Going into 2013, the assumption was that St. Louis Rams tackle Rodger Saffold was playing out the string. The former second round pick had underperformed at tackle, that is when he was actually on the field and healthy. Last Sunday's win in Indianapolis that saw Saffold fill in at right guard just may have changed perceptions about him and his future role with the team.
For the first time in a very long time, Saffold was effective. The Rams' offense was able to give Kellen Clemens a clean pocket and opened up holes for Zac Stacy the entire day. Saffold's performance was a big part of that.
So now, instead of letting Saffold walk after the season, the Rams are presented with another option: keep Saffold as a guard. That makes a lot of sense for the Rams for these reasons:
1. Joe Barksdale: With Saffold being injured, Barksdale has taken his opportunity and made the most of it. He's shown himself to be a much better pass protector at the tackle spot than Saffold. Most importantly, Barksdale has proven his durability. Going into 2014 with bookends of Jake Long and Barksdale isn't a bad option for St. Louis.
Of course, that would seemingly leave Saffold out of the mix. The Rams aren't going to re-up him to back up Barksdale. But Sunday's performance showed that Saffold can improve an area of weakness.
2. Good guards are at a premium in the NFL: In 2012, Carl Nick broke the bank moving from New Orleans to Tampa. This past off season, the Titans made a rich man out of Buffalo's Andy Levitre. The last two NFL drafts have seen guards going in the first round, a departure from past drafts. Last year the Titans drafted Alabama's Chance Warmack 10th overall.
This is happening for a couple of reasons. First, NFL coaches are realizing that while having a left tackle to protect the blind side is certainly important, if the guards can't keep the pocket from collapsing, having Anthony Munoz at left tackle doesn't mean much.
New NFL offenses are also asking guards to be more athletic instead of just "road graders." In addition to dropping back in pass protection more often than in the past, spread offenses place a premium on guards who can get down field on screen passes and pull effectively on zone read plays. That means NFL teams are looking for guys with guard's bodies and the feet of tackles. That's Rodger Saffold.
3. Saffold could be a very good guard instead of an average tackle: If Sunday is any indication, the Rams and Saffold may have stumbled upon Saffold's "fit" in the NFL. The Rams have a mess on the interior of the offensive line. Harvey Dahl isn't getting any younger or any better, and the Chris Williams experiment isn't working out. Barrett Jones is a work in progress, but there's no guarantee that he will be ready to produce next season. For the Rams, plugging Saffold in at right guard would greatly upgrade the interior of the line.
For Saffold, it's about the Benjamins. Given his track record, is he more likely to get paid by another NFL team as a tackle, or would he make more staying in St. Louis and being paid as a premium guard? The answer there is pretty obvious.
Sometimes circumstances create great discoveries. Could it be that the Rams and Rodger Saffold have discovered something that will be mutually beneficial?
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