Rams' Gilbert arrives with plenty to prove

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
6:00
PM ET
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Under normal circumstances, Garrett Gilbert's offseason methods for learning the St. Louis Rams' offense would have put him in hot water with parents Gale and Kim Gilbert.

With no whiteboard to use, Gilbert spent each night with some dry erase markers going through the X's and O's on the windows of his parents' Austin, Texas, home. But Gilbert didn't get grounded or have his allowance taken away for making a mess.

[+] EnlargeGarrett Gilbert
Jeff Roberson/AP PhotoRams rookie QB Garrett Gilbert worked during the offseason to learn the West Coast offense.
That's because he had a partner in crime, his father Gale, who played 10 seasons in the NFL with Seattle, Buffalo and San Diego. Despite a modest protest from Kim Gilbert, she was outnumbered by her football-loving son and husband.

"My mom wasn’t too pleased," Garrett Gilbert said. "[My dad] loves going through that stuff, so it was fun to go through it and teach him a little about what we’re trying to do."

Of course, the ultimate purpose of the nightly playbook exercises was meant for the younger Gilbert to learn the Rams' offense as he embarks on his rookie season in the NFL.

A sixth-round choice out of Southern Methodist, Gilbert is the first quarterback the Rams have selected in the three drafts guided by coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead. Expectations for Gilbert are minimal with Sam Bradford in place as the starter and veteran Shaun Hill set as the primary backup.

But the Rams wouldn't mind having Gilbert take hold of a potential third roster spot for a quarterback and become the type of developmental prospect worth keeping around so he can one day become a serviceable backup.

To get there, Gilbert, like all rookies, especially quarterbacks, has a lot of learning to do. And before he can do much of anything, he must learn all he can about coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's offense. It's a tall order for any player but especially Gilbert. After playing in seven offenses in eight seasons, Gilbert has learned enough different language and terminology that he could create and sell a quarterback version of Rosetta-Stone.

Of those many offenses, the one he ran for the Mustangs was perhaps the most different from the one he's now learning. SMU was a spread team with Gilbert spending most of his time taking snaps out of the shotgun and throwing it all over the field. It was a system he knew well and the results were impressive. He finished his senior season with 3,528 passing yards and 21 touchdowns with six more scores on the ground in 10 games.

That's a far cry from the run-heavy, West Coast-driven offense Gilbert is now tasked with understanding in St. Louis.

"It’s definitely a transition," Gilbert said. "I think any time you are playing quarterback at this level there’s going to be a transition from the collegiate level regardless of where you played college football. You get rare exceptions like Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning where they come in and they’re immediately successful, but there’s definitely a transition period and learning curve. It’s really a lot of fun for me to challenge myself."

As Gilbert is quick to point out, learning a new offense at this point isn't so much about knowing where receivers are going to go as understanding the protections and adjustments to be made at the line of scrimmage.

That's why Gilbert didn't have as much "down time" as the rest of his rookie teammates. So he and his father spent each night going through a different install with the younger Gilbert making notes on each day so when that installation comes up during camp, he can ask the appropriate questions of Schottenheimer and quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti. He also called Bradford to ask questions and get clarification when needed.

Upon arrival for Tuesday and Wednesday's rookies-only practice sessions, Gilbert said he felt much more comfortable getting in and out of the huddle and handling things at the line of scrimmage. It's a basic function for a quarterback but at least it's a start.

There's still a long way to go in this training camp and preseason and if the Rams are to keep a third quarterback, Gilbert will have to fend off Austin Davis for the job. With Bradford recovering from knee surgery, there might even be additional repetitions available for Gilbert in camp and preseason games. Without the pedigree or draft status of a first-round pick, Gilbert is well aware that nothing is promised.

"I’m out here to compete, learn and just become the best player I can every single day," Gilbert said.

Nick Wagoner

ESPN St. Louis Rams reporter

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