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Rams May Build Depth on OL in 2018 Offseason

When looking at reasons for the Rams' offensive success in 2017, one place to start would be the continuity up front.

Los Angeles was the only team in the NFL to have its offensive line combination start the first 15 games of the season. It would have been all 16, but head coach Sean McVay elected to rest four of five starters for the final regular-season game to ensure they'd be healthy for the first round of the playoffs.

While head trainer Reggie Scott and head strength and conditioning coach Ted Rath certainly established plans to maintain players' health — particularly for veterans like left tackle Andrew Whitwroth and center John Sullivan — head coach Sean McVay acknowledged at the end of the season Los Angeles also had good fortune when it came to injuries in 2017. And that's something McVay, general manager Les Snead, and their respective staffs will have to be aware of as they begin the process of putting together the 2018 Rams.

"I think one of the things that you do want to be mindful of is the fact that we were so fortunate with the injures this year," McVay said. "So you look at it [and say,] 'Alright let's just anticipate and let's just say you don't have that work out in your favor — where are the areas that you want to continue to establish and build that depth? Where are some of the positions?'"

One such spot could be offensive line. Whitworth is under contract for another two seasons with Los Angeles, but he did turn 36 on Dec. 12. And Sullivan — slated to be one an unrestricted free agent in March — will turn 33 on Aug. 8.

Last week, Snead called Sullivan a player "who is hard to replace. You definitely want to keep him around."

But when it comes to bringing in younger talent to become heir apparent to both players, that may be easier said than done.

"Cincinnati probably tried that for many years, and [Whitworth] just kept playing," Snead said. "What you do want to do is, somehow, if you can — and I think you have those conversations with those players, knowing this is where you're at in your career — if we do bring someone in, a younger pup, can you help develop the pups? I think that's where they're at."

One option could be to start a younger player inside and then move him to the outside — though both of the Rams' guards played well in 2017. That, however, is the approach Cincinnati took with Whitworth early in his career, as the 2006 second-round pick began his career at left guard before sliding to left tackle in 2009.

"On Whitworth, philosophically, a lot of times, you'd love to draft tackles, move them inside, and then eventually have them become tackles again. That would be ideal," Snead said. "A lot of times, you might need them to play tackle right away. Sometimes, philosophically, whether it's right or wrong, there's a lot of belief that's a good way to go."

Either way, it's more likely than not the Rams will have some new faces on the offensive line by the time training camp rolls around in late July.

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