THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Aaron Kromer, the Los Angeles Rams' new offensive line coach, said he is "excited" about the group he will now oversee, which, on the surface, sounds odd. Kromer is inheriting a collection of offensive linemen who were nothing short of dreadful throughout the 2016 season. They couldn't open holes for their star running back, Todd Gurley, and they couldn't keep their franchise quarterback, Jared Goff, upright.
Not much to be excited about, unless you ask Kromer.
"The reason is the youth," Kromer said. "When you look at it, there’s not many offensive lines in the league that have second- and third-year players across the board, other than the center with five. It’s got to be one of the youngest groups in the league, and the backups are just as young."
Kromer mistakenly omitted Rodger Saffold, a seven-year veteran who might have been the Rams' best offensive lineman this past season. But besides that, he's right. Outside of Saffold and center Tim Barnes, an undrafted free agent from 2011, the Rams' offensive line is awfully young, a product of the seven draft picks used on the position from 2014 to '15.
That includes left tackle Greg Robinson (the second overall pick in 2014), right tackle Rob Havenstein (second round in 2015) and the three linemen who started at right guard this past season: Jamon Brown (third round in 2015), Cody Wichmann (sixth round in 2015) and Andrew Donnal (fourth round in 2015). Besides David Arkin, a fourth-round pick in 2011, all of the incumbent backups have completed no more than three NFL seasons, including Demetrius Rhaney (seventh round in 2014), Darrell Williams (undrafted in 2015) and Pace Murphy (undrafted in 2016).
Kromer believes he can still mold them.
"We've got work to do; we get that," Kromer said. "But I feel good watching the tape of individually their skills that they have and trying to put five guys together that can work together to have success. ... It's going to be a lot of hard work for them; it's going to be a lot of hard work for us. But I think the best quality a coach can have is to be able to teach and be a good communicator. We have to teach these guys exactly what we want and become repetitive with what we're looking for."
Kromer, who replaces longtime coach Paul Boudreau, has spent the last 16 years in the NFL, serving as a senior assistant, a running backs coach, an offensive coordinator, an interim head coach and, mostly, an offensive-line coach. Kromer coached offensive lines for the Raiders (2002 to '04), Buccaneers (2006 to '07), Saints (2009 to '12) and Bills (2015 to '16). During his four-year stint with the Saints, Kromer coached five offensive linemen who went to a combined 10 Pro Bowls. And over his last two years in Buffalo, the Bills led the NFL with 5.06 rushing yards per carry.
Behind the Rams' offensive line in 2016, Gurley averaged 3.18 rushing yards per carry, the second-worst rate in the NFL, and Goff was sacked an NFL-leading 25 times over his last six games.
The first step in turning the offensive line around is deciding what to do with Robinson, but Kromer isn't taking this job with any preconceived notions. He generally doesn't want outside opinions. He'd rather make determinations on his own, and he sees this as "a new start" for every Rams offensive lineman, free to make of it what they want.
"We all know that the whole line has to improve," Kromer said. "We all see that, and you see that on tape. But individually, I see skills, we see skills, in these guys, that if we can pull them together, and get them working together, which we see is possible, that we can get the group much better. It's just going to be a process. I don't know how long that process is going to take. Is it going to take a month, is it going to take a year, is it going to take two years? I don’t know that, and I don't know if we need to add somebody yet. I can’t answer that yet. But I do see individual skills in each one of these guys that should allow them to have success."