Saffold Settling in on Right Side
Rodger Saffold hadn’t played any position but left tackle since his freshman year as a member of the Bedford High football team just outside of Cleveland.
As a ninth grader playing for the Bearcats, Saffold was a right tackle. Since, he’s played in dozens of games, exclusively on the left side.
But now, after the Rams’ high-profile signing of four-time Pro Bowler Jake Long to play left tackle, Saffold is re-learning a position long since forgotten.
Like anything, there will be some growing pains for Saffold in making the switch but he said it hasn’t been as difficult as he might have estimated originally.
“Just with changing stances, it’s difficult because what you are used to doing, you have got to get that muscle memory and change everything up,” Saffold said. “Honestly, it hasn’t been as hard as I thought it was going to be.”
In some sense, the main part of the transition is simply teaching the body to do the same things he’s been doing for years on the left side on the other hand. The mechanics and footwork will almost certainly take some time to learn but the details will take a bit longer.
Although Saffold has been working during on-field drills on his footwork and learning the right side for about a month now, this week has offered his first chance to participate in any sort of actual drills against competition.
The Rams held their first Organized Team Activity on Tuesday and went through No. 2 on Thursday. While the sample size has been small, Rams coach Jeff Fisher has been pleased with what he’s seen from Saffold in making the move.
“Football is football,” Fisher said. “The responsibilities are the same. It’s just at the point of attack when the ball goes to the right. Typically, the right tackle may have a tight end outside of him more often than the left tackle does. With a right handed quarterback you are typically right handed. But he’s done a great job since we moved him over.”
Saffold has left no stone unturned in getting familiar with his new position. He’s spent time with defensive end Chris Long, who has helped him get acquainted with some of the pass rushing techniques and looks that he can expect to see while playing right tackle.
In addition, Saffold has made a habit of staying after practice to get more footwork drills in and get some additional guidance from offensive line coach Paul Boudreau.
So far, Saffold has noticed some differences on the right side but doesn’t believe any of them will make or break his transition.
“There are a few things that are different,” Saffold said. “When you switch up, sometimes your depth perception of the defensive end is different. It’s hard to feel whether they really got your edge or you overset to let somebody inside. It’s repetition and with a good amount of reps that is all going to change.”
Considering Saffold had spent his first three seasons and started 35 games in that time all on the left side, reports surfaced during the offseason that he was unhappy with the team’s decision to sign Jake Long.
But Saffold said Thursday that he was aware of the possibility and after he took some time to go home to Cleveland and get away from it, he came back energized and ready to have his best season yet.
“I talked to my coach and basically they said they have a lot of faith in me to play right tackle and try to use my versatility as an advantage for the team,” Saffold said. “I went home; had some time just in Cleveland just to get away from football just a little bit and I came back ready to work. I’m a hard worker, I’m a loyal guy to my team so whatever adversity is in front of me, I continue to work through it. So honestly, it really didn’t matter.”
Indeed, Saffold reported to Rams Park with the rest of his teammates on April 15 for the start of the offseason conditioning program. He’s been here for the entirety of the program working on the adjustment to the right side.
The always optimistic Saffold is happy to be back for this part of the offseason program given that he had to sit out a year ago while he continued to rehabilitate from a season-ending pectoral injury.
With veterans such as Saffold, Long, Harvey Dahl, Scott Wells and Chris Williams supported by some intriguing young talent, Saffold believes the offensive line could take another step forward if it gets a chance to coalesce.
“We are working together and trying to succeed and get better,” Saffold said. “Now we are just waiting to be on the field as a complete unit so we can really focus on our meshing. That’s how we have got to use OTAs.”
As for the left tackle spot, Saffold is taking steps to make sure he doesn’t completely discard the fundamentals that go with his position. He’s well aware that injuries can happen and he wants to be prepared to move seamlessly between the two positions.
“I have been trying to do a lot of things with the right and the left just in case,” Saffold said. “If I’m ever needed, what I’m trying to focus on is just being a football player and doing what I have to do no matter where they put me.”
And while things might be coming to him a bit easier than he first anticipated, Saffold knows he still has plenty of time to perfect his work on the right side and ensure he’s ready to go by the time the opener arrives in September.
“I think that I got better today than I did yesterday and I’ll continue getting better tomorrow,” Saffold said.
Re: Saffold Settling in on Right Side
Gotta like Saffold's attitude here, I think he's a great fit on the right side. If Long regains his Pro Bowl form the Rams arguably have the best tackle tandem in the league.