LA Rams UDFA George Silvanic: Return of the two-way player?

Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

Wait, what? Did the LA Rams sign an offensive lineman or a defensive lineman with the news of the Rams adding undrafted free agent George Silvanic from Air Force to the roster? Well, just for the record, he has been recorded as a defensive tackle on the team’s undrafted free agent signing roster.

There was a time in the NFL’s history, in its early formative years, that two-way players (defined as a player who plays both an offensive and defensive position) were more common. And then, they went the way of the dodo bird. Extinct, or, at the very least, wrested on the precipice of the brink of extinction.

The conventional thinking was that you would wear out the player who lines up for your team on both sides of the ball. Over-use them to the point of injury. Wear ’em out. Too exhausting. And too difficult to play both positions at a high level. Football became a game of specialization, of clearly defined roles, clear and rigidly defined position play.

Perhaps one of the most well-known examples of this practice was that of Chicago Bears starting lineman William “The Refridgerator” Perry, who was a starting defensive lineman, but who would also play fullback in goalline offensive plays.

Two-way returns

That all changed in 2017 when the Baltimore Ravens’ Patrick Ricard became the most recent example of a bona fide two-way player in the NFL, seeing the field as both a fullback and a defensive lineman. And he didn’t wear himself out or get injured. In fact, he still plays the game at a high level, a critical performer, and a valued member of the team. Is he an outlier? A throwback? A blast from the NFL past?

How about calling him a player who harkens back to the halcyon days of the NFL? To a time when football was played more like a fistfight in the dirt and the mud and real, by-God natural grass, instead of the game, it’s morphed into today which resembles basketball on cleats played on synthetic turf with video-replay stoppages and television timeouts.

At the collegiate level, some players do play on both sides of the ball, especially some of the more electric athletes. While he was at UCLA, linebacker Myles Jack also played at running back, and he was awarded both the Pac-12 Conference Offensive and Defensive Freshman Player of the Year. But in the NFL, he reverted to strictly playing linebacker for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

From the Air Force Academy

The LA Rams signed a 6-foot-5, 285-pound undrafted free agent named George Silvanic out of the Air Force, and he plays not one, not two, but three different positions – tight end and offensive lineman, and defensive lineman. Talk about a player affording the Rams positional versatility!

It’s a little unfair to call him a gadget player or a Swiss Army knife player. And while calling him “tight-end-turned-offensive-lineman-turned-defensive-lineman-turned-offensive-lineman-again” (as he did in this year’s game versus the U.S. Naval Academy) may be accurate, it’s a bit wordy, too.

Now, the question becomes, what do the Rams do with him? How do they make the best use of such a unique skillset? Assuming he makes the 53-man roster, of course, which is always a risky proposition when a team hasn’t spent a draft pick on procuring your services. Any UDFA player hangs by the thinnest of threads until the final roster comes out. Nothing’s a given for their lot. They have to earn it, even more so than a drafted player.

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Sometimes a UDFA can wring a signing bonus out of a team, but  Silvanac is not one the Rams had to dangle any cash in front of to entice him to a signing. I’m thinking Silvanac’s multi-dimensional utility just might give him a leg up on his competition in training camp, and this might just be a guy who sticks. And besides, outliers – in any walk of life – are just cool.