Saffold injury creates opportunity

EARTH CITY, Mo. – Although the St. Louis Rams would have preferred to make it through the preseason without any injuries, the loss of right tackle Rodger Saffold for a game or two because of a dislocated left shoulder could turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher confirmed Saffold’s injury Friday afternoon, saying Saffold's shoulder dislocated backward but was popped back into place. The injury is likely to cost Saffold a game or two in the preseason.

“He is very sore,” Fisher said. “In these instances there is going to be some swelling, some pain and you just have to work through that and restrengthen it. You just want to make sure that the integrity of the joint is OK, and based on all indications it is, so we’re lucky.”

Because Saffold is expected to return with time to spare before the regular season begins, he should be able to get up to speed to step back into his position without any issues.

What complicates the matter for Saffold is the lost repetitions he could be getting during the next couple of weeks at his new position on the right side. Saffold struggled a bit making that move in the spring but had shown signs of settling in on the right side early in camp.

Fisher doesn’t think the lost time will hurt Saffold’s transition much.

“He’s really had a good camp,” Fisher said. “He’s doing well out there. A lot of it is footwork, a lot of it is understanding the stuff that takes place inside the meeting room, so it will be a setback, but I don’t think it’s going to hurt him. He’s a smart guy and he and Harvey [Dahl] work real well together. So we will get him back as soon as we can.”

In the meantime, the opportunity for some of the Rams’ younger linemen to get reps with the first-team offense could come in handy, especially considering how little experience there is behind the presumptive starters.

Should Chris Williams win the starting left guard job, the Rams will have a projected starting five on the line of left tackle Jake Long, Williams, center Scott Wells, right guard Dahl and right tackle Saffold. They have a combined 327 regular-season starts.

Behind that group the Rams have a group of linemen that, even if the most experienced guys make the roster, collectively has a maximum of eight regular-season starts.

After Long and Saffold, Joe Barksdale is the most experienced tackle on the roster. He made a pair of starts in Saffold’s place when he was injured last season. Williams technically would qualify as the most experienced backup tackle, but for now he’s working exclusively at guard.

The Rams originally added Barksdale on Sept. 27, 2012, after the Raiders waived him. He appeared in 16 games as a rookie for Oakland but did not make any starts.

During the offseason, Barksdale spent time training with Rams Hall of Fame tackle Jackie Slater in an effort to work on his fundamentals.

Barksdale stepped in for Saffold on Thursday night and fared well at right tackle for about a dozen snaps before moving over to the left side for the bulk of his 40 snaps.

“Joe did fine,” Fisher said. “Joe played last year a couple games and he did well. Joe is lining up against some good defensive ends here in practice every day and he got on the field and did well, knew what to do. So we are totally comfortable with Joe doing that.”

Ty Nsekhe and Sean Hooey are the only other true tackles on the roster, and they, too, should benefit from extra reps while Saffold is out. Nsekhe played the most snaps of anyone on the roster Thursday with 54 against the Browns. Hooey played 26.