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Practice Report 12/27: Rams Tinkering with Offensive Line

Posted Dec 27, 2016

With RT Rob Havenstein day-to-day with an ankle injury, interim HC John Fassel said the Rams tried out a couple different OL combinations in Tuesday's practice.

There are likely more changes coming to the Rams’ offensive line for Week 17 against the Cardinals.

With right tackle Rob Havenstein day-to-day with an ankle injury, Los Angeles is looking at the possibility of moving around offensive lineman Rodger Saffold once again. Saffold started his second game of the 2016 season at left tackle on Saturday, having spent the year primarily at left guard.

For Tuesday’s light practice — which interim head coach John Fassel characterized as more of a walk-through — L.A. had Saffold working at both left and right tackle. When Saffold was at left tackle, rookie Pace Murphy worked opposite him. With Saffold on the right, Greg Robinson worked as the left tackle.

“That’s kind of the lineups we’re tinkering with,” Fassel said. “Very likely, by tomorrow, we’ll have something pretty determined because that’s our big practice. But they’ll be ready.”

Saffold did work at right tackle for much of the Rams’ offseason program and training camp, with Havenstein recovering from offseason surgery at that time. And so the veteran lineman said after Tuesday’s practice that he’s embracing the challenge of getting prepared for wherever the coaches decide to place him for Sunday’s game.

“It’s basically like telling you to go from being left handed to just, hey, just start being right handed — which is not the easiest,” Saffold said. “Makes this last week pretty eventful. I already watched a lot of film, so I’m on the right track to get it done.”

As for Robinson, the third-year tackle was deactivated for the second time this season against the 49ers. Fassel said after the game that decision was not made to make Robinson a kind of scapegoat, but with the thinking that Saffold at tackle and Jamon Brown at left guard could help spark the run game.

“It probably caught me off guard at the beginning of the week,” Robinson said. “It was a decision they made as a staff and I just took it on the chest and tried my best to be positive about it.”

“My mindset hasn’t changed all season,” Robinson continued. “All I can do is just focus on me personally getting better and trying my best to perform at the best of my ability week-in and week-out. I don’t think, as a competitor, that I would let it get to me because then it would hinder me a little bit. So I think the best thing is just, go out to practice each week and try my best to get better.”

While Fassel mentioned on Monday there had been some discussion among the coaching staff regarding moving Robinson to guard. But that will not come to fruition this week.

“Greg — benched last week — I talked to him about being ready to go this week, he took to it and I would imagine that he would perform at the highest of his ability,” Fassel said.

“Really, I think the best thing for him is to give him one spot and let him really just focus on that,” Fassel added. “That was a discussion, but I would imagine that there will be one position picked for him and master this position. I think that’s where he’s at and that’s what’s best for him.”

Likely because of that, Robinson did not appear to have a position change on his mind when asked about it following practice.

“If that opportunity ever presents itself to me, and I feel it’s best for me, then that would be the time to talk about it,” Robinson said. “But, right now, that’s in the wind — I don’t know anything about that.”

Generally, though, the offensive line as a unit would like to finish the season on a high note by protecting quarterback Jared Goff well and springing running back Todd Gurley for a big day on the ground.

“That’s definitely the goal, but in order to run the ball, it’s going to take more than the offensive line,” Saffold said. “In order to protect the quarterback, it’s going to take more than the offensive line. Everybody has to do their job and we need to be consistent at doing their jobs. So, we’ll just see how it goes.”

EXTRA POINTS

— Fassel said he’s expecting all players who are healthy to be available for Sunday’s game, whether they’re rookies or veterans.

“There hasn’t been any resistance from any players where you could imagine some of them maybe, they don’t want to play in the last game because they don’t want to risk an injury,” Fassel said. “But there hasn’t been any resistance, really from any guys with that mindset, which I think is good because you play football and if you start ducking out of piles or kind of standing around piles, that’s when you get hurt. You play football the right way, there’s a good chance you’re going to be perfectly fine.

“And also our dress list requires 46 guys, most of the inactives are the guys that are dinged up that, for sure couldn’t play — or a quarterback,” Fassel added. “So, the guys that are healthy or could play will play.”

— After Saturday’s game, Fassel mentioned he had a motivational tactic in mind that he’d share with the team this week. While he hasn’t revealed it to the club just yet, he said Tuesday it might be getting a bit blown out of proportion at this point with players already asking him what it is.

“I feel like, ‘Gosh I’m going to disappoint them’ — because they think it’s going to be hot, and it’s really going to take about a minute,” Fassel said with a laugh. “It’s just something I remember when I got it from a coach a long time ago. Maybe 15 years down the road when some of these guys are coaching, they’ll yank it out when they feel they need it.”