Rams sticking to right tackle rotation

October, 26, 2013
10/26/13
12:30
PM ET
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams are apparently in no hurry to make a decision on a permanent fixture at right tackle after the return of Rodger Saffold from a knee injury last week against Carolina.

Saffold
Barksdale
Saffold suffered the knee injury in Week 2 against Atlanta and Joe Barksdale filled in admirably while Saffold recovered. Instead of sticking to one of the two last week, the Rams actually opted to split time between the two and nearly did so in an even 50/50 manner.

Against the Panthers, Barksdale started and played 31 snaps and Saffold played 30. It's worth noting Saffold seemed to get a bit more of the work toward the end of the game, though that could have been a coincidence.

Coach Jeff Fisher said earlier this week that the Rams would likely continue to keep the time share going against Seattle.

“I think we’ll stick with that, the rotation right now," Fisher said.

The Rams clearly aren't afraid of using a rotation on the offensive line. They've been doing it at left guard with starter Chris Williams and Shelley Smith for the past few weeks and did so again against Carolina with Williams playing 38 snaps to Smith's 23.

The situation at right tackle appears to be a bit different in terms of the way the time is split up, however. Although it's a one-week sample size, the 50 percent split could be more easily interpreted as a way to get Saffold back up to full health before re-installing him at his starting spot.

Of course, if Saffold continues to play how he did against the Panthers last week, the situation could resolve itself. Saffold looked like he hadn't missed a beat against the Panthers and was downright impressive on most of his snaps.

Fisher isn't one to throw around lofty praise for any of his players, so what he said shouldn't be taken lightly when asked about Saffold earlier this week.

"Rodger played well," Fisher said. "It was good to see him. He was very active, second level in the run game. Pass protection was good, strong, short of dominating at times in the game. As did Joe."

From looking at the film, Barksdale was OK but Saffold was clearly the better of the two. As we discussed last week, there are some long-term implications to consider when looking at the right tackle situation.

Saffold is an unrestricted free agent after the season and Barksdale remains under the Rams' control. The Rams have had a good look at Barksdale the past month-plus but could want to see more before deciding where they go in the offseason. Saffold's future in St. Louis remains up in the air. It's absolutely possible that an offensive tackle will be high on the team's wish list come free agency and, more likely, the draft.

It's understandable why the Rams would want to continue to rotate Saffold and Barksdale for big picture reasons. But with the loss of quarterback Sam Bradford to a season-ending knee injury, the prudent move right now might be to go with the best player in order to give Kellen Clemens the tools he needs to have success.

Nick Wagoner

ESPN St. Louis Rams reporter

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