What’s Whit­worth to you, Rams?

Team is count­ing on mas­sive left tackle to make huge im­pact on re­tooled of­fen­sive line.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Lind­sey Thiry

One by one, each child climbed aboard, and An­drew Whit­worth kept walk­ing.

Coaches and staff mem­bers turned to watch as Whit­worth, a 6-foot-7, 333pound be­he­moth of a man, car­ried his four young kids across the field at UC Irvine af­ter a two-hour prac­tice.

The Rams’ new left tackle never broke stride.

Whit­worth is an im­pos­ing fig­ure with a mas­sive ath­letic frame and a large bald head. It’s easy to see how his kids can play on him like a jun­gle gym . . . and why friends make a habit of walk­ing be­hind him to watch cu­ri­ous on­look­ers stare.

The Rams made Whit­worth, 35, a top pri­or­ity in free agency and signed the three-time Pro Bowl se­lec­tion to a three-year, $36-mil­lion con­tract, with $15 mil­lion guar­an­teed.

“He’s been ex­actly what we thought and more,” coach Sean McVay said af­ter a week of train­ing camp, adding, “He’s play­ing at an ex­tremely high level.”

Whit­worth, a 12-year pro, has the ex­pe­ri­ence to pro­tect quar­ter­back Jared Goff, the top pick in the 2016 draft.

Of­fen­sive line coach Aaron Kromer said Whit­worth was “like a coach on the field” and pro­vided a steady pres­ence.

“At the right time he will say some­thing in the hud­dle to keep us go­ing or to calm us down,” Kromer said. “He’s re­ally good for all the youth on the of­fense.”

Of­fen­sive line­man Ja­mon Brown, a third-year pro, agreed.

“Since he’s got­ten here and stepped in he’s been a huge help to kind of the de­vel­op­ment for all the young guys like my­self,” Brown said.

Last sea­son, the Rams’ of­fen­sive line strug­gled as the team stum­bled to a 4-12 record. Goff played un­der duress through­out most of his seven starts, and run­ning back Todd Gur­ley was of­ten hit in the back­field.

A new ven­ture, Whit­worth said, was what at­tracted him to the Rams af­ter 11 sea­sons pro­tect­ing quar­ter­backs Car­son Palmer and Andy Dal­ton and mak­ing six play­off ap­pear­ances with the Cincin­nati Ben­gals.

“The op­por­tu­nity to re­ally do some­thing that I thought was a chal­lenge and to do some­thing that I thought I could look back on my ca­reer and say, ‘You know what, I’m glad I ac­cepted that chal­lenge and I didn’t just take the easy route,’ ” Whit­worth said. “To me it was that op­por­tu­nity that re­ally was in­trigu­ing.”

Whit­worth joined a group that in­cluded Brown, thirdyear pro Rob Haven­stein, seven-year vet­eran Rodger Saf­fold and other younger play­ers.

The Rams also signed vet­eran cen­ter John Sul­li­van, who played for McVay with the Washington Red­skins last sea­son.

Kromer, the Buf­falo Bills’ of­fen­sive line coach the last two sea­sons, said the ad­di­tion of Whit­worth and Sul­li­van would help the line im­prove.

“Our big­gest thing is how can we get five guys to play as a group,” Kromer said.

Last Satur­day, in a no­tack­ling prac­tice with the Charg­ers at StubHub Cen­ter, Charg­ers de­fen­sive end Melvin In­gram got to Goff twice and de­fen­sive end Joey Bosa stripped the ball out of the Rams quar­ter­back’s hands.

Gur­ley ran with rel­a­tive ease.

The work­out was an op­por­tu­nity to “test some of our rules up front,” said McVay, who al­tered the lineup the next day.

Dur­ing the off­sea­son, coaches had moved Haven­stein, a two-year starter at right tackle, to right guard. Brown moved from guard to tackle and then beat out Greg Robin­son, who was traded to Detroit.

But af­ter the work­out with the Charg­ers, Haven­stein re­turned to tackle, Brown to guard.

“We’re try­ing to just fig­ure out what the best spot is for them,” McVay said.

Saf­fold, who has played ev­ery po­si­tion on the line ex­cept cen­ter, is ex­pected to stay at left guard, where he started 15 games last sea­son.

Kromer said it would take sev­eral weeks to de­ter­mine the lineup.

For Whit­worth, it could take sev­eral more to an­swer the ques­tion of whether the of­fen­sive line has what it takes to be suc­cess­ful.

“When will you know if the chem­istry is work­ing?” a re­porter asked.

“I’ve pon­dered that ques­tion for the last 12 years,” he said. “The re­al­ity is I don’t think you ever know.

“A lot of camps where we fin­ished and I said, ‘You know what, we’re go­ing to be re­ally good,’ have been some of the worst years, and some of the years that I’m like, ‘Man, we’ve got a ways to go,’ have been some of the best.”

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