When the St. Louis Rams selected versatile offensive lineman Barrett Jones in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, chances are they made that choice due to depth concerns along their offensive front. Given the fact that the team played much of the 2012 season with just one player that had been penciled in to start week one that only further enhanced the sentiment of what a wise choice it was by the organization. Perhaps the team was also taking into account the idea of unforeseen circumstances, and that would be where this most recent development would be categorized.
Last year’s week one starter as a rookie at left guard, Rokevious Watkins, didn’t last long after a season-ending ankle ailment landed him on injured reserve following the opening contest. He won’t even make it that far as the starter in 2013 as the now second-year guard out of South Carolina has been suspended for one game for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. The league did not explain why Watkins received just one game as opposed to the typical four game sentence.
How the rookie Jones figure in to this equation is that he is now officially in the mix for the taking over that starting gig. The competition will be fierce between Shelley Smith (who started six games a year ago), former first round pick Chris Williams (who signed last year after being cut by the Chicago Bears), and Jones. One player from this trio will likely get the starting nod at the left guard position, and it might as well be Jones.
During his collegiate career at Alabama, the all-purpose lineman Jones played every position along the offensive front. A flexible player like that is invaluable at the next level, and the Rams will likely utilize all of his adaptability traits throughout his time in St. Louis.
When I said shortly after Jones was drafted that he should have a starting spot somewhere up front, I never imagined the opportunity being handed to him in this manner. That’s the nature of the league however, and each guy is just one play away from being the starter. In this case it didn’t even take any on-field action for Jones to be thrust into prime position for a starting job, but if he can ultimately win the gig in camp, it’s going to be tough to ever wrestle it away from him.