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2018 Los Angeles Rams Roster Preview: Can C John Sullivan mentor at center while remaining an inventor?

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Sullivan is back on a strong two-year deal for the Rams, but can he help groom his successor while continuing to play at a high level?

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NFL: Los Angeles Rams-Minicamp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a new year for the Los Angeles Rams offensive line with the same starting five.

After spending the 2017 offseason acquiring veteran free agents in C John Sullivan and LT Andrew Whitworth to shore up the line, the Rams continued to build out the unit by spending significant capital in the 2018 NFL Draft on players who are likely to be groomed into starting spots in LT Joseph Noteboom (roster preview) and C Brian Allen (roster preview).

Sullivan was a strong pickup for the Rams in 2017. According to PFF, Sullivan was in the top ten for centers in terms of grade and rated out strong in both run and pass blocking. With such high marks despite his age (he turns 33-years old next month), Sullivan received invitations in free agency before ultimately re-signing with the Rams on a two-year deal.

Roster Battle

Sullivan is safe as the starting center for the Rams. The only problem that seems to be able to derail Sullivan is the injury bug. While Sullivan was healthy for 15 starts resting in the final week in the pre-postseason game against the San Francisco 49ers, he missed portions of three games with various ailments (hip, knee, hand). Part of the reason Sullivan was a bargain last season was that he had battled injuries with Washington after a strong stint in Minnesota between 2009-2014.

With Allen being drafted and Austin Blythe (roster preview) still in the fold, the Rams are likely set on the interior. There will likely not be competition for the starting spot, but there should be a fierce battle among the depth behind the entrenched starting lineup.

Expectations

Sullivan is a proven commodity but also not getting any younger. He’ll likely be unchallenged as the starter but an injury on paper would not doom the Rams because of the depth that is being built up behind him. Sullivan impressed me the most with his durability last season. The knee/hip injury against the Arizona Cardinals seemed like a multi-week issue, but he came back with minimal missed time to tough it out.

Chances of Making the Final Roster (10/10)

The only thing that would prevent Sullivan from making the roster would be his inability to stay healthy. He started in 15 games but did miss some snaps in 2017. The Rams value his leadership AND ability. Sullivan is a key piece to the Rams now and in the future as he could perhaps continue to play very well while teaching players like Allen the nuances of the NFL.

It would be a true shocker if Sullivan wasn’t starting in Week 1 because that would mean confluence of really terrible events would have had to happen if it’s not the case.