In today's fantasy-obsessed football world, it's easy to overlook the contributions of one position group: offensive line. Well, NFL Network analyst and former Pro Bowl center Shaun O'Hara is here to fix that. After carefully tracking the best offensive lines in the NFL all season, O'Hara is spotlighting the O-line performance of the group that won the Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Year Award: the Los Angeles Rams' unit.
The Los Angeles Rams are hoping to defeat the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday and bring home the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in nearly 20 years. If Sean McVay's team is able to pull it off, it will be in large part because of the play of the offensive line and the chemistry the guys up front have built. Their ability to work through a long season -- even more so after losing trusty slot receiver Cooper Kupp for the season and star running back Todd Gurley down the stretch -- along with their experience helped the Rams win the NFC West and return to the game's biggest stage. Being a versatile group in the run game and consistently shutting out some of the best pass rushers is why the Rams are this year's Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Year.
The Rams won the Offensive Line of the Week award twice during the regular season and tacked on an additional nod in January. (Four other teams -- Atlanta, New Orleans, Tennessee and Indianapolis -- were also repeat winners this season.) The Rams earned the award two of the first three weeks of the regular season, with wins out of the gate over Oakland in Week 1 and vs. their Los Angeles neighbors in Week 3. Although the Rams didn't take home this honor after September, their front continued to be one of the most feared groups and helped the team log a 13-3 record.
On a grander scale, this unit helped the offense finish second overall, second in scoring, third in rushing, fifth in passing and on third down, second in yards per play and first in big plays (rushes of 10-plus yards and passes of 20-plus yards). Under McVay, the Rams had one of the most balanced offensive attacks, with Jared Goff heading the passing attack, while Gurley -- and, most recently, C.J. Anderson -- spearheaded the ground game. The Rams had 64 explosive runs (runs of 10-plus yards) and the second-most rushing touchdowns (23). I'm not surprised in the least that Los Angeles had so much success behind this front.
The unit's continuity is reminiscent of the group I played with in New York during our Super Bowl run in the late 2000s. That said, it's time we give the members of the Rams' offensive line some individual love:
Andrew Whitworth (LT) does not seem to age, as he continues to be a phenom at left tackle going in his late-30s. He was great in both the pass and run games, and is the player who leads the charge on most runs to the left side. Whitworth, who measures 6-foot-7 and 330 pounds, played a tremendous role in the screen game and has great speed in space. He often led the charge downfield on the Rams' long runs.
Rodger Saffold (LG) had a Pro Bowl-caliber season (although he was named first alternate), allowing three sacks and earning Pro Football Focus' second-highest run-blocking grade among guards. A lot of the Rams' zone-run schemes went to the left because Saffold was able to create movement at the point of attack. He was also great in the screen game and getting out in space.
John Sullivan (C) was one of the less-heralded guys of the group, but he excelled in combination blocks with guards Saffold and Austin Blythe. Sullivan, who signed a two-year deal with the Rams last offseason, does a great job of getting everyone on the same page from a protection standpoint.
Austin Blythe (RG) enjoyed a fine regular season in which he didn't give up a single sack while playing more than 1,100 offensive snaps. In fact, he still hasn't given up a sack heading into Sunday's Super Bowl, making him the O-lineman with the most snaps this season without a sack allowed.
Rob Havenstein (RT) was the most consistent lineman of this dynamic group. He allowed just two sacks and played every single offensive snap in 2018 -- only Alejandro Villanueva and Donovan Smith played more snaps among tackles. He's durable and dependable and everything you want in a tackle.