The Los Angeles Rams are coming off a disappointing finish to the 2019 NFL season after missing the playoffs with a 9-7 record.
The Rams had undergone some major changes following their Super Bowl run in 2018. Among the most notable was the turnover they experienced along the offensive line.
Veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth admitted during an appearance on The Herd with Colin Cowherd that Saffold’s departure left a notable void on the line, although he was happy for the success that he had with the Tenneesee Titans this season helping them reach the AFC Championship game:
“I think it really is because there is also an expectation that a young player, yeah they can come in and do their jobs and try to be effective in the game but they’re never going to be as effective as somebody like a Rodger Saffold, who is an elite interior player in the league. There’s still a massive difference in that…
“You watch what Rodger’s done in the playoffs, I routinely text [Titans tackle] Taylor Lewan and tell him how mad I am at him but you know what, it’s great. I’m happy for him, he’s shown what a great football player he is so I couldn’t be more happy for him to have the success he was having.”
Whitworth also praised the experience that Sullivan brought to the table while pointing out the unfair expectations that were placed on their young replacements:
“A John Sullivan, who played center in this league for a long time. Been a part of the Minnesota Vikings and Adrian Peterson and those guys whether they were leading the league in rushing. He’s been a part of great rushing football teams,” Whitworth said. “He comes, and Rodger comes, and we’re all together and so obviously those were really good football players. It’s not fair for these young guys to even have the expectations that they are going to play like that yet. In their career, sure, but those guys were as good as they get inside.”
Whitworth’s comments indicate that the Rams may have overlooked the importance of having such continuity on the line of scrimmage. It is safe to say that their decision to part ways with not one, but two key starters did not exactly sit well with the veteran.
Los Angeles would be wise to heed Whitworth’s advice on placing too much pressure on young players so soon. After all, it is no secret that the offensive line had experienced some notable drop-off from when they were the highest-scoring offense in the league for two years.
To make matters worse, the initial replacements for Saffold and Sullivan both suffered season-ending injuries. Left guard Joseph Noteboom played just six games before his season was cut short with a torn ACL and MCL and Brian Allen also had an MCL injury that limited him to nine games. That forced Austin Blythe to move from right guard to center, where he proved to be an extremely valuable piece down the stretch of the season surrounded by young, inexperienced lineman along with Whitworth.
There is now plenty of speculation regarding whether or not Whitworth will be the next veteran lineman on his way out as he gets set to hit free agency. He has stated that he wants to remain with the Rams, so hopefully they can bring back their left tackle for one more season.