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Rams’ offensive line begins to take shape

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  • Rams’ offensive line begins to take shape

    Brandon Fowler
    Yahoo Sports
    April 7th

    A casual viewer of the 2016 Los Angeles Rams’ football team knew that their offensive line needed to be revamped, in order for the offense to find success and maintain drives to support a defense that was on the field for the majority of games. Without question, the offensive line was not the sole issue in Los Angeles, but the Rams have addressed some needs up front this offseason that could prove beneficial.

    For most of last season, the Rams lined up with left tackle, Greg Robinson, left guard, Rodger Saffold, center, Tim Barnes, the rotation of Jamon Brown and Cody Wichmann at right guard and right tackle, Rob Havenstein, with an average age of 25-years-old and not much experience among them.

    Unfortunately, as a Rams’ fan must know, Robinson has been more of a liability, racking up numerous false start and holding penalties, than showing the potential that had him drafted in the first-round of 2014. For the first time, he was also designated as an inactive player for two games last season. In college, Robinson played in Auburn’s power run scheme and with the Rams there seemed to be an unwillingness to move him inside to guard, like Miami did with rookie Laremy Tunsil. With the signing of left tackle, Andrew Whitworth, there will be no question of a position change for Robinson in 2017.

    Havenstein was a productive rookie starter, who was drafted in the second-round of the 2015 draft out of Wisconsin. Towards the end of his inaugural season, injuries caught up with him and he was forced to miss a chunk of this past offseason and preseason. As a result, Havenstein’s 2016 campaign suffered and he did not exhibit the same dominance he did during his rookie year. A full offseason without injuries should be big for him going forward.

    Barnes was released this offseason and left the Rams with a hole to fill in the middle of their line. Barnes was a serviceable starter who played above his status as an undrafted free agent in 2011. He will fondly be remembered as the hustler who recovered two fumbles on the same drive during the late stages a rainy game in Seattle, two seasons ago to help put the Rams over the top. There were rumors that Barnes would be brought back to the team in free agency, but it was reported yesterday that the Rams had signed former Vikings and Redskins’ center, John Sullivan. Sullivan will fill the need at center and provide knowledge of Sean McVay’s system. He, along with Whitworth, should be an asset in the film room for the other young Rams.

    Saffold has been a Rams’ mainstay since 2010 and has always been one of their more dominant linemen. He has also been the swingman along the line, showing both value and competence to play the tackle and guard positions. The issue with Saffold has always been his health and inability to remain on the field for the duration of 16 games. Injuries are an unfortunate part of the game and are no fault of his own. Saffold will continue to be a leader for Los Angeles wherever he lines up in 2017.

    Last season’s starting right guards, Wichmann and Brown, will likely provide depth and experience at both of the guard positions, but are not projected as first-stringers. It would not be at all surprising to see the Rams go after linemen in an attempt to upgrade their offensive front in the upcoming NFL draft.

    The pre-draft 2017 season line projects as: Whitworth at left tackle, Saffold at left guard, Sullivan at center, Havenstein at right guard and Robinson at right tackle; with a more experienced average age of 29-years-old. Whitworth obviously skews the average as he is 35-years-old, but will vastly provide much more experience. Paper projections do not win games, but there is reason for optimism in 2017 when looking at this new group.
    "The disappointment of losing is huge!"

    Jack Youngblood

  • #2
    Thanks Joe for posting this article Fowler hits many nails on the head as far as I am concerned and I hope he is right about drafting more OL guys in the draft though this draft is thin at center and only so so at guard. We will see what our new coach and Les can come up with!


    • #3
      Whitworth and Saffold should make a good left side. Sullivan, if he can stay healthy, provides an upgrade at center. I'm not worried about Havenstein's performance at guard as much as I am his size; seems like a tall guy for the interior. I think it's only a matter of time before Robinson gets benched at tackle and Havenstein slides back out. Would love to see an over/under competition for the board on how long until that happens.


      • #4
        Originally posted by Nick View Post
        Whitworth and Saffold should make a good left side. Sullivan, if he can stay healthy, provides an upgrade at center. I'm not worried about Havenstein's performance at guard as much as I am his size; seems like a tall guy for the interior. I think it's only a matter of time before Robinson gets benched at tackle and Havenstein slides back out. Would love to see an over/under competition for the board on how long until that happens.
        I think this happens in the preseason.


        • #5
          Ideally I'd rather see Robinson and Havenstein compete for the RT job, and hopefully draft a guy that can play RG for now while being groomed as the center of the future.


          • #6
            For some reason, it makes me nervous having Saffold as a starter. When he's healthy, he is OK, but if there's a gust of wind...


            Related Topics


            • r8rh8rmike
              Rams Offseason Roster Review: A New-Look Offensive Line
              by r8rh8rmike
              St. Louis Rams offseason roster review: A new-look offensive line

              Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer

              EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams don't start organized team activities until June 2, but with most of the offseason heavy lifting complete, the roster you see now likely has the vast majority of players who will be on it come the start of the regular season.

              With that in mind, we'll spend the next week or so delving into each position group with some thoughts on who will start, who might be on the bubble and how the depth chart could shake out.

              Position: Offensive line

              Returning: Rodger Saffold, Greg Robinson, Tim Barnes, Barrett Jones, Demetrius Rhaney, Brandon Washington, Travis Bond, Steven Baker

              Newcomers: Garrett Reynolds, Rob Havenstein, Jamon Brown, Andrew Donnal, Cody Wichmann, David Wang, Darrell Williams

              Departures: Jake Long, Scott Wells, Joe Barksdale, Davin Joseph, Mike Person

              Projected starter(s): Robinson, Saffold, Barnes, Brown, Havenstein

              Battle to watch: There's no shortage of choices here given the amount of turnover on the offensive line, but the choice is clear: starting center. The Rams have three obvious candidates in Barnes, Jones and Rhaney. Barnes is the only one of the three with any sort of real playing time in the NFL though even that is limited to four starts and the bulk of another game as a replacement for Wells. He re-signed after the team didn't tender him as a restricted free agent. The Rams have invested two years in Jones, who hasn't been able to stay healthy but by all accounts is smart enough and up to speed on the playbook to step in and handle the mental side of things right away. Rhaney is more of an unknown after he arrived as a seventh-round pick last year and never got going because of an injury. The Rams like Jones' intelligence, Barnes' experience and Rhaney's toughness, which means this figures to be a wide-open competition as we head toward organized team activities and training camp. Barnes might be the current favorite on paper but keep a close eye on Jones and Rhaney as we proceed.

              Outlook: There is no group on the roster that has undergone more change than the offensive line this offseason. Only Saffold was a starter on opening day in 2014 and though Robinson got his share of experience as the season went on, he's undoubtedly still a work in progress at left tackle. With center an unknown commodity, the Rams look like they're going to rely on a pair of rookies at the other guard spot and right tackle. Havenstein is all but set as Barksdale's replacement at right tackle and, as it stands, Brown looks like the favorite to win the other guard job. That plan could be put on hold if either struggles early on, though, as Reynolds could be a spot starter until Brown or Havenstein gets up to speed. The Rams could also theoretically still pursue a veteran...
              -05-29-2015, 11:18 AM
            • Nick
              Noteboom, Allen poised to step up after departures of Saffold, Sullivan
              by Nick
              Noteboom, Allen poised to step up after departures of Saffold, Sullivan
              hursday, Mar 14, 2019 03:40 PM
              Myles Simmons
              RAMS INSIDER

              With former Rams left guard Rodger Saffold signing with the Titans on Thursday, there are officially two positions to fill on Los Angeles’ starting offensive line.

              Saffold in particular is a significant void, as he’s been a part of the Rams’ five up front since he was the No. 33 overall pick in the 2010 draft. The other is center, as Los Angeles declined to pick up John Sullivan's option for 2019.

              But change is a constant in the NFL, and Los Angeles is prepared to go into the offseason program with what would be two first-year starters in Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen.

              Noteboom and Allen were the Rams’ first two draft picks last year, starting in the third round. And with a season of practices under their belts — both were able to get in reps with the first-team offense when left tackle Andrew Whitworth and Sullivan received their veteran rest days — Noteboom and Allen should be ready to step up and excel.

              “Here’s what we did last year in drafting Noteboom and Brian Allen — we did have a projection that at some point we’d have to groom them to become starters,” general manager Les Snead said this week. “The thing you hear about Joe is that he’s versatile, he could then fill in for Rodger. And then at the end of the day, you are still grooming him to maybe be a Whitworth replacement or heir apparent in time, but you still need to replenish that, right? So we will look around, let’s say, in the veteran market and scrutinize the draft like we did last year. Because then the goal would be to draft a younger player, let them develop, evolve for a year, and when their time comes [they can become starters].”

              The Rams drafted Noteboom with the intention of him becoming the Rams’ next left tackle. But he does have the versatility to play inside on the offensive line at guard. Last year, for instance, run game coordinator/offensive line coach Aaron Kromer had Noteboom cross-training at guard during the offseason program and training camp. Now he should have the experience necessary to potentially start at left guard in 2019, with Allen stepping in at center to replace John Sullivan.

              “I think when you do draft those two players, it is eventually with the anticipation that they can become and ascend into a starting role,” head coach Sean McVay said this week. “What you do feel good about is the way that we practice — specific to that left side of our line — Brian and Joe have gotten a lot of valuable reps, even though it might be in practice, that they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise because they are playing behind veteran players. I think seeing the way those guys practice, but then also them getting a lot more reps because of the way that we did it with John, with Rodger, and with Andrew, has enabled them to get a lot of...
              -03-17-2019, 07:44 AM
            • r8rh8rmike
              L.A. Rams Position Analysis: Coaches See Solid Progress On Offensive Line
              by r8rh8rmike
              L.A. Rams position analysis: Coaches see solid progress on offensive line after two good drafts

              Jan. 28, 2016

              L.A. RAMS BY POSITION

              OFFENSIVE LINE

              • 2015 starters: LT Greg Robinson, LG Rodger Saffold, C Tim Barnes, RG Jamon Brown, RT Rob Havenstein

              • Key reserves: G Cody Wichmann, G Garrett Reynolds, C Demetrius Rhaney

              • Likely to leave: Barnes (unrestricted free agent)

              • Biggest strength: The Rams have built solid depth at guard and, because of injuries in 2015, several young guards got game experience. Pass protection improved late in the season and helped quarterback Case Keenum enjoy success.

              • Biggest weakness: Robinson, the No. 2 overall pick in 2014, perhaps hasn't progressed as quickly as the Rams had hoped, and the individual brilliance of running back Todd Gurley made the Rams' run blocking appear stronger than reality.

              • Help in the draft: C Nick Martin (Notre Dame), C Ethan Pocic (LSU), C Evan Boehm (Missouri)

              • By the numbers: The Rams allowed an NFL-low 18 sacks in 2015, down from 47 the previous season (which was tied for eighth-most). The Rams had six rookie linemen on their roster in 2015 and they accounted for 40 percent of all offensive-line starts.

              It’s called a line, but rarely is it constructed in a linear fashion.

              The process of putting together an NFL offensive line is comparable to herding animals. Get one end together, and the other side might begin to stray. The ability to keep five linemen healthy and productive during a 16-game season can be vexing, and there’s no perfect formula.

              Nobody needs to tell Rams coach Jeff Fisher. As Fisher enters his fifth offseason, he and General Manager Les Snead are putting the final touches on what he hopes will be a long-term successful Rams line.

              “Since our arrival here, we’ve been wanting to build that offensive line through the draft,’’ Fisher told reporters after the end of the season. “This is going to be a good group, and it’s going to be a good group for a long time, with depth.’’

              The Rams have in place 23-year-old tackles Greg Robinson and Rob Havenstein, plus 22-year-old guard Jamon Brown. All three starters were drafted by the Rams within the first three rounds in 2014 and 2015.

              That’s a shift in focus. From 2010-13, the Rams used only three of their 36 draft picks on offensive linemen, and only one of those – starting left guard Rodger Saffold – is still on the active roster.

              The Rams had to deal with two season-ending injuries on the line in 2015, but allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL (18) and helped produce an 1,100-yard rusher in rookie Todd Gurley. That’s progress for the Rams, who had what was considered one of the NFL’s weakest lines in recent seasons.

              -01-29-2016, 10:40 AM
            • MauiRam
              It will take some time for Rams' top pick Greg Robinson to get comfortable at guard
              by MauiRam
              By Nate Latsch

              The No. 2 overall pick in last month's NFL Draft has spent the past few weeks bonding with new teammates, trying to get to know a new city, learn a new playbook and transition to a new position.

              That's about it, Greg Robinson says.

              The massive Auburn offensive lineman started for two seasons at left tackle for the Tigers, but he's beginning his NFL career with the St. Louis Rams at left guard.

              "It's kinda tough, but it's coming slowly," he tells "Every day I've been improving. I would say I'm a little rusty at guard, but I'm getting better every day."

              The 6-foot-5, 332-pounder has fit in nicely with the Rams' offensive line during OTAs this week. If everyone is healthy to begin the season in a few months, Robinson will line up in between veteran left tackle Jake Long and center Scott Wells, with Rodger Saffold at the other guard spot and Joe Barksdale at right tackle.

              "He just adds more power to the line," Saffold says. "All we need is Jake and we pretty much get our complete line together, and then we start really meshing. He's really just been kind of feeling his way out. He's been turning some heads with a couple blocks here and there. He's constantly improving."

              Saffold, who signed a five-year contract with the Rams worth more than $31 million this offseason, describes the rookie lineman as a humble kid who works hard and is consistently asking questions.

              As long as he does that, Saffold says, Robinson will continue to grow.

              "I've just been getting to know a few of the guys on the o-line," Robinson says. "Jake has been really helping me. Scott, Rodger and Joe, they are all real cool guys and they are really just trying to help me out and bring me along to help me get accustomed to the offense."

              It's obvious that is something the 21 year old is working on.

              Auburn was dominant offensively during Robinson's junior season last fall, but anyone who watched the Tigers' SEC championship game win against Mizzou knows that the strength of that squad's offense was running a limited number of plays that opponents couldn't stop. Or at least Mizzou couldn't on that day in early December.

              Going from Gus Malzahn's playbook to Brian Schottenheimer's has been an adjustment so far for the big fella, along with the position transition.

              "We had a select few (plays at Auburn) but it worked," Robinson says. "This is a full playbook and it's something that I'm really going to have to work on and really learn in and out, because I'm sure they are not going to play nobody that's not ready. But they threw me in the fire, and that's something that I'm going to have to get used to real fast."

              Robinson says he hasn't played guard since high school, when...
              -06-06-2014, 10:57 PM
            • MauiRam
              Rams go line dancing until Long returns ..
              by MauiRam
              By Nick Wagoner

              EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams remain optimistic about the impending return of left tackle Jake Long from offseason knee surgery.

              Long had his right anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments repaired in late January, making his return this preseason something of a questionable proposition. But he surprised some when he showed better than expected mobility during organized team activities, and coach Jeff Fisher said the expectation was for him to be back in action about midway through this training camp.

              Those hopes remain but in the meantime, the Rams have apparently concocted a detailed plan for how they're going to deploy the offensive line in the meantime.

              “Yeah we’re going to move everybody around," Fisher said. "The two rookie sessions that we had, we had [OL] Greg (Robinson) out their getting some work. Greg actually worked out there today, we’re just going to move people around. Jake is doing well, we expect Jake barring any setbacks to be ready for the opener. That’ll give some of the younger players opportunities to line up out there and play during the preseason.”

              Amongst the Rams staff, there has been unwavering faith that Long will be ready for the regular season opener on Sept. 7 against Minnesota. But it still remains to be seen whether he'll be able get back on the mid-preseason schedule the Rams were hoping for. With no definitive timetable on that and Long still doing some work on the side and participating in walk through paced things in camp, the Rams are moving some things around on the offensive line.

              In the first two days, it's been the rookie Robinson handling the bulk of the snaps at left tackle, something he did earlier in the week when it was rookies only for a couple of practices. That represents a departure from his projected starting spot of left guard, the position that Rodger Saffold has been playing though he projects to start the season at right guard.

              Davin Joseph, the veteran signed from Tampa Bay after the draft, has been handling right guard duties. And with presumed starting center Scott Wells not participating in the first two days, the Rams have alternated between Tim Barnes and Barrett Jones in the middle.

              All told, only right tackle Joe Barksdale is currently manning the spot he's expected to start the season.

              But just because that's how the line looks now, doesn't mean that's what the Rams are going to stick with throughout the preseason. In fact, Saffold said there's actually a schedule telling each lineman where he'll line up and play from practice to practice.

              "I actually do," Saffold said. "I switch a couple of times during the day and then from week to week I might change. You never know what I might have. I might line up outside as a tight end standing up running a route but trust me, I’m going to...
              -07-27-2014, 09:49 AM