Perhaps the most noteworthy development of the Los Angeles Rams preseason was a changing of the guard – or center, rather.
From his very first public address at training camp, head coach Sean McVay indicated the composition of his offensive line was not finalized, dropping Brian Allen's name and setting the stage for a position battle on the interior.
By the time the unofficial depth chart was released in early August, the 25-year-old Allen had reemerged as the most likely candidate to deliver the first snap of a new season to Matthew Stafford. And indeed, that will be the case Sunday night at SoFi Stadium.
Back from a catastrophic knee injury suffered in mid-2019, and the COVID-19 setback that followed, Allen detailed his journey on this week's Rams Revealed podcast.
From drafted heir-apparent at center, to disarray and doubt during rehabilitation, to this chance to serve as the centerpiece for the Stafford era, there's a deep appreciation of this moment for the fourth-year pro.
"There (were) a lot of nights where you're wondering," said Allen of his NFL window of opportunity. "Has that time come and gone? Is it over? Am I going to get back there?"
The Chicago native, by way of Michigan State, is set to make his 10th career start in the opener against the Bears – his childhood team. It will have been just over 670 days since his last appearance on the Rams offensive line, a figure he recently calculated in anticipation of Week One.
Asked how he's a different player today than he was in November of 2019, Allen cited a mental growth that surpasses even his physical comeback. While he may not have been on the practice field for long stretches of time, he never stopped learning.
"I'm a more complete center. I understand our offense," Allen said. "Anyone in this building will tell you that doesn't come quickly to anybody. In our offense, the center has to know a hair less than the quarterback."
"At times, I don't want to say I was overwhelmed (as a first-time NFL starter in 2019). Kind of just not certain; not driving the bus how the center needs to be driving the bus. And I haven't felt that once this year. So it's good to feel all that work come to fruition."
For all of Allen's thoughts on this showdown with Chicago, his perspective on Stafford, and his rebuttal to critics who view him as undersized, check out Rams Revealed on our YouTube channel, or wherever you download podcasts.