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How connectedness, coach Kevin Carberry's approach shaped Rams offensive line leading into Super Bowl LVI

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – When a position coach takes over a new group, there's a natural period of both sides learning about each other.

That was especially the case with Rams offensive line coach Kevin Carberry, who in his first season overseeing an NFL offensive line would be working with a fairly experienced group.

It proved to be an easy, transition, though, as they worked together to produce one of the league's best pass-blocking and run-blocking units in the NFL this year on the way to Super Bowl LVI.

"He's been a great guy, awesome coach," Rams center Brian Allen said Wednesday. "I love having him in the room while softball you know, you can tell he loves all of us and and cares about us and really cares about this team in this game and that's that's how you can ask when you're a player and if someone's gonna you know come in and you know Coach every day with the energy and knowledge that he has every day and never take a step back."

In Carberry's first season, the Rams finished the regular season tied with the Vikings and Chargers for the sixth-fewest sacks allowed and the league's best pass-block win rate at 68 percent, according to ESPN's metrics. Their run-block win rate ranked 12th at 71 percent, though for context, Washington led the league at 75 percent.

All of that has contributed to quarterback Matthew Stafford throwing the second-most touchdown passes in the NFL (41) and third-most passing yards (4,886) – the former tying Kurt Warner's franchise record, the latter breaking Warner's franchise record.

When Carberry started working with his unit, he wanted their identity to be – among a number of things – rooted in finishing plays. He got confirmation that had been established midway through the season after the Rams' Week 7 game against the Giants.

At halftime of that game, the Giants had honored their 2011 Super Bowl team, which included Mike Pope on its coaching staff. Pope had worked with Carberry on the Cowboys' staff for two seasons (2014 and 2015). Carberry reached out to him a couple days after the game and received positive feedback.

"He was like, 'You guys, they're always helping the backup, you always see the linemen downfield, and they're always like helping the ball carrier up, whomever it is,'" Carberry said Wednesday. "So we want guys who finish plays, and then guys that look like they play well together, they play as one unit, they communicate effectively and play hard. But they all finish plays, finish their blocks and play with the right mindset and demeanor."

For the Rams offensive linemen, that's been easy to do given the relationship they have with Carberry and the connection between the players themselves.

"With Carbs, it's been great," Rams right tackle Rob Havenstein said Wednesday. "I think it's been a lot of learning on both sides, obviously, with this being Carbs' first year as a head line coach in the NFL. You get a chance to work with Andrew (Whitworth), that's just an absolute special thing that's going to elevate your game much faster, just because you've got 16 years of experience. You can't buy that. It's been good. I think everyone clicks. Even when there is, I don't want to say disagreements, but conversations, it all comes out very positive. We just have a really good culture in the o-line room."

That perspective from Havenstein is telling, and reflective of what left guard David Edwards said is two of Carberry's biggest strengths: Communication and flexibility.

"To be able to lead the room with the veteran presence that we have in Whit and Rob, and then the younger guys like me, being able to communicate well with those guys is a big time trait that he has," Edwards said Wednesday. "And then I think being able to learn, right? Like, there are things that come up in a season, in a game, in a practice, that you may have never experienced before. His ability to be flexible and kind of move on the go and learn different stuff and teach different stuff in those moments has been really awesome. So, really lucky to have a guy like him leading our room."

Right guard Austin Corbett has likewise made similar observations since the group began working with Carberry during organized team activities last spring.

Corbett pointed out how Carberry has done a "fantastic job" of learning each player, how they move, what works best for them individually with certain techniques, and being able to adapt. Carberry also does a good job of listening to players during a game and making adjustments based on that feedback.

"I think that's a huge part that he's done, is being able to step back in his first time as a head o-line coach in the NFL and listen and absorb, but still provide that command of the offensive line that gets us all on the same page every single week," Corbett said. "He's a well-detailed individual in the film breakdown for us, bringing us any keys or tips and tells. He's done a fantastic job."

From Whitworth's standpoint, the future is bright.

"It's been one of those things that, as a group, we've had a lot of guys that have played football," Whitworth said Friday. "I think that it's one of the best years to bring on somebody it's kind of new to being a head o-line coach in the NFL. When you got a guy like Rob Havenstein, who every single day is, just the example for how you do things and how you go about things, it's been special, you know what I mean? So watching those guys grow up, Brian Allen, Dave and Corbs, man, they're gonna have great careers. I couldn't be more proud of them, honestly."

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