Rodger-Saffold-Jets-2012

Rodger Saffold: quietly elite in pass protection

I'll be honest, I didn't expect to be writing this article. Not after Rodger Saffold's rookie promise evaporated in an all-around-awful 2011 season. Not after Saffold worked his way back to the starting lineup, only to be laid out flat on a stretcher in the first quarter of his first home game back.

Nope, I was, rather petulantly and rather foolishly, willing to write this guy off as yet another Billy Devaney blunder, a would-be foundation block of what turned out to be a gingerbread house. I was (and still am, truth be told) all for a tackle-heavy Rams draft in 2013.

But quietly, in the middle of a five-game winless streak, while I was engaged in my writing-off and my looking-to-next-year, Saffold crept back into the starting lineup. And quietly, oh-so-quietly, he has done something surprising:

He's dominated.

Or at least, that's what the stats are telling us. In an admittedly small sample of four-plus games, Saffold has dropped back to pass-block 138 times, per Pro Football Focus. Only twice has he allowed his man to so much as breathe the wrong way on Sam Bradford – one sack, and one hit.

That's a pass-blocking efficiency rating of 98.7%, ahead of elite uglies Joe Thomas, Ryan Clady and D'Brickashaw Ferguson.

And it's not as though he's been facing dogmeat, either: in three successive games he has not allowed a sack to the 49ers' Aldon Smith (he got his on slightly illegal inside twists around LG Shelley Smith), the Jets' combo of Bryan Thomas and Muhammad Wilkerson, or the Cardinals' Sam Acho.

Now after missing significant chunks of the last two seasons to unlucky injuries, he still has to prove that he's durable enough to handle a full NFL workload at its second-most-important position. But working under the tutelage of Paul Boudreaux and working next to a rotating cast of characters at left guard (four different line partners in five games), Saffold has at least reminded us all that he can actually play a little football.

He might just be pretty damn good, if his body lets him.

Related reading: Brian Wagoner details Saffold's memorable Thanksgiving weekend, which featured the birth of his first child and a Rams win. (StLouisRams.com)

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