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Sean McVay confirms a position switch along the offensive line

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By: JasonDalessandro

Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Rookie standout Steve Avila will make the move from left guard to center for 2024

One of the biggest moves of the Los Angeles Rams 2024 free agency period was signing former Detroit Lions guard Jonah Jackson. While it was clear LA could potentially bring in some offensive line help heading into the new league year, left guard seemed like one of the few spots that was already secure, with rookie standout Steve Avila starting every game last year and playing extremely well. Right guard was also clearly locked up with the re-signing of Kevin Dotson just days before Jackson’s acquisition.

Immediately, questions were raised as to who would potentially be moved to center, as both Avila and Jackson had experience playing in the middle. However, out of the two, the consensus among most was that Avila would probably be the one to make the shift given his previous experience in college where he started at center for two years at TCU before switching to guard ahead of the 2022 season.

On Wednesday, head coach Sean McVay ended the speculation, confirming that Avila would be the one making the move from guard to center, after the team’s previous starter Coleman Shelton voided his contract to test the free agency market.

“That was really never part of the plan until you realize, ‘Wow, Coleman Shelton voided his contract,’” McVay said at the NFL Annual Meeting. “We always wanted to get Coleman back. And then by nature of just kind of investing and spending some time evaluating the guard market, you re-sign Kevin (Dotson) ahead of the two-day negotiating period, and then you realize, okay, wow, I had always just assumed he (Jonah Jackson) was gonna go back to Detroit. And then you realize, wow, we might actually have the opportunity to acquire him as well. Hey, Kevin’s at right guard, Jonah played left guard, and oh, by the way, this stud rookie left guard that you had, he was an excellent center at TCU.”

Avila offers a ton of versatility along the offensive line for LA, with experience playing both guard positions and center in college. According the the Rams area scout Cedric Jones, who was the lead on scouting Avila, the former TCU Horned Frog played over 1,000 snaps at guard and 1,000 snaps at center.

“A guy that offers us the versatility that will help us and however that fits in there, kind of gives Sean and the coaches room to do whatever they want to do and make the pieces fit,” Jones said last year.

McVay also recognized Avila’s versatile skillset last season, making him believe it was a move that he would be more than capable of making.

“He’s got an amazing athleticism for a big player,” McVay said. “He’s got great contact balance, you can see his ability to take second-level angles of departure, fit second-level blocks, play in space. That was one of the things that I went back and evaluated. I think he’s got the natural ability to play on the left or the right side of the line, be another lefty center for us.”

McVay did reiterate that Shelton was the original plan at center, but once he voided his deal and the team realized they had a chance to get Jackson, the game plan switched and they began talking with Avila about the situation.

“And you say, you know what, he did a great job at center, there’s a lot of work (there),” McVay continued “He’s like, ‘Man, I don’t know as much as Coleman.’ I said, ‘That’s okay! You don’t have to right now. Let’s just take incremental steps,’” McVay said. “He’s a guy that loves being in the building. And so, like I was talking about earlier, you don’t need to go from A to Z, let’s just take the incremental steps. Let’s continue to learn, with the right foundational understanding of what are we trying to get done? What are you looking at? What are the things that are important to be able to communicate?”

On paper, the Los Angeles offensive line looks to be one of the better starting five in league. With a ton of size in the middle, it should help pave the way for RB Kyren Williams, the NFL’s second leading rusher in 2023, however that will all hinge on Avila’s ability to make a successful transition to the offensive line’s signal caller.