New Rams QB Gilbert eager to prove his worth on the gridiron

Garrett Gilbert will be competing for one of the Rams' backup QB spots in training camp.

ST. LOUIS — Garrett Gilbert is ready to start asking questions.

Lots and lots of questions.  

The quarterback the Rams selected in the sixth round Saturday got to meet the rest of the St. Louis QBs — Sam Bradford, Shaun Hill and Austin Davis — on Tuesday and almost immediately began to pick their brains.

"I got to start asking some questions to all three quarterbacks," Gilbert said when he was introduced to the media at Rams Park. I’m really excited to jump in and start learning and working alongside those guys."

What did he ask?

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"Just a couple things, basically just watching them do some routes individually," Gilbert said. "Try to stick my head in the huddle every now and then to hear a play call or something like that, so just asking them what they’re seeing, what they’re looking at in individual routes to be able to start picking up some things."

Cree Morris isn’t surprised.

Morris, who played quarterback at San Diego State when Marshall Faulk was starring for the Aztecs, was in training camp with the Los Angeles Rams in 1994 and then the St. Louis Rams the following year. He has worked as a quarterback coach in San Diego since and worked with Gilbert throughout January and February to prepare for his pro day.

"The thing about Garrett that is so impressive is his knowledge of the game, and not just the X’s and O’s, but he understands how to be a leader," Morris said. "He understands how to compete at the highest level. He’s extremely level-headed and calm — everything you would want in a starting quarterback. His knowledge of the game is very impressive — from down and distances to clock management to X’s and O’s, (he) was phenomenal. He’s one of the smartest quarterbacks I’ve ever got the chance to work with."

Gilbert was kind of a surprise pick for the Rams, who took the SMU quarterback with their second selection in the sixth round (No. 214 overall).

St. Louis had a scout at Gilbert’s pro day and then did a private workout with him with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti.


"They were impressed with him," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "He threw the ball well. He’s poised in the pocket. He’s big, tall, strong. He’s got some mobility and has got good arm strength. We felt like he’s got a chance to come in and compete."

Gilbert, who will battle Davis in training camp for the No. 3 spot on the St. Louis depth chart, was the 13th and final quarterback selected over the seven rounds of the draft.

After picking Mizzou cornerback E.J. Gaines earlier in the sixth round, at No. 188, the Rams watched Ball State’s Keith Wenning (No. 194 to Baltimore) and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd (No. 213 to New York Jets) — both quarterbacks the team had been linked to — come off the board.

But Gilbert, a 6-foot-4, 230-pounder, fits the bill as a developmental quarterback prospect who has extensive college experience at both Texas and then later SMU, where he played for former NFL coach June Jones.

"He has borderline pro physical skills but the size, intelligence and arm strength to be a solid backup with developmental time," said former NFL scout Dan Shonka of Ourlads’ NFL Scouting Services. "Transfer from the University of Texas. He was constantly under duress with a young offensive line at SMU and didn’t have time to set his feet and throw. Good height and arm strength to play on Sundays. Can make all the short, medium and long NFL throws. Hard to read at times because of the overall personnel breakdowns, but his accuracy and ball placement are above average."

Morris thinks Gilbert was the steal of the draft going in the sixth round. The former Rams QB is biased, of course, but it’s not like late-round or even undrafted quarterbacks have never emerged from relative obscurity to win games in the NFL.

"I think he can have a 10-15 year career. I truly do," Morris said. "He understands it. Physically, he’s 6-foot-4, 230 pounds. He can make every throw on the field. He has all the intangibles. He’s not going to wow anybody with his feet. He’s not a scrambling, running quarterback. Not that he can’t do that, but that’s not going to be his forte. But I’ll tell you what, I guarantee you that he can win St. Louis a lot of games if he ends up having to play. Look at his track record.

"In high school he was very successful. He got thrown to the dogs basically at Texas as a freshman. Had to battle back from some injuries and still compete. He ended up transferring to SMU, where he had to learn a whole new system, whole new coaching staff and gain their trust. Then he got hurt and he kept battling back. You talk about a guy that doesn’t have any quit in him."

Gilbert’s father, Gale, was a career NFL backup who appeared in 58 games, with four starts, for the Seahawks, Bills and Chargers over a 10-year span. Gilbert had appeared in 36 college games at Texas and SMU before a breakthrough senior season last fall.

He completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 3,528 yards, with 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and ran for 267 yards and six more scores in 10 games before being sidelined with a knee injury.

Gilbert said Saturday that his college experience, which included playing against Alabama in the BCS Championship Game as a freshman at Texas after Colt McCoy got hurt, has prepared him for this opportunity.

"I definitely had a little bit of a roller-coaster college experience, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything," he said. "I feel like it has made me both a stronger person and a stronger football player and helped me get to this point. … I’m excited about where it led me and, obviously, where it will continue to lead me."

According to Morris, it could lead the quarterback quite far.  

"I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people and he’s a guy they are going to want to hold on to because he understands this game," he said. "When I say he understands it, his dad played 11 years in the pros, he understands the X’s and O’s, he understands the travel, he understands the grind. He’s grown up in the locker room. You’re talking about a guy who has been around this game his whole life."