This off-season, the Los Angeles Rams filled a left tackle position that hasn’t seen a talented blocker since maybe Orlando Pace.
Andrew Whitworth joined the Rams and will be the designated savior of that position, for now. Whitworth is 35 years old, and maybe has three seasons left in him. If he’s still feeling good after Season Two.
Even at this age, however, he is the best chance the Rams have at a solid blind side tackle. But his time at that spot, and in this league, won’t last forever. The Rams will need to think about going tackle in this draft. They need a long-term answer.
Will Antonio Garcia be it?
Lean big man
Garcia has the stature of a left tackle (6’6″), but not the weight. During his 2016 season at Troy University,Garcia was listed as 303 pounds. It sounds like a healthy weight for someone an offensive lineman, but only if Garcia was maybe four inches shorter. At 6’6″, another 20 or 30 pounds wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Garcia doesn’t appear to be getting heavier any time soon. He weighed in at 293 at the Senior Bowl, making him look more like a fat tight end than an NFL tackle.
Mike Mayock is very high on Antonio Garcia. He listed the left tackle as the third best option at that position. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. even pegged Garcia as the Rams’ first pick in their draft (Round 2).
During his first two seasons as a starter,Garcia started every game. His 2014 season saw him give up two sacks in more than 600 snaps, and three sacks the following year in almost 800 snaps. In 2016, he didn’t surrender a single sack. It’s most notable that he didn’t give up a sack against the likes of Clemson and Ohio defensive end Tarell Basaham, who is considered one of the best pass-rushers in the draft.
Basaham went even so far as to compliment his old Sun-Belt foe during his pre-draft interviews. According to Vikings reporter Craig Peters, Basaham said that Garcia was the toughest tackle he faced in his career.
Tape doesn’t lie
While Garcia received all this praise and is currently graded as an early, post-first-round draft pick, his game tape leads me to believe he may not be as he’s advertised. At least, not right now.
From my eyes, Garcia is an athletic tackle who isn’t convincingly strong and doesn’t stick to his technique.
At the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Garcia showed up and looked better than he had in the trenches. His technique was solid, and he kept it throughout the play.
He did the same thing during the Senior Bowl and the Troy Pro Day. Garcia looked athletic and his form was sound. But that’s when his opponent’s were in their undies holding hitting pads.
When the opposition was suited up for live reps, the results of Garcia’s play looked drastically different.
During his games against Clemson, Ohio, and South Alabama, Garcia abandoned his step-slide technique almost immediately when he faced a fast pass-rusher. He didn’t adapt to the speed or take a different angle. A lot of Garcia’s blocks were successful because he caught the defender and used their momentum against them, guiding them pass the pocket of the quarterback.
That was another issue I found with Garcia: he catches rather than using his hands to block.
Through fatigue or lack of technique, Garcia caught way too many defenders than I was comfortable with.
Garcia is not a finished project and will need a season or two under an NFL position coach and the wing of a veteran to sharpen his play. He’s too undersized to make up for the lack of technique. The Senior Bowl was almost four months ago, and a lot of things can change between now and then. But the fact that Garcia showed up that underweight is worrisome.
But more worrisome than size is his play. His accolades and stats say different, but Garcia’s play has more holes in it than the Rams offensive line. His technique is shaky at-best, his strength is lacking, and he doesn’t use his hands properly, hanging onto defenders more than pushing them off.