Andrew Whitworth Was a Necessary Addition for the Los Angeles Rams
The Oakland Raiders have established the blueprint for aiding a young quarterback. You get the guy you like, and then you add pieces around him who can help him succeed.
The Los Angeles Rams may now be following that same strategy.
Bengals OT Andrew Whitworth expected to sign with LA Rams.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 9, 2017
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth immediately becomes the team's best offensive lineman on a unit that was largely devoid of talent.
Then, later in the same day, it was also reported that they would be signing former Buffalo Bills wide receiver, Robert Woods. Woods' deal appears steep when compared to the deals given to guys such as Kenny Britt and Brandon Marshall, but the Rams seem to be doing what they can to surround Jared Goff and Todd Gurley with help.
There's no way to mask how bad the Rams were in Goff's rookie season. But under new head coach Sean McVay, Goff gets a fresh start. Can signing Whitworth be the first step toward a competent sophomore season? Let's dig in a bit more to find out using numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP).
NEP is the metric we use to measure the efficiency of both teams and offenses throughout the season. A three-yard completion on 3rd and 2 does a whole lot more for the offense than that same three-yard completion on 3rd and 4, and NEP helps quantify those differences by tracking the expected points added or subtracted on each play.
The Rams have plenty of work ahead of them, and the analytics back that up. But Whitworth can certainly aid them in turning things around. Here's how.
How Whitworth Affects Goff
As a shock to nobody, Goff's efficiency metrics were horrendous last year. He was dead last in Passing NEP per drop back of the 39 quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs, recording -64.56 Passing NEP over the course of the season. While a lot of that falls on his shoulders, he doesn't deserve all of the blame.
On the season, the Rams lost 84.71 NEP due to sacks. Their Sack NEP per drop back (dividing this number by the total number of drop backs) was -0.14, the second-worst mark in the league, besting only the Cleveland Browns. Because Passing NEP accounts for sacks, this did provide at least a partial anchor on Goff's analytics.
This means the Rams needed to upgrade on the offensive line. And there weren't many better options than Whitworth.
Whitworth is entering his age-36 season, but it does come with a solid track record. He has been an Associated Press All-Pro selection twice, including a first-team nod in 2015.
This helped his former team -- the Cincinnati Bengals -- post decent Sack NEP numbers in 2016. They ranked 17th last year, and their metrics blasted the Rams' out of the water.
|In 2016||Drop Backs||Sack NEP per Drop Back||Sack Rate|
|Los Angeles Rams||585||-0.14||8.38%|
Although those numbers may be a bit lackluster at first, they are significantly better than what the Rams did. Additionally, Whitworth did not allow a single sack, according to STATS, meaning he helped elevate that number higher than it may have been otherwise.
The effect this will have on Goff should be obvious. If he has less pressure, he'll ideally be able to make better decisions. Goff had the 11th-shortest time to throw in 2016, according to NFL.com's Next Gen Stats, and yet the sack numbers were still awful. Whitworth should aid in his progression.
If you think that Goff is a lost cause after his rookie season, let's go back to the example of the Raiders at the top. In his rookie season, Derek Carr also struggled immensely, ranking 34th in Passing NEP per drop back out of 37 qualified quarterbacks. Once the team started to build around him, though, he dug out of that hole in a hurry.
Here are Carr's yearly numbers in his three seasons. Things started off ugly, but the team's investments paid off.
|Season||Passing NEP||Passing NEP per Drop Back||Rank|
This isn't to say that Goff is Carr, and the Rams have a long way to go to build an offensive line as great as the Raiders'. But it does show that investing in players who help the quarterback can quickly turn a player's career around, and the Rams seem to understand that with this signing.
How Whitworth Affects Gurley
This is before we even discuss the effect it will have on Gurley. He was also one of the worst performers at his position last year, but improvements at left tackle could have a major impact.
Here's a look at how the Rams and Bengals performed while rushing left last year. Rushing NEP per carry is how many expected points the team added on each attempt that direction, and Success Rate is the percentage of attempts that increase the team's expected points for the drive.
|When Rushing Left||Rushes||Rushing NEP per Carry||Success Rate|
|Los Angeles Rams||85||-0.23||31.76%|
The Bengals were above average in both categories when running to Whitworth's side. The Rams were 32nd in Rushing NEP per carry and 31st in Success Rate. So, yeah, this is a good move.
The signing of Whitworth should help Gurley in two ways.
First, as you see above, it will allow the team to be significantly better when running to the left, thus boosting Gurley's efficiency.
Second, if Whitworth allows Goff to develop, the team should generate more scoring drives, which would also boost Gurley up. All in all, it's hard to oversell just how good of a signing this is for the team.
A Step in the Right Direction
The Rams have an abundance of holes on offense they need to fill, and signing one offensive lineman doesn't cure everything. But Whitworth should make a big difference, and it's indicative that the team realizes they need to do whatever they can to help Goff.
They gutted their future draft capital in order to move up and get Goff last year, meaning they need to find other ways to assemble talent around him. Even though Whitworth is an older player, he has been highly productive the past few seasons, and he hasn't started to decline yet. Having him protecting Goff's blindside is one way to spark this improvement.
Whitworth should help the team's ground game, as well, potentially further alleviating the pressure on Goff. They'll still need to score points in order to keep games close and stay out of negative game script, but when the run game is an option, teams will have to account for Gurley.
Goff is still extremely young, having just turned 22 in October. One bad year does not wash away the talent he showed in college, forcing the Rams to sell the farm to get him. If they want Goff to reach his ceiling and tap back into that talent, they need to surround him with solid players, and Whitworth is a big first piece of that puzzle.