- Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- New St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr. has only been on the job for about five months, which isn't enough time to make any sort of sweeping declarations about his impact on an offense in need of all the help it can get.
But it is enough time for Cignetti to begin making an impression and establishing his style after earning a promotion from quarterbacks coach.
"I think if you ask the players, I haven’t changed," Cignetti said. "Every day is a blessing. I come to work trying to have fun, trying to do the best job I can teaching. I come out on the field and enjoy the game of football. I’ve been around it my whole life. I’m a coach’s kid. I’ve been on this field since I was 5, 6 years old. I’m comfortable on the field, in the locker room. I can’t get enough of it.”
Cignetti has had the workaholic reputation since he arrived in St. Louis with head coach Jeff Fisher in 2012. But he's spent the past three years tutoring the quarterbacks while Brian Schottenheimer coordinated the offense. When Schottenheimer departed for the same job at the University of Georgia, Fisher began exploring his options for a replacement.
Ultimately, Fisher settled on the continuity that Cignetti brings with the idea to finally establish a firm offensive identity capable of performing above the group that has ranked 28th in total yards, 19th in rushing, 25th in passing and 26th in offensive points scored per game in the past three years. That means there will be changes, though this renovation won't be a total gut so much as some minor redecorating.
“It’s like this: Coach Schottenheimer put a tremendous foundation in place here," Cignetti said. "It’s like buying a house. The foundation is there. You guys buy a house, what do you do? Let’s remodel a couple rooms. Really, that’s what we’ve done. The foundation of the system hasn’t changed. All we’ve done is put our personal touches in different areas and frankly, if Coach Schottenheimer was here, that’s what you do as a staff every year. You look at it and you continually look for ways to improve.”
So while Cignetti didn't toss the playbook and all of the terminology that comes with it, he's made plenty of tweaks that figure to be noticeable when the games start in September. Included in those changes is an increased use of zone-blocking schemes for the offensive line in an effort to help bolster the running game and protect quarterback Nick Foles.
Fisher also has alluded to simplifying the play calling in an effort to make it easier for all parties.
"It’s all coming," Fisher said. "I think the players will tell you that. We shortened the play calls from a terminology standpoint. We have some flexibility to do some things, I think, that match up better with our personnel. We’re just going to continue to work with it."
Fisher points to rookie quarterback Sean Mannion's ability to quickly grasp the offense as a sign that what Cignetti is doing is being heard and understood by the offense. By the end of organized team activities, the offense had installed the vast majority of the major offensive concepts though there's still work to be done when training camp starts at the end of July, specifically from an individual game plan standpoint.
Cignetti isn't a first-time coordinator. He had multiple stops in the role at the college level, but this is his first go at it in the NFL. No matter the level, he certainly seems comfortable in the job.
“Well, I love it," Cignetti said. "I always have. I love just leading the group. I love trying to put people in a position to be successful. I love the schematics of the game, the organization of being a coordinator. The ability to come out here and try to motivate the group. It’s just something I’ve always enjoyed doing."