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Thread: Rams Have Opening At Left Guard
Rams Have Opening At Left Guard
Rams have opening at left guard
BY JIM THOMAS
Saturday, May 19, 2012
There is absolutely no doubt in coach Jeff Fisher's mind that the Rams' starting left guard for 2012 is currently on the roster.
"Yeah, he's here," Fisher said. "And he'll play well for us."
He just can't tell you who that person is just yet.
"We've got a lot of options, and we'll continue to rotate guys in there," Fisher said. "But he's here."
It could be Bryan Mattison, who started the last four games at right guard last season after joining the team in late November.
It could be 2012 fifth-round draft pick Rokevious "Rok" Watkins, the wide-body from South Carolina.
Maybe Quinn Ojinnaka, a free-agent pickup who was in Rams training camp last summer. Or Robert Turner, signed as a free agent from the New York Jets earlier this offseason. Or even Mizzou product Tim Barnes, who spent all but one week of the 2011 regular season on the Rams' practice squad.
"We're going to put a lot of guys in the mix and really let 'em compete for that left guard spot," general manager Les Snead said. "And sort the backups from there."
It could be like some wrestling-royale event to see who's the last man standing.
"Put us in the cage, you know," Mattison said. "Come off the top rope."
The unassuming, low-key Mattison is the leader of the pack right now. Although the Rams have rotated other players in, Mattison took the bulk of repetitions with the starting unit at left guard this week during the Rams' practice sessions.
"I know our guys are high on him; think he's got a chance," Snead said.
Mattison, 6-3, 310, entered the league as an undrafted rookie with the New York Jets in 2008, but he entered the league as a defensive end. The University of Iowa product switched over to offense in 2009 but didn't play in his first NFL game until 2010 with Baltimore.
So he's no overnight sensation, and he's still relatively new to the position. But Mattison has been around long enough to realize it's a long way from mid-May at Rams Park to Sept. 9 in Detroit (the Rams' opener). He has anything but a stranglehold on the job.
"That stuff will work itself out down the line," Mattison said. "You always want to be out there with the first unit but when I'm not — when I'm with the second unit — I'm just as excited to do the play right. Competition's good for anybody, no matter what happens."
Fisher, in fact, made it a point to stress that there are several options at the position.
"There's ability there," he said. "We've got flexibility. And I wouldn't rule out Rok either because Rok's showed in just a couple days that he's heavy-handed, he's smart, and he can move people. And that's what we're looking for."
Watkins said he had no idea the Rams were interested in him before getting drafted April 28. He wasn't just a little surprised.
"I was a lot surprised," Watkins said. "I don't even think I talked to the (Rams') guys at the combine."
According to Snead, Watkins piqued the Rams' interest at South Carolina's pro day by getting a "plus" grade for his work there. That led to more film study of his games at South Carolina by the Rams' scouting department and coaching staff. Apparently, the more they saw the more they liked.
Listed on the Rams' roster at 6-3, 338, Watkins said he has played as heavy as 368 pounds back in his junior-college days at Georgia Military College. That would make him more Boulder than Rok.
During spring ball at South Carolina in 2010, Watkins found himself, uh, wasting away to 319. "I felt a little weak so I went back up and I played the season between 330 and 335, but I still was in shape," he said.
Watkins played all over the place at South Carolina, starting games at right tackle, left tackle and right guard in 2011, and starting at right guard and left guard in '10. But his body type and skill set make him a natural fit at guard in the NFL. He also seems to have the mentality that line coaches love.
"I take pride in the physicality," Watkins said. "It's nothing better than grabbing a defensive lineman and slamming him on his neck."
Then he added with a hearty chuckle, "I enjoy it, and it's legal."
At the moment, starting is about the last thing on his mind. Like just about every Rams rookie this early in his NFL experience, Watkins is trying to grasp the playbook.
"Being a competitor, you're going to always want to start," Watkins said. "But you don't want to come in there too fast if you don't know what you're doing, so I'm just going to try to learn anything I can. The more you know the faster you can play."
Re: Rams Have Opening At Left Guard"Yeah, he's here," Fisher said. "And he'll play well for us."
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