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Practice Report 9/11: Rookie OLs Ready to Play

Posted Sep 11, 2015

Head coach Jeff Fisher has expressed confidence in Rob Havenstein and Jamon Brown starting at right tackle and left guard, respectively.

As has been the expectation since the start of camp, the Rams will head into the season opener with two rookies on their starting offensive line. And as he has throughout the process, head coach Jeff Fisher expressed confidence in both right tackle Rob Havenstein and left guard Jamon Brown.

With both rookies likely harboring a good amount of excitement for Sunday’s contest, Fisher said a significant factor to open the game will be to just keep them calm.

“They’re going to be excited to play, but the great part about ‘JB’ and Rob is that they’ve played a lot of snaps in the preseason,” Fisher said. “They’ve played and matched-up against some good players in the preseason and they play good players out here every day in practice.”

Both Brown and Havenstein said this week they feel ready to go for Week 1.

“I think coach Fish and all the other coaches have prepared me and any of the other rookies who are going to play early for this day, for Game 1,” Brown said. “I’m really excited to do it for real rather than just a preseason game.”

“I’m very excited to get out there and get my first regular season NFL experience,” Havenstein said, “but I’m more excited to get out there and show what this team has.”

Brown recently moved from working at right guard to left guard, which has been a bit of an adjustment for him. But being left-hand dominant and his experience playing on that side of the line in college has aided the transition.

“Two years on the left side at left tackle,” Brown said of his experience at Louisville. “I think that’s helped also. But the majority of it from being left-hand dominant.”


The shift also put guard Rodger Saffold next to Havenstein on the right, which the Wisconsin product said has been quite helpful for his development.

“With him being an older guy, he obviously knows his stuff,” Havenstein said. “It’s helped me out tremendously, just knowing the confidence he brings, the calls, and everything. Knowing that he’s going to be the same physical guy that he always is, it just makes me play with more confidence.”

Both rookies have impressed the older players around them, with tight end Jared Cook saying they have come in with great maturity.

“It’s such an important position and they’ve got the offense down,” Cook said. “They communicate with me more than I communicate with them sometimes. They’ve just done a great job filling the role that we need them to fulfill. They’ve just got to go out there and put it together for 16 weeks, and we should be great.”

When it comes to nerves, Brown said he wasn’t feeling too many butterflies during the practice week. But that could change as kickoff draws near.

“I’m sure as we get closer to the game, and as the hype goes up for the game, I’ll have a couple,” Brown said. “But, like I said, I’m completely confident, and coach is confident in me, so when it’s time to line up and suit it up, all the butterflies will be gone.”

“They’re prepared, they’ve studied,” Fisher said, “and I think they’re only going to get better.”

DEFENSE STARTING FAST

Earlier in the summer, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said he’s been starting off every meeting emphasizing the need for the unit to start fast.

Apparently, that hasn’t changed as the team has moved to the regular season.

“Every single, solitary meeting that we have, the very first thing that’s on the screen is, ‘Start fast,’” Williams said on Friday. “Some days we discuss it. Other days we just look at it.”

“The thing I feel comfortable about is it’s been covered -- it’s been discussed,” Williams added. “This has been a fun group to see how they grasp that and they’ve used that in all of the things they’re doing, so we’ll see.”

One of the major factors St. Louis will have to contend with on Sunday is Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. Williams said one of the biggest challenges the signal-caller presents is his ability to improvise, adding it can be frustrating when he is able to make plays like that -- especially in the second half of games.

“We have to make sure that, athletically, understanding mentally what the concept is of what he’s trying to do to extend the play,” Williams said. “I think he is one of the best in our league right now.”

The Seahawks had the No. 1 rushing offense in 2014 -- both in total yardage and average per carry -- and a significant reason why is running back Marshawn Lynch. Williams said his ability to change direction is part of what makes Lynch special.

“People underestimate how powerful he is in the upper body. We’ve got to do a good job of staying down on his lower body,” Williams said. “If you try to tackle him up around his face, up around his shoulder pads, he’s embarrassed a lot of people.”

One aspect of Seattle’s offense that has changed since the end of last season is the addition of Jimmy Graham. The Seahawks brought him in through a blockbuster trade in the offseason, and Fisher has said he expects to see plenty of him on Sunday because he was utilized so little in the preseason.

“He’ll be a big red zone target for them, we understand that,” Williams said. “We’re going to have to make sure that we understand where he’s at.”

For more on Graham, check out our Opponent Breakdown post here.

INJURY UPDATES

The Rams had three players appear on the injury report this week, and Fisher provided an update on all three at the end of Friday’s practice.

Though running back Todd Gurley (knee) was a limited participant in practice, his status has not changed and he’s been declared out for Sunday. Linebacker Daren Bates was limited in Friday’s practice and will be questionable. And running back Tre Mason (thigh) did not practice and will be listed as questionable.

Should Mason not play on Sunday, Fisher said the team will be in good shape with Benny Cunningham, Isaiah Pead, and Chase Reynolds handling the load at running back.

Pead had a strong showing against Kansas City in the final preseason game, and Fisher praised his perseverance in coming back from last year’s season-ending knee injury.

“He finished up really strong two years ago for us on special teams, and last year was a really big year for him, we thought, and then he had the injury,” Fisher said. “But he’s come back and he’s returned right back to where he was. The injury’s not an issue anymore and he’s a productive [special] team’s player for us. He knows our offense and he’s definitely going to play.”