After years of suffering, Saffold basks in the Rams winning

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    zn
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    After years of suffering, Rodger Saffold is basking in the Rams winning

    VINCENT BONSIGNORE

    link: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/18/after-years-of-suffering-rodger-saffold-is-basking-in-the-rams-winning/

    From his middle locker in the center of the Rams locker room, Rodger Saffold offered an appreciative smile as the roar of laughter and chatter echoed from one end of the room to the other.

    The eight-year veteran is the Rams longest-tenured player, which just means he’s endured nine more losses than Robert Quinn, who joined him in 2011. The Rams have done a lot of losing during Saffold’s time, way more than any player should be subjected to. And in his previous seven seasons with the club, the month of November usually meant the official end of whatever hollow playoff aspirations the Rams began the season with or the imminent demise of the vain hopes they still clung to.

    So no one appreciates the shocking surprise the Rams are presently pulling off more than Saffold, who, as bad as things were, still trudged to work every day over the years with admirable optimism even while season after season went down in flames.

    In spite of it all, Saffold woke up every morning believing today was the day things would finally turnaround. In retrospect it probably would have been easier to just accept things for what they were, if nothing else to save Saffold the mental anguish. Then again, the cherish he’s experiencing right now might not be as poignant and powerful had run from the agony rather than embraced it.

    And yeah, Saffold is cherishing every last part of the 7-2 record the Rams take to Minnesota against the Vikings on Sunday and their first-place status in the NFC West and the way they’ve unleashed a machine-like offense on the NFL’s that pummeling opponents to the tune of 32.9 points per game.

    After all that losing, you’re damned right Saffold is enjoy this to the fullest.

    “I literally can’t wait for Sundays. I’m excited for every week,” Saffold said, the enthusiasm overflowing. “I walk into this building every day so positive and so ready to go.”

    “It feels exactly like some of the guys on the Greatest Show on Turf teams told me that felt like,” Saffold added. “You take the field every game and you expect to win. You expect to score points. A lot of them.”

    The Rams transformation from an offense that barely averaged 14 points per game last year to the one currently lighting up scoreboards every week has many catalysts. None of it happens without the breath of fresh and innovative air provided by first-year head coach Sean McVay, or the franchise quarterback play of Jared Goff, or the rebirth of Todd Gurley, or the revamped wide receivers group of Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp.

    New left tackle Andrew Whitworth has been a revelation. The addition of veteran center John Sullivan has provided a steadying influence. And the maturation of young right tackle and guard Rob Havenstein and Jamon Brown has been monumental.

    But you’d be making a mistake to sleep on Saffold, who, by various metrics is enjoying his best-ever season while teaming with Whitworth to create a powerful, athletic and at times dominant left side of the line.

    In doing so, Gurley is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and Goff has been sacked just 13 times in nine games while throwing for 2,385 yards and 14 touchdowns. To put that in perspective, Gurley averaged 3.9 yards per carry last season and Goff was sacked 26 times in just seven games.

    Saffold, with his ability to play off Whitworth on the left side while also providing effective pull blocks and second and third level downfield blocks to spring Gurley for extra yards on runs and screen passes, is a huge part of the offensive revolution..

    Much like the offense itself, Saffold is becoming the complete package.

    “I can’t say enough good things about really what he’s done this year,” said McVay. “He’s been a very pleasant surprise.”

    Pay attention to the Rams offensive line play and you’ll often see him flying down the line of scrimmage on pull block to take out the right defensive end bearing down on Goff or down field as a 6-foot-5 shield for Gurley.

    His emergence as an above-average lineman in his eighth season is partly due to the natural progression of a highly regarded prospect now coming to his own, the fact he’s settled in at one position after moving up and down the line of scrimmage throughout his career and playing in McVay’s creative, uptempo system.

    “The scheme that we’re running, how we’re attacking things has been huge,” Saffold said. “Being able to get this offense down to the point I can play free, it’s allowed me to be more aggressive than I’ve usually been in the past. Especially in the way we pass block, the landmarks on screens, it’s really helped me out a lot.”

    And it’s allowed Saffold to finally put on display one of the traits that pushed him into the second round of the 2010 draft: Outstanding athletic ability for a player his size.

    “It’s interesting, because when he was coming out of Indiana I remember we were studying him in Washington and thought very highly of him,” McVay said. “Just kind of watching him from afar I know that he’s a very athletic player that had moved around and had the ability to play a variety of spots.”

    It’s a part of the game Saffold is happy to finally unleash.

    “I have a lot of fun doing that. It allows me to play with reckless abandon some times,” he said. “And when you switch that up with the pass protection aspect, we’re never in the same spot every time. We’re never in the same protection every time. It doesn’t let the defense get into any sort of rhythm.

    “We’re so uptempo so we don’t have to deal with a lot of the planned blitzes that happen. Of course we deal with a few per game, but because we move so fast I don’t think the defenses get a lot of time to adjust. Sometimes (they) just have to play vanilla in order to get into the right call and be able to figure out where everything is coming from.”

    There is nothing vanilla about the Rams these days. And no one appreciates that more than Saffold. After suffering through far too many losing seasons than one player deserves, he has every right.

    #77644
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