Rams’ offensive line earns respect through stability

THOUSAND OAKS — Rams running back Cam Akers credited the offensive line for his three-touchdown performance against the Denver Broncos last week. Quarterback Baker Mayfield did the same for his efficient passing day with no turnovers and only four incompletions during the 51-14 victory over the Broncos.

It starts with those guys up front, they said.

But Rams right tackle Rob Havenstein declined the credit and put the spotlight on versatile offensive lineman Coleman Shelton, who has started games at both guard positions and at center this season.

“I just want to say specifically for Coleman, how awesome it is to have a guy like that in our room, on our line, who can flip over to play guard and then seamlessly take a glove off and now he’s playing center,” Havenstein said. “He’s locked in to playing guard, but he’s still locked in to playing center. The preparation that he goes through is awesome. I just wanted to highlight that because that’s a true testament to him.”

After the Rams lost starting center Brian Allen to a season-ending calf injury, it seemed the offensive line was heading back to its sluggish ways. The Rams’ offensive line allowed five sacks and nine quarterback hits in Week 15 against the Green Bay Packers, a game in which Allen left after two offensive plays, forcing Shelton to move from right guard to center.

But the offensive line quickly recovered six days later and delivered one its best performances of the season after not allowing a sack versus the Broncos’ stout defense. In fact, Mayfield was hit only once.

The Rams’ Week 16 offensive line combination consisted of Havenstein at right tackle, Shelton at center, Oday Aboushi at right guard, Matt Skura at left guard and Ty Nsekhe at left tackle. Only Havenstein and Shelton were Week 1 starters, but Aboushi, Skura and Nsekhe have played plenty this season because of injuries, which forced the Rams to play 12 different offensive line combinations during the first 12 games of the season.

With the constant offensive line shuffling, the Rams’ overall offense struggled with starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, who hasn’t played since Week 11 because of a neck injury. The Rams, however, found some stability after they started the same offensive line combination of Nsekhe, Skura, Allen, Shelton and Havenstein between Weeks 12 and 15.

Havenstein credited Shelton for being the glue, but he also highlighted practice repetitions and familiarity for the crisp run blocking and flawless pass blocking versus the Broncos. Akers contributed 118 of the Rams’ 158 total rushing yards, and Mayfield went 24 of 28 for 230 yards and two touchdowns, and opened the game 11 of 11.

“You always want to have one offensive line kinda rolling the whole time,” Havenstein said. “Obviously, that hasn’t been our story this year, but being with guys, the same similar kinda flow of guys in and out, finally got a good amount of time in practice, how guys want to hit blocks, how guys see things, talk through details in meetings.”

The Rams’ offensive line depth was on the verge of being tested again after Aboushi was suspended one game for a postgame altercation with Broncos outside linebacker Randy Gregory. But Aboushi and Gregory, who was also suspended a game, won their appeals and had their punishments rescinded to fines.

Aboushi will get to play Sunday against the Chargers, the team he played for last year. And most importantly for the Rams, they’ll have the same offensive line combination from their memorable performance against the Broncos.

“I thought the league handled it the right way,” Aboushi said. “Appreciate the opportunity there (with the Chargers). Thought I was playing some good ball there before everything happened (with the injury), but nothing but good energy toward them and I appreciate the opportunity.”


Havenstein also deflected the credit back to Akers for his productive outing versus the Broncos. He provided a glimpse into what Akers does on the sideline to maintain a rhythm during games.

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“I’m sitting next to him on the sideline most of the time,” Havenstein said. “You kinda hear him. I don’t know whether he’s talking to himself or if anybody is around listening, but he’s definitely a competitive guy. It’s fun to see those types of things. … Cam is getting in a flow of things and we are holding up our end of the bargain.”


Rams tight end Tyler Higbee, who had two receiving touchdowns against the Broncos, didn’t participate in the team’s walk-through workout Wednesday, but Rams coach Sean McVay said it was a veteran’s day off for him.

Nsekhe didn’t practice because of illness, but McVay expects him to start at left tackle against the Chargers.

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