Offensive Line Overview Week 15: Rams Rebounding

Offensive Line Overview Week 15: Rams Rebounding

This article is part of our Offensive Line Overview series.

From pass protection to run blocking, every aspect of the modern NFL offense runs through the offensive line. Heading into the semifinals of the fantasy championships, and the stretch run of the NFL season, let's look at which O-lines around the league are trending up and down.

RISERS

Los Angeles Rams – RT Rob Havenstein (knee) back at practice

  • The Skinny: For those who find the study of team building in the trenches fascinating, Los Angeles' numerous attempts to get the offensive line working have compromised one of the season's most fascinating sagas. Veteran LT Andrew Whitworth is the only lineman on the roster still playing the role in which he began the year, and rookie guard David Edwards has finally settled into the right side of the line after multiple back-and-forths. Serendipitous injuries to Brian Allen and Joe Noteboom have forced the likes of LG Austin Corbett (acquired via trade) and C Austin Blythe (a natural right guard) into the starting lineup, and both have surpassed expectations and found relative success in their unforeseen roles. The return of Rob Havenstein, who missed the last four games due to a knee injury, will allow weakest-link Bobby Evans to return to a depth role. This unit began the season reeling and looking the part of a strong victim of regression, but the front five appear to have found their groove just in time to make a playoff push.
  • What to Watch: Todd Gurley may not be back to 2018 form, but he has begun reprising his workhorse role of old. The 25-year-old's snap restrictions have vanished in recent weeks, despite concerns surrounding his arthritic left knee, as he's logged his three highest touch totals of the season (28 in Week 11, 20 in Week 13 and 27 in Week 14) in the last four games. He's a safe bet to continue receiving a featured workload down the stretch of the regular season, and to rack up production while doing so behind a relatively revitalized offensive front. The difference between a bottom-of-the-pack O-line and a of a middle-of-the-road unit often proves more substantial than expected. For fantasy managers who've stuck with Gurley through thick and thin this season, a resurgence couldn't come at a more opportune time.

Chicago Bears – RT Bobby Massie (ankle)

  • The Skinny: Massie has missed consecutive games, and he appears to be in legitimate danger of sitting out Sunday's divisional tilt against the Packers as well. Nonetheless, this O-line has now consistently logged improved play up front after a devastating start to the season, playing no small part in Chicago's three-game winning streak. Former DT Rashaad Coward's conversation to RG has proven a relatively successful experiment, and the decision to move Cody Whitehair back to C and James Daniels back to LG (the positions they thrived in last season) has paid dividends.
  • What to Watch: Rookie running back David Montgomery's lack of touchdowns have severely hampered his fantasy utility — he hasn't scored since Week 9 — but he's now played consecutive games with notable production. Against the Lions and Cowboys, Montgomery racked up 36 carries for 161 rushing yards (4.47 YPC), his best two-games stretch of the season. Considering the success that Chicago has found in increased reliance on play action, expect the 22-year-old to continue garnering significant usage. He has favorable matchups against the Packers and Chiefs on deck to close out the yearly fantasy season.

Tennessee Titans – C Ben Jones (thumb)

  • The Skinny: Jones doesn't appear to be in any real danger of missing time due to his thumb injury, so the Titans should be set to field a fully healthy offensive line Sunday against the Texans. The 30-year-old's presence will be notable for the unit, as his solid play in recent weeks has been key in the O-line's quest to fix a longtime bugaboo. Lackluster pass protection has been an Achilles' heel for the Titans the last few years, but those issues have drastically improved with Ryan Tannehill under center. Tannehill has been sacked just 2.67 times per game through eight contests. During the first six games of the season, with Marcus Mariota under center, that mark was a league-high 4.17 sacks per game. Sacks are both a QB and O-line stat, but both position groups have elevated since Tannehill was crowned the starer.
  • What to Watch: Derrick Henry's hamstring injury warrants close monitoring, given that it held him out of practice to begin the week, but assuming the star running back suits up Sunday he'll be among the best fantasy options at his position. Tennessee boasts a lethal combination, possessing both a top-10 run blocking front and a running back who excels at overcoming contact. Henry has faced eight or more defenders in the box at the fifth-highest rate of any RB this season, per the league's Next Gen Stats, and he's nonetheless averaging a tremendous 5.0 YPC on 250 attempts. That exact ability to force defenses to prioritize stopping the run has proven tremendously effective in lessening the pressure faced in pass protection.

FALLERS:

Arizona Cardinals – LG Justin Pugh (back), RG J.R. Sweezy (illness), C/LG Mason Cole (knee), RT Brett Toth (illness)

  • The Skinny: A number of factors can be pointed to as the cause of Arizona's dwindling offense, and the already-wounded O-line suffering further detraction numbers high among that list. Pugh and Sweezy are both expected to suit up against the Browns on Sunday, but the presence of two below-average starters is hard to spin into truly positive news, especially if either/both are nicked up. Since Arizona returned from their Week 12 bye, the team is averaging just 12 points per game.
  • What to Watch: Kyler Murray has certainly showcased impressive upside in his rookie season, but the 22-year-old has now logged a number of consecutive rough outings. He's been held to less than 200 passing yards for three straight weeks, and in his last two games the No. 1 overall pick has recorded a pitiful 2:4 TD:INT ratio. Murray's scrambling ability, which had allowed him a solid floor earlier in the season, also hasn't materialized the last two weeks (avg. 15 rushing yards per game). Murray was listed on Week 13's injury report with a hamstring injury, so it's possible he's still working through an issue that's limiting his mobility — the skillset which he'd previously utilized to cover up the O-line's substantial flaws.

Detroit Lions – LG Joe Dahl (back/knee), RT Rick Wagner (knee)

  • The Skinny: Wagner wasn't able to finish Week 14's loss to the Vikings, but Dahl did manage to battle through his lingering issues and conclude the contest. Attrition in the form of injury has plagued Detroit's roster much of the season, but the O-line had remained a rare pillar of health until recently. If either of Dahl or Wagner were forced to miss any time, unreliable backups Tyrell Crosby (tackle) and Kenny Wiggins (guard) likely would be leaned upon as starters.
  • What to Watch: Detroit's offensive line has provided the team with remarkable consistency through 14 contests, allowing the offense to fight through myriad injuries to other skill positions. Should that foundation vanish, however, it'll be difficult to rely on any piece of the offense in Week 15, despite a generally favorable matchup against the Buccaneers. The combination of a banged-up offensive line, Bo Scarbrough (ribs) battling an injury, and Marvin Jones (ankle) and T.J. Hockenson (ankle) both being out for the season could simply prove insurmountable for third-string QB David Blough, even up against one of the league's most vulnerable secondaries.

Top-5 Offensive Lines:

1. Indianapolis Colts
2. Philadelphia Eagles
3. Dallas Cowboys
4. New Orleans Saints
5. Baltimore Ravens

Bottom-5 Offensive Lines:

32. Miami Dolphins
31. Arizona Cardinals
30. Cincinnati Bengals
29. New York Jets
28. Los Angeles Chargers  

You can find RotoWire's full offensive line rankings list here. Rankings are updated every week prior to kickoff of Thursday Night Football.  

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ilango Villoth
Ilango produces NFL content for Rotowire. Beat writer for the Miami Dolphins.
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