American Football

A cautionary tale for Steve Avila changing positions


New Orleans Saints v Los Angeles Rams
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

It wasn’t too long ago that the Rams asked another starting guard to move inside to center

It’s hard not to like the investment the Los Angeles Rams have put into their interior offensive line this offseason. After re-signing Kevin Dotson and adding free agent Jonah Jackson, Steve Avila will change positions after a promising rookie season and move inside to center from guard. In total those three players’ listed weights combine for over 1,000 pounds of run blocking force, and that should be good news for Sean McVay’s offense if the unit stays healthy.

Most seem comfortable with Avila changing positions, and that’s probably fair since it was part of his profile as a draft prospect coming out of TCU. However, I’ll play devil’s advocate as I tend to do and provide a reminder that the last time the Rams’ tried to move a starting guard to center their plan never really come to fruition.

Austin Corbett is a cautionary tale for Steve Avila

Ahead of the 2021 season after trading for Matthew Stafford, LA intended to move Corbett from right guard to center. Instead, when the season kicked off in Week 1 it was Brian Allen snapping the ball to Stafford and not Corbett.

Some will say that Allen showed a tenacity in training camp that won him the job. He was coming off of a major injury from his second NFL season and had something to prove. We’ll never know if Corbett’s performance at center was good enough because we never got to see him play either in the preseason or regular season. Fortunately, the failed position change in 2021 didn’t set the Rams’ offense back. With Allen at center Corbett kicked back to right guard and the offensive line was consistently good throughout the season.

Interestingly enough, Corbett is moving to center for the Carolina Panthers in 2024 as they revamp their offensive line for young signal caller Bryce Young.

I’d argue that this year’s version of the offensive line, though better at the first-string level and overall incomplete without knowing how the draft will shake out, doesn’t have the same safety net that the 2021 version did. Coleman Shelton is no longer a Ram—he signed with the Chicago Bears this offseason and will compete for their starting job. LA’s backup center at this point in time is probably Mike McAllister who was an undrafted free agent that the team signed last year from Youngstown State.

If for some reason Avila’s shift to center doesn’t work as intended, and it’s fair to wonder whether this is the best utilization of his skillset, there may not be a good contingency plan. You can’t move Jackson or Dotson to the bench after signing them to large free agent deals. That leaves Avila with no home if he doesn’t hold up at center, and that means both he and the Rams need this change to work.

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