How good was the LA Rams offensive line in 2020?

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BonifayRam

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How good was the LA Rams offensive line in 2020?
By Kenneth Arthur
Grading PFF grades: How good was the LA Rams offensive line in 2020? - Turf Show Times

New York Jets v Los Angeles Rams

The LA Rams did a better job along the offensive line in 2020 than many people had expected them to do, but were they great in that area? And was the offensive line as good as it had been during Sean McVay’s first two seasons at the helm?
At the end of 2020, ProFootballFocus ranked the Rams as having the third-best offensive line in the NFL.
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.
As a result, Jared Goff has been pressured on fewer than 30% of his dropbacks after that number sat at 36% in 2019.
PFF understandably likes to use their grades, but they remain meaningless to me until greater transparency reveals what I’m supposed to take away from random numbers and colors. It’s very Sesame Street-y. I think we owe Andrew Whitworth and every other offensive lineman in the league the benefit of the doubt before we glance at their PFF bio and assume that a season can be summed up efficiently as “71.1” and “slightly green” and call it a day.

How do we know that said player wasn’t only one sack allowed away from a “73.3” and “more green” or “68.6” and “more yellow”? And what is the sentence I even just typed? Am I writing about football or meteorology?

However, it doesn’t mean that PFF is “wrong” either. It would be hard to be wrong, since PFF is only giving their opinions on these linemen — as that is the only thing possible to give when handing out player evaluations. The numbers they spit out for each individual sure do look like stats — that’s why people share them so readily — but essentially it is no different than PFF being a movie critic.

“During my viewing of Austin Blythe’s dramatic performance in “vs. the Green Bay Packers,” I wept ... but not in a good way. C-.”

That is all PFF is doing and any argument to the contrary would fly in the face of logic. I can tell you who led the NFL in touchdown passes, but that won’t always be the best quarterback. I can tell you who led the NFL in rushing attempts, but that won’t always be the most valuable running back. I can tell you who led the NFL in sacks, but that won’t always be the most dangerous pass rusher.S tats tell you what happened. Grades tell you what “I think” happened.

PFF is telling you “Grades” but showing you something that looks like “Stats” and they only do that because when Fangraphs popularized WAR (Wins Above Replacement) in baseball, it proved that there’s value in companies that provide “values” for players.

In 2018, the Rams o-line succeeded together, finishing sixth in PFF’s o-line rankings.

In 2019, the Rams o-line failed together, finishing 31st.

And in 2020, they were third again.

It’s not a strong endorsement of the grades to see such dramatic fluctuation with the same players, but more than anything else it makes it difficult to understand why anyone should care; if LA can be so great in 2018 and so terrible in 2019 and so great in 2020 — with largely the same players — then what guarantee does anyone have of what’s going to happen next season?

Obviously, we get no such guarantee. But we can still reflect on 2020 and maybe even decide that 2019 was an outlier worth trashing.

The good news is that even outside of PFF’s “movie reviews disguised as stats,” these players are getting good marks.

Over at the SIS DataHub, Rob Havenstein was their highest rated offensive lineman of 2020. Not just on the Rams, but of any offensive lineman in the entire NFL. Havenstein edged out Orlando Brown, Jr and Bradley Bozeman of the Baltimore Ravens. (Fail together, succeed together.) Havenstein had four penalties and 23 blown blocks on 1,021 snaps, and for whatever reason, earned the most “points” at SIS. There’s been little argument that Havenstein didn’t just have an excellent season at right tackle and he is signed for two more years at roughly $8.5 million per.

The second-highest rated Rams offensive lineman is Austin Corbett, who had four penalties and 20 blown blocks at right guard. He is the sixth-ranked guard at SIS and tied in “points” with all-pro Quenton Nelson of the Colts. Corbett is signed through 2021 and could be a consideration at center if Blythe leaves in free agency. But doing so and taking Corbett off of right guard could potentially make two positions weaker.

Ranking just inside the top-60 for all offensive linemen is left guard David Edwards, who had one penalty and 16 blown blocks in 14 starts. Edwards remains on his rookie deal for two more seasons.

Andrew Whitworth was playing well in 2020 and was unfortunately injured midseason. Had he played a full season, Whitworth could have easily ranked inside the top-5. But missing games is only going to become less surprising as he reaches age 40 and that too must be a major consideration for how LA approaches its o-line building this offseason. Whitworth was blamed for five penalties in only nine games, but he only had four blown blocks — an elite rate of blown blocks only reserved for all-pro level offensive linemen like Zack Martin and David Bakhtiari and Joe Thuney and Andrew Whitworth.

Finally, Blythe had just one penalty and 23 blown blocks over 1,023 snaps at center. He ranked at roughly average for starting centers in “points” and may stick out as the weak point on the line — which also emphasizes why they were rated so highly as a unit. If Austin Blythe is your worst offensive lineman, that’s a good sign. On some teams, he would have been the best.

Surprisingly, Joe Noteboom ranked low at SIS, posting 14 blown blocks and three penalties in 575 snaps. But again, this is not a fair and complete evaluation of Noteboom, as it wouldn’t be for any offensive lineman. He played in two different spots on the line, which isn’t shown in his “points” or his “grade.” He stepped in at left tackle and played adequately for a team that desperately needed a left tackle after Whitworth was injured. Noteboom should be given a lot more credit than simply “13 points” or “60.3, yellow.”

Some Rams fans saw the offensive line as a great strength in 2020. Others see it as an area of weakness that requires significant upgrades to its interior positions while also planning for potential departures at both tackle spots within the next year or two. Both could be right. Knowing what we pretend to “know” now, how should the Rams approach the offensive line in the offseason?

It is possible that the addition of Matthew Stafford alone will be enough to upgrade the perceived and actual performance of the offensive line. And it is because of the Stafford trade that the Rams know that they won’t have as many resources to upgrade the offensive line moving forward. We can safely assume that Whitworth will return, until he says otherwise. We can also write in Edwards, Corbett, and Havenstein for starting jobs. If Blythe is re-signed, as he was a year ago, then nothing will be expected to change.

LA could draft a “developmental” tackle and a “pro ready” interior lineman and that will basically be the only thing different this offseason as compared to last. And the Rams plan at offensive line last offseason — to do nothing — worked out pretty well.
 

Ballhawk

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If the blown block is away from the play it may not matter but all I know is that you could always expect at least one of our linemen to completely blow his block when it matter the most. Like on third down. SO these grades are mostly bogus!
 

badnews

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Jared Goff struggles at reading defenses-- Stafford is a master technician. The O-line will improve with the same personnel.
That's what I've been repeatedly told.
I mean, he been playing long enough, he should be great at it. I'm going to have extremely high expectations for him to read defenses at a Brady/Manning/Rogers level, with a bigger arm and more passion and playing the game with joy but also getting guys fired up like a white QB version of Ray Lewis, but without all the preachy stuff because he's one of the guys..

At first I wasn't sure about this trade but the more you guys tell me about him, the more excited I get!!!
 

FarNorth

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That's what I've been repeatedly told.
I mean, he been playing long enough, he should be great at it. I'm going to have extremely high expectations for him to read defenses at a Brady/Manning/Rogers level, with a bigger arm and more passion and playing the game with joy but also getting guys fired up like a white QB version of Ray Lewis, but without all the preachy stuff because he's one of the guys..

At first I wasn't sure about this trade but the more you guys tell me about him, the more excited I get!!!
It does seem clear from this board that Stafford by himself will magically transform the Rams' offense.
 

badnews

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It does seem clear from this board that Stafford by himself will magically transform the Rams' offense.
Yep. Apparently it's a done deal, his transcendent talent has already turned our football team into the next GSOT, we only have to wait to enjoy it at this point...
 

CGI_Ram

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Over at the SIS DataHub, Rob Havenstein was their highest rated offensive lineman of 2020. Not just on the Rams, but of any offensive lineman in the entire NFL. Havenstein edged out Orlando Brown, Jr and Bradley Bozeman of the Baltimore Ravens. (Fail together, succeed together.) Havenstein had four penalties and 23 blown blocks on 1,021 snaps, and for whatever reason, earned the most “points” at SIS. There’s been little argument that Havenstein didn’t just have an excellent season at right tackle and he is signed for two more years at roughly $8.5 million per.
:shock:

Rob Havenstein (y)
 

blackbart

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And..... another thread turns into Goff, not our QB so who gives a shit, versus Stafford, the guy who is our QB.


I get the idea that the grades are rather unexplained, I have no idea who the guys are who put them together. Probably someone who has graded high school and college players along the way.

Sounds a lot like QBR and undoubtedly someone is paying for their opinions. Good for them.

Was the line better in 2020 than in 2018? Hard for me to say, is where they finished the determining factor? Did un pressured interceptions factor in? How does the defense leaving a guy wide open for a TD affect the perception of the grade it is only based on end results?

Good was great when he was a Ram, he sucks now just like every other player who isn’t a Ram.
 

FrantikRam

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So, PFF had our oline ranked 6th in 2018 and 3rd in 2020?
Okie dokie

I could see it actually.

Depends on how people view the Dolphins game. When I watched it I wasn't too upset with the OL because the Dolphins sent 6 so many times - OL can't do anything about that.

But that's a hot topic so let's put that game aside for a minute. The Seahawks game was similar to the Eagles game in 2018. The Jets game similar to the Broncos game in 2018.

There's no comparison for the Bears game though. Our OL got obliterated in that game. And then for good measure the Packers game was similar to the Super Bowl.

If it's not better id say it was dangerously close to being the same.
 

FrantikRam

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It does seem clear from this board that Stafford by himself will magically transform the Rams' offense.

If by magically transform you mean score more and turn the ball over less, then yes absolutely.

It's too easy and too low of a bar. The offense being significantly better is a virtual lock.
 
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tomas

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It's too easy and too low of a bar. The offense being significantly better is a virtual lock.
With Stafford's high football IQ and a rocket arm, the offense will be significantly better.
 

MachS

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Depends on how people view the Dolphins game. When I watched it I wasn't too upset with the OL because the Dolphins sent 6 so many times - OL can't do anything about that.
Exactly. How is it the OL's fault when the defense is showing zero blitz pre snap and then rushing 6 people? It's the QBs job to get rid of the ball quickly to the open WRs. Or motion in the TE or one of the WRs to block when we were in 5 wide. IMHO that was the game that sealed Goff's fate. He missed so many open reads and could not deal with the blitz at all. He showed no ability to adjust. I felt like McVay deserved his share of the blame at first, but after looking at the stills posted by Merlin I went back and watched the all-22. Goff was beyond bad in that game. Worst game of his career and he should have had another 3 INTs. People forget that. Stafford's ability to read a defense both pre and post snap will help out the line for sure. But the OL was much improved in 2020 compared to 2019. #3 might be a stretch to me, but I'm sure the run blocking is a big part of that grade. But I think it was still a top 10 line pretty easily.
 
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tomas

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Exactly. How is it the OL's fault when the defense is showing zero blitz pre snap and then rushing 6 people? It's the QBs job to get rid of the ball quickly to the open WRs. Or motion in the TE or one of the WRs to block when we were in 5 wide. IMHO that was the game that sealed Goff's fate. He missed so many open reads and could not deal with the blitz at all. He showed no ability to adjust. I felt like McVay deserved his share of the blame at first, but after looking at the stills posted by Merlin I went back and watched the all-22. Goff was beyond bad in that game. Worst game of his career and he should have had another 3 INTs. People forget that. Stafford's ability to read a defense both pre and post snap will help out the line for sure. But the OL was much improved in 2020 compared to 2019. #3 might be a stretch to me, but I'm sure the run blocking is a big part of that grade. But I think it was still a top 10 line pretty easily.
Sean McVay's genius could only carry Jared Goff so far--Without Sean's tutelage, Goff will be considered a bust and will be out of football within the next two years.