THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) Los Angeles Rams center Brian Allen started to build a rapport with quarterback Jared Goff last season as a rookie when starter John Sullivan would be held out of practice early in the week to rest and recuperate.
Allen was again snapping the ball to Goff during the first day of organized team activities Monday. In his second season, however, Allen will not have to make way for Sullivan.
“We had a lot of time to play together last year Monday through Thursday, and then John took over on the weekends. But now it’s a full-time gig for me,” Allen said.
How Allen settles into his new position could determine whether the Rams reach the Super Bowl for the second consecutive season. It is the biggest change on an offensive line that has been a marvel of health and consistent play during the previous two seasons under coach Sean McVay. Sullivan started 35 of a possible 36 games during the regular season and playoffs during that span.
The Rams chose not to exercise a team option in March to bring back the 33-year-old Sullivan for a third season and instead put into action a succession plan that started when they selected Allen in the fourth round of the 2018 draft.
Allen got a “redshirt year” last season to learn from the veteran lineman and work with Goff, all without the pressure of having to play a critical role for the eventual NFC champions.
Offensive line coach Aaron Kromer also had Allen learning to play guard to give the position group more flexibility. Such practice was particularly helpful in helping Allen learn blocking schemes in McVay’s offense.
“It really forces you to know it better and know what everyone is doing,” Allen said. “As a center that’s kind of your job, but to have that, it just makes you stay on top of it a little bit better.”
Allen believes that experience will give him the best opportunity to succeed in the NFL, and he is immensely grateful to Sullivan for the part he played in that development.
“It’s sad not having him here,” Allen said. “I’m just kind of out here sometimes thinking what would he do here, what would he say to me here, stuff like that. He was a great mentor for me and I couldn’t thank that guy enough.”
Allen wasn’t the only young Rams player to benefit from what Sullivan could offer on and off the field. Goff credits Sullivan’s vast understanding and recognition of opposing defenses for playing a part in his improvement over the past two seasons.
Without the trustworthy Sullivan there to change protections at the line of scrimmage, Goff and Allen are working to build a more collaborative approach to making calls in hopes of overcoming the lack of experience.
“With Brian, there is some of me and him working together a little bit more and trying to solve problems at the same time at the line where I could lean on John so heavily,” Goff said. “I expect Brian to get there, but he’s just in his first full year of actually playing.”
The plan is to show Allen as many different defensive alignments as possible over the next few months to make sure he is on the same page with Goff, but McVay understands there are limits to what a coach can do in creating the relationship between a center and quarterback. The early signs are promising, McVay said, pointing to how Goff is talking to Allen.
“I think he and Brian are really getting comfortable with one another, and you can hear it,” McVay said. “Their communication after periods, a certain sets of plays, whatever it is, their dialogue is ongoing and that’s the most important thing.”
Thanks to the support system put in place last year, Allen is confident he will be ready to start on Sundays later this year.
“Excited for the opportunity and this is what I’ve been working for my whole life,” Allen said. “It’s here.”
NOTES: RB Todd Gurley, DE Dante Fowler, CB Aqib Talib and CB Marcus Peters did not attend the workout. McVay said all four players communicated their plans with the Rams and none of the absences were unexpected. Fowler could join the team later this week, McVay said.
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