- Aug 18, 2019
LA Rams veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth is 38 years old. Can the team count on him beyond 2020? The last man standing from the LA Rams offensive line ...
LA Rams veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth is 38 years old. Can the team count on him beyond 2020?
The last man standing from the LA Rams offensive line in 2019 was venerable offensive left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Left standing, but not uninjured. As soon as the season ended, Whitworth headed for the operating room and had his ankle “cleaned up”. The Phalanx of the LA Rams offensive line did not go unscathed throughout the 2019 football season. He merely did not flinch.
Now 2020 is approaching, and Andrew “Big Whit” Whitworth finds himself once more counted on by his newly adopted team to perform without a definitive backup, at one of the most punishing and violent positions of any professional sport – blind side offensive tackle.
Rams remain with Whit
In the opposite direction, Whitworth certainly has found the right team in the LA Rams. Most NFL teams part ways with an offensive lineman by the age of 36. But not Andrew Whitworth. He remains a steady NFL performer.
But at some point, age becomes the tipping point, even for the Rams. In the NFL, the decision of when to part with an offensive lineman need not be either the price or performance.
It’s predictability and projection. Offensive linemen play at one of the most demanding positions, and when they hit the “wall” of time, performance decline rapidly. So far, Father Time has not paid a house call on “Big Whit”.
Who is the rightful heir?
And that’s where we begin. Even as you are reading this article, there is no definitive plan for backing up one of the oldest veterans in the game of football. Andrew Whitworth, a player who defies time, has no heir. No apprentice. No plan of succession. In 2019, it was a huge mistake that deserved to be called out. Now it’s 2020, and the status hasn’t changed. Surely the Rams cannot believe Whitworth will go on and on.
But 2019 came and went. And in the 2020 off-season, the LA Rams had plenty of opportunities to sign up some new rookie whose sole-purpose on the roster would be to develop into the LA Rams next left offensive tackle. While the Rams did not need to add generic offensive linemen, the team did need to define the next left tackle and failed to do.
2020 rookies who signed elsewhere
If you’d followed the pre-draft articles, we had identified a number of late-round players who we felt would make excellent choices to develop for the future. Even without the use of a limited draft pick, several outstanding offensive tackles fell out of the draft. Such players as SC State Alex Taylor, Missouri’s Yasir Durant, Texas Tech’s Terrance Steele, Washington’s Trey Adams or Jared Hilbers, and Ohio State’s Brandon Bowen all fell out of a very competitive draft.
The LA Rams elected to draft right tackle Tremayne Achrum, who can play right tackle or an interior offensive line position. The team also signed center Cohl Cabral after the draft. Cabral does have a bit of left tackle play but is likely a competitor for the Rams important center position.
How deep is the depth chart?
No reinforcements are a sign of contentment. Can the LA Rams be content with their roster depth in terms of who is taking over at one of the most demanding positions of the roster? We did examine the roster (we do that sort of thing) a month ago in an effort to sort out how the LA Rams offensive line depth would appear when entering the 2020 NFL Season. For the left tackle position, we ended up with the following depth chart:
Starting left tackle – Andrew Whitworth
Primary backup left tackle – Joseph Noteboom (pending recovery)
Secondary backup left tackle – Chandler Brewer
Joseph Noteboom is a 6-foot-5 321-pound offensive lineman out of Texas Christian University. He was the 89th player selected in the 2018 NFL Draft, and the third-rounder was the team’s starting left guard in 2019. Noteboom struggled mightily in that role, earning just a 39.7 grade from Pro Football Focus before his season-ending ACL injury. His teammate Brewer was an undrafted addition to the team in 2019. The 6-foot-6 320-pound second-year player from Middle Tennessee hung onto the Rams on the practice squad for the majority of the year. He played a total of 48 plays in 2019, 17 on offense, and 31 snaps on special teams. Surprisingly, he earned a 68.2 grade from PFF.
Ready, set, don’t go?
While both have the right size to be considered for the role, just how ready are either to take over for the long haul as a starter at left tackle? If the Rams had to make the call today, it would not end well. While Noteboom has far more extensive experience and had much higher regard from football analysts in 2018, his first NFL experience was unpleasant at best. He struggled at the left guard and his knee was horribly damaged. As he rehabs, will he shake off his first year and grow from it? Or was that just the first chapter of a disappointing NFL career? Meanwhile, how will Brewer handle the pressure? Will he fare any better at protecting the blind side of QB Jared Goff?
The LA Rams continue to gamble. Right now, they are gambling that 38-year-old Andrew Whitworth has at least one season left in him, and would appreciate a solid two more years out of him. That places Whitworth at the 40-year mark, an unheard-of age for an offensive lineman. Will the Rams gamble pay off? It certainly seemed that their luck was virtually all bad in 2019. Perhaps the Rams can count on a bit of good luck in 2020? At least the Rams can count on Andrew Whitworth. But, for how long?