so important to build depth up front. Plus, the Rams are a veteran group — particularly on the left side.
Draftees Joe Noteboom, Brian Allen, and Jamil Demby have benefited from that fact, with McVay saying they've been able to take some extra reps to spell the older players. Austin Blythe — who subbed in for Sullivan at center a pair of times in 2017 — has been a part of that as well.
"We've been really pleased with Joe Noteboom, what Demby has been able to do, and also Allen," McVay said. "I think coach Kromer does a good job of kinda cross-training guys inside and then having the tackles be able to play both the left and the right. It's good. There's definitely some depth on our line right now. We feel good about that and hopefully we're able to stay as healthy as we were last year, but thinks sometimes don't always work out the way that you want. Got to have these guys ready to go if that's the case."