NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 23: Quinn Ojinnaka #69 of the Indianapolis Colts gets up slowly as the New Orleans Saints celebrate a Leigh Torrence #24 interception for a touchdown during the game on October 23, 2011 at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Do the St. Louis Rams have an early favorite in the race to fill the left guard spot? They just might thanks to the early work of veteran Quinn Ojinnaka, who has started to put down roots on the left side of the center in training camp. His second stint with the Rams in two years already looks more successful than the last, and if he pans out in the role, it could be yet another testament to the power of this year's wholesale coaching staff changes.
The Rams added Ojinnaka in 2011, the last regime. He was released before the start of the season, landing with Indianapolis.
Offensive line coach Paul Boudreau and general manager Les Snead know him from their days together in Atlanta. A tackle by trade, Ojinnaka saw his last heavy dose of playing time as an interior lineman, a right guard with the Falcons in 2009.
He made five starts in 2009 at right guard. Pro Football Focus graded him out with 5.4 mark in pass blocking , but a -5.5 against the run. In the game-by-game stats, a game against the Jets and another against the Buccaneers did the most to drag his score down.
Ojinnaka at least knows a little something about the left side of the line, having started seven games as a left tackle for the Falcons in 2007. His versatility caught Jeff Fisher's attention at practice this week.
"Doing good," Fisher responded when asked to evaluate his current starting left guard. "He's working guard. He potentially could do the tackle and he's smart."
Competition for the spot is bound to heat up, especially once players start hitting and giving coaches a better assessment of their viability under fire. If rookie fifth-round pick Rokevious Watkins gets in shape, he could be in the horse race, but each missed snap dings the rookie's case a little more. Bryan Mattison is another candidate for the job.
Whoever wins out in the left guard battle, the Rams are going to be counting on Paul Boudreau to turn either a pair of journeymen or a rookie into a capable blocker.