When the Rams signed free agent left tackle Andrew Whitworth, they stabilized arguably the most important position along the offensive line. With Whitworth in tow, L.A. will now move around some of the unit’s current pieces in order to find the most effective five-man combination.
To that end, head coach Sean McVay said Greg Robinson — who has spent the better part of the last three seasons as the Rams’ left tackle — will be shifting over to the right to compete at tackle with 2015 second-round pick Rob Havenstein.
“I think that’ll be a good opportunity for Greg to go to that right side, and, we’ll see how Havenstein is able to do — if we allow him to play guard and tackle,” McVay said Friday. “We’ve got some guys on this roster that have some position [flexibility], but being able to get an Andrew Whitworth — he knows what it’s like, he’s played the game at a Pro Bowl-caliber level at that left tackle position — will give us the flexibility to put Greg on the right side and see how he does there.”
During the lead up to Week 17’s matchup against the Cardinals, Robinson said he had not been approached about a potential position change, and wouldn’t think much about it until he was. McVay said he spoke with Robinson on Thursday to let him know of the organization’s plans and the offensive lineman was receptive to it.
“Absolutely, Greg was great,” McVay said. “When you’re fortunate enough to bring Andrew Whitworth in the building, I think it’s important to let your players know where they stand and how that affects them and those guys upfront. It was important for us to communicate what the plan is.”
McVay acknowledged adjusting to playing on the right will likely be a challenge for Robinson, who has only played on the left for his 42 NFL starts. But it’s a change McVay and the staff are confident Robinson can make.
“I think it’s more just getting a comfort level of working in his stance,” McVay said. “When you’re doing some of your drills, just get comfortable playing right-footed, with that right-handed stance as opposed to that left. And I think that’s something that he’ll immediately be able to work on, just get comfortable with that muscle memory. I think that’s something, with his athleticism, we feel confident that he’ll be able to make that transition.
“Every day is an evaluation, so we’re looking at that,” McVay later added, “but you have to have a starting point and the starting point is we’re going to give Greg a chance to play at that right tackle spot and see where we go from there.”
HOW WILL L.A. ADDRESS CENTER?
Another spot in flux on the Rams’ offensive line is the center position, as Los Angeles released Tim Barnes last week. Barnes started all 16 games in the 2015 and 2016 seasons for the club.
“That’s something that, with Tim, I have a lot of respect with what he was able to do here and I know he had a lot of respect from people in this building,” McVay said. “But that’s something that we’re evaluating right now. There are some guys on the roster that you feel can kind of play inside and play at that center position.”
Demetrius Rhaney, currently on the roster, served as Los Angeles’ backup center last year. But McVay pointed to how offensive line coach Aaron Kromer plans on training guards to play center as one way the Rams can expand the pool of internal candidates.
“Not a lot of guys on the roster have played meaningful snaps at that position, that’s why it’s very important, whether it’s through free agency or through the draft, that we take a look at some of those guys that might be able to fit,” McVay said. “We’ll also look to cross-train some of those guards that have played at that spot as well, because I don’t think you can have enough guys that can snap the ball — just based on what your numbers are on game day, usually having about seven guys active if injuries end up occurring.”
WILL RAMS ADD MORE SIZE AT RECEIVER?
L.A. signed a versatile receiver in Robert Woods, someone who has shown an ability to line up and compete outside and in the slot. But even with 6-foot-3 Kenny Britt signing with the Browns and 6-foot-3 Brian Quick a free agent, McVay didn’t appear to see an urgent need to add size to the Rams wide receiving corps.
“I think it never hurts to sometimes have some different types of players within the framework of what you’re trying to do,” McVay said, mentioning Tavon Austin, Pharoh Cooper, and Nelson Spruce as players already on the roster who can potentially contribute in various ways. “But we’re looking for good football players and I think those guys come in all shapes and sizes. It’s not necessarily that we need a big guy to do a specific thing — certainly some of those bigger players, you are able to use them in different situations. We’re looking for good football players, guys that have the ability to compete both in the run and the pass — especially from that receiver standpoint — and that’s what we feel like we’ve got in Robert.”
— Last week, the Rams also released tight end Lance Kendricks, who started all 16 games last year, making 50 receptions for 499 yards with two touchdowns. Tyler Higbee, Temarrick Hemingway, and Cory Harkey are the remaining tight ends on the roster, a group to which McVay said the club will look to add.
“I think Higbee is a guy that we’re very interested in, I know Hemingway, as well, and Cory Harkey is a guy that’s done a lot of nice things, both from that fullback and tight end position. But, certainly you always want to be able to evaluate it.” McVay said. “I think when you really look at just the entirety of what’s out there in free agency, some of the things where we haven’t gotten a chance to really dig deep into the draft, but what you look at when you see some of the physical traits that a lot of the guys at combine had, it is intriguing. And that’s definitely a position that we’ll look very closely at moving forward.”
— Finally, McVay said if the Rams have an opportunity to add draft picks, it’s something general manager Les Snead will certainly look at.
“I think Les does a great job making decisions that are best for our football team,” McVay said. “That’s something that we’ll evaluate day-in and day-out, and if we feel like being able to acquire more picks based on what we’re giving up will give us a better chance to put together a strong 90, then that’s what Les and our staff will do.”