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McVay confirms Steve Avila will move from left guard to center

ORLANDO, Fla. – As the pieces to the Rams' offensive line fell into place over the first week and a half of free agency – especially with the signing of Jonah Jackson after the return of Kevin Dotson – many wondered what that meant for Steve Avila, who had started all 17 games of his rookie season at left guard.

Head coach Sean McVay confirmed what had been reported and speculated: Avila will indeed slide over from left guard to center this year.

"That was really never part of the plan until you realize, 'Wow, Coleman Shelton voided his contract,'" McVay said at the NFL Annual Meeting. "We always wanted to get Coleman back. And then by nature of just kind of investing and spending some time evaluating the guard market, you re-sign Kevin (Dotson) ahead of the two-day negotiating period, and then you realize, okay, wow, I had always just assumed he (Jonah Jackson) was gonna go back to Detroit. And then you realize, wow, we might actually have the opportunity to acquire him as well. Hey, Kevin's at right guard, Jonah played left guard, and oh, by the way, this stud rookie left guard that you had, he was an excellent center at TCU."

Though he has extensive experience at guard, center is still a familiar position for Avila. Rams area scout Cedric Jones was their lead scout on Avila, and said after Avila was selected that he played more than 1,000 snaps at guard and 1,000 snaps at center.

"A guy that offers us the versatility that will help us and however that fits in there, kind of gives Sean and the coaches room to do whatever they want to do and make the pieces fit," Jones said last year.

Like Jones, senior personnel advisor Taylor Morton likewise appreciated Avila's versatility, which he got to see up close at the 2023 Senior Bowl.

"Just to see him in person and how big he was, and playing both center and guard, and being able to see that versatility live at the Senior Bowl I think was very helpful for us," Morton said last year.

Now, the 2024 puzzle is deciding that piece best fits at center instead of guard.

McVay reiterated that wasn't part of the plan until the possibility of getting Jackson arose. While exploring that, McVay went back and watched Avila's TCU tape.

"And you say, you know what, he did a great job at center, there's a lot of work (there)," McVay said.

Getting re-acclimated to the position now becomes Avila's top offseason priority. McVay said Avila has a good excitement and nervousness about it because of the respect he has for Shelton, the amount of information he's responsible for when it comes to targeting in the run plays, understanding motion responses, and protections.

"He's like, 'Man, I don't know as much as Coleman.' I said, 'That's okay! You don't have to right now. Let's just take incremental steps,'" McVay said. "He's a guy that loves being in the building. And so, like I was talking about earlier, you don't need to go from A to Z, let's just take the incremental steps. Let's continue to learn, with the right foundational understanding of what are we trying to get done? What are you looking at? What are the things that are important to be able to communicate?"

Most importantly, McVay pointed out how Avila is not alone and has quarterback Matthew Stafford and other teammates next to him. McVay is excited about the opportunity and knows Avila is too.

"He's got an amazing athleticism for a big player," McVay said. "He's got great contact balance, you can see his ability to take second-level angles of departure, fit second-level blocks, play in space. That was one of the things that I went back and evaluated. I think he's got the natural ability to play on the left or the right side of the line, be another lefty center for us."

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