The Los Angeles Rams starting five in the trenches plus their backups have been hailed as a top 10 unit for the 2021 season by one national analytics website.
Pro Football Focus placed the entire Rams offensive line as the NFL’s eighth best unit for this upcoming season, announcing their rankings on June 7. Senior analyst for PFF Steve Palazzolo described the criteria as “While star power has an impact, the best offensive lines have depth across the starting five and often with their backups, so those teams will be ranked higher.”
The ranking is a five point drop off from where the Rams offensive line was placed in 2020, as PFF ranked the Rams’ trench group at No. 3 in January 2021. Ben Linsey of PFF wrote at the time:
“There really wasn’t a whole lot of movement from the Rams this past offseason to add to the group, so the change centered around improvement from the players who were already on the roster. Andrew Whitworth improved his PFF grade by 16 points before his injury, while Austin Blythe’s and Austin Corbett’s grades each jumped nearly 20 points. Those improvements paled in comparison to Rob Havenstein’s jump from a 50.9 PFF grade in 2019 to 80.0 heading into this year’s postseason.”
Like Linsey, Palazzolo pointed to the bounceback years Havenstein and Corbett had. But he believes health will be integral for this unit as they will now protect new quarterback Matthew Stafford and clear running lanes for the likes of Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson.
“The Rams have the pieces to rank as one of the league’s best offensive lines as long as they stay healthy,” Palazzolo wrote.
Highest Rated Trench Rams
The blindside received 70 or higher.
Whitworth represents the star power on the Rams’ line, rewarded with a 86.8 player grade by PFF which makes him the sixth highest-rated left tackle in 2021. Left guard David Edwards also received a high PFF rating, earning a 70.3 grade which places him at No. 18 in his position. According to PFF, Edwards allowed just three sacks last season on 1006 total offensive snaps, plus drew just one penalty.
Center, however, will be the most scrutinized offensive line position this fall for those who love line of scrimmage play. Austin Blythe left the Rams via free agency, who is now set to help protect Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Like Edwards, Blythe only drew one penalty. The center ended up taking 1120 snaps and surrendered four sacks in 2020 according to PFF. Brian Allen is moving to Blythe’s old spot. In 2019, Allen took 563 snaps for the Rams.
On the strongside, guard Corbett was lauded for his overall improvement but Palazzolo said he received a 61.5 grade in pass protection. Havenstein took the biggest leap, going from a 50.9 grade in 2019 to joining Whitworth in the 80s range.
The Right Side Features ‘Best Kept Secret’ and ‘Best Contract’
While the blindside received the higher ratings, the right side still drew rave reviews.
Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox on May 23 tabbed Corbett as one of his “Best Kept Secrets on Each Team.” Knox alluded to Corbett’s improvement from second round disappointment in Cleveland to a key fixture on the Rams’ line, saying “Corbett may not be a well-known asset yet, but he can become a long-term fixture along the interior of Los Angeles’ offensive line.”
Back to PFF, Havenstein was plugged in as the 24th best contract in a June 22 article by Brad Speilberger. The Rams signed Havenstein to an early extension following his third season.
Overall in 2020, the Rams surrendered 25 sacks during the regular season, tying them for sixth overall with the Tennessee Titans and making L.A. the third best pass protectors in the NFC. In the ground game, the Rams came in 10th in total rushing yards at 2,018, 11th in rushing TD’s with 19 and 15th in yards per carry at 4.3.