The Los Angeles Rams made a deep run into the playoffs, reaching Super Bowl LIII. Of course, they came up short against the New England Patriots, but that’s not to say it wasn’t a successful season.
The Rams built one of the best rosters in football and uncovered a hidden gem at right guard in Austin Blythe. He took over for Jamon Brown, who was suspended two games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Blythe never relinquished the starting job, playing all 16 games, just as the other four starters did on the offensive line.
He was a huge part of the Rams’ success on offense, shoring up the weakest spot on the offensive line from 2017. Blythe finished with an overall grade of 71.0 from Pro Football Focus, good for 12th among all guards in the NFL.
He thoroughly enjoyed playing for the Rams, too, saying they helped him enjoy football again.
“I think that’s what makes the Rams so special, that everyone is so connected,” Blythe said. “I was telling (offensive line coach Aaron Kromer) that I enjoyed playing football this year — it wasn’t a job, it was a game again — and it was a lot of fun, a lot of fun playing with the guys that we have on the team and unfortunately not everyone is going to be here next year, but hopefully we’ve got a lot of the same guys back because they are great guys. Like I said, I’m already looking forward to the offseason.”
Blythe was merely a backup in 2017, coming in to fill in for John Sullivan at center from time to time. However, he showed great versatility and had no problem playing guard in place of Brown.
That proved to be a great move for the Rams, finding a diamond in the rough after claiming him off waivers in May 2017. Now, they have a long-term starter at right guard for a very low cost.
Bortles steps in as Jared Goff’s backup, replacing Sean Mannion. That’s an upgrade for the Rams, and at $1 million, Bortles is likely to be cheaper than Mannion, too.
Malcolm Brown is in danger of leaving for the Lions, which would cause the Rams to become fairly thin at running back. C.J. Anderson is always an option to return, but without Brown, it’d be up to John Kelly and Justin Davis.
No changes were made at wide receiver, nor at tight end. It’s still the same group at both spots with Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett being interchangeable as the “starter.”
The offensive line looks dramatically different. Andrew Whitworth is fortunately back, but Saffold is gone, as is John Sullivan. Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen figure to step in at left guard and center, respectively, to plug those holes. Noteboom would also probably be Whitworth’s backup if the season started today. Thankfully, it’s only March.
Austin Blythe can play center and guard, as can Aaron Neary. Overall, there’s a good amount of versatility up front.
Austin Blythe and Cory Littleton aren’t easily recognizable names, but to the Los Angeles Rams, they’re incredibly valuable players. Blythe took over for Jamon Brown last season and started all 19 games (including postseason) for the Rams, playing at a very high level in his first year as a starter.
Littleton stepped in after Alec Ogletree was traded and made the Pro Bowl as a special teams player, blocking two punts in 2018. Both he and Blythe were big parts of the Rams’ success and they were rewarded handsomely.
The NFL announced the top 25 players in performance-based pay and both were among the top earners. Blythe was second in the NFL with a bonus of $380,060 last season, while Littleton earned $371,379 – fifth in the league. Ravens center Matt Skura topped the list at $395,660.
The purpose of the league’s performance-based pay program is to reward players who outplay their salary. It accounts for playing time compared to base salaries, which is why Littleton and Blythe were toward the top of the list.
The NFL also paid out bonuses from the veteran pool, adding to Blythe’s and Littleton’s pay in 2018. Blythe earned an added $133,556 (fifth) with Littleton taking home $130,864 (seventh). In total, Blythe made $513,616 and Littleton added $502,243 to his bank account, which ranked second and third in the NFL, respectively.