While some veterans like Jake Long and James Laurinaitis have sat out the preseason letting their bodies eviscerate the injuries of battles prior, the rookies are riding the bumps and bruises of the NFL learning curve.
Let's take a look at how the first year members of the team are faring (good primers from Wagoner here on the Rams' rooks as well as a league-wide look at the top NFL rookies from Stephen White):
Greg Robinson, OL
You take the bad (pass protection technique issues, communication lapses) with the good (Him bear. Him strong. Him lay down on you.). He's working things out, and it's never going to look all that pretty going against the Julius Peppers and Clay Matthewses of the league. The big concern here would be the lack of opportunity to work alongside leftside mate Jake Long. Offensive line work takes unit cohesion to succeed, so seeing the two together on Saturday in Cleveland would be a welcome sight. As of right now, Fisher's saying there's "a chance" Long and linemate Rodger Saffold could return. Fingers crossed.
Aaron Donald, DT
The entire D-line looked pretty lackluster early against the Packers, and Donald wasn't exempt. Much like the Robinson-Long partnership on the offensive side, getting Donald some time with Michael Brockers (who I expect to be the starters sooner rather than later) would be invaluable. While it wasn't the strongest performance against Green Bay, Donald showed plenty in his first go. The Rams have an interesting challenge coming up with Cleveland's line which has stars in LT Joe Thomas and C Alex Mack, subpar options on the right, and a rookie in LG Joel Bitonio. Even if Brockers comes back, keep an eye on where Donald lines up pre-snap.
Lamarcus Joyner, CB
He looks like he's gonna be fine in this defense, but it's hard to tell when your pass rush is non-existent. Corners can't cover guys forever...the big question ahead of the Cleveland game is the gameplan. Do we see a bit less of the Cushion of Death this week against Hoyer and Manziel?
Tre Mason, RB
I wasn't a fan of the pick at the time, and I'm feeling even less comfortable about it now. Mason's is great at not losing speed as he wiggles through the line, and he fights through contact even at his size. Still, he's a liability in pass coverage (that was pronounced against Green Bay with the coaching staff not turning a blind eye to it) and doesn't have the physicality to punish in the run game the way Stacy does, a trait that might have added value in the uberviolent NFC West. He's got a lot to earn against the Browns this weekend.
Maurice Alexander, S
He certainly looked a hell of a lot more prepared against the Packers. Granted, two games is a small sample size, but that kind of improvement suggests good things ahead if a third game makes it a trend. Will be interesting to watch his role on special teams as well.
E.J. Gaines, CB
Injured prior to the Green Bay game, Gaines might need a showing against Cleveland. The cornerback field is CROWDED. He's got a leg up as a 2014 draft pick under Fisher, so he might not quite be on the wrong side of the bubble yet.
Mitchell Van Dyk, OT, & Christian Bryant, S
Looking likely that the practice squad houses both, though Bryant did get his first taste of action after missing out on the Saints game.
Michael Sam, DE
Sam's playing well to this point...he's just not keeping up with Ethan "La Cara Pintada" Westbrooks at DE. There's a case to be made for stashing both at the back end of the 53-man, though...stay tuned.
Demetrius Rhaney, C
Anyone disagree that Rhaney's headed to the practice squad?
Ethan Westbrooks, DE
Wow. Either he's just hit the peak of his football-playing life, or the Rams got a steal. Either way, he's in full competition to make the roster now.
Alex Bayer, TE
Another standout UDFA to this point, Bayer's got a shot at the final cuts as well. He'll definitely be someone to keep an eye on these last two games to see if he gets more time with the second unit and if he's given more run blocking assignments.
Marcus Roberson, CB
The team certainly hasn't shied away from giving him playing time, though he's certainly not top tier yet. Might be able to grab an extra CB spot.
All other UDFAs
Nothing yet. The world is a cold place. Find someplace warm these next few weeks, gents.