When Greg Robinson was drafted by the St. Louis Rams with the #2 overall pick in 2014, it was understood that there would be some growing pains before he was ready to be the future LT. After all, his college offense was centered around a rush heavy attack featuring his bestie and current Rams teammate Tre Mason.
Early in 2014 camp, the then 21 year old freak of nature from Auburn University had discussed with ESPN's Nick Wagoner how a switch to left guard (incumbent left tackle Jack Long remained the favorite) was going more slowly than he would have liked. This left many to wonder why the Rams would overload his plate so early, having him learn two positions (although he would be sandwiched between two veterans who were comfortable with the offense and could put him in position).
The Rams certainly took their time with him, however, and did not rush him into starting duty. Robinson did not start a game until week 6, a Monday night game versus the San Francisco 49er's, pushing Rodger Saffold to right guard and taking over at left guard. He was serviceable, opening up some holes for the running game when he was communicating well with his LT/C but still having the expected rookie lapses and mistakes, especially on angles and footwork. Recently, Rams OL Coach Paul Boudreau mentioned that it was "probably a disservice" to Robinson to start him at guard. However, at the time Fisher wanted his best five linemen on the field, including his top draft pick.
A torn ACL to Jake Long in week 8 meant that Robinson would be thrown into his future position much sooner than planned. Robinson made his first start at left tackle in week 9, also versus the 49er's, after starting three games at left guard. He had his share of lumps there as well, displaying inconsistent play while providing some flashes of the type of power and athletic ability that made him a high pick. His blocking ability on screens definitely stood out.
Playing at 330+ in 2014, Robinson's frame was a bit heavier than you would prefer at left tackle, even with an athletic frame that was already being compared to that of Walter Jones' and Orlando Pace's. Now, Robinson has reported to camp at 315, noticeably trimmer in an effort to improve his footwork and first step. The results are promising so far, holding his own against Robert Quinn in drills and team activities.
After the release of Jake Long in March, it was clear that the left tackle position was now Greg Robinson's job to lose. The Rams drafted four OL (Rob Havenstein, Jamon Brown, Andrew Donnal and Cody Wichmann) in the 2015 NFL draft, as well as OT Isaiah Battle in the 2015 NFL supplemental draft. However, Havenstein is expected to start at right tackle, Brown at right guard, while Donnal/Wichmann will be role players.
The wild card is Battle, who has the talent to start at left tackle but certainly not immediately given his development needs. The Rams are treating 2015 as a redshirt year for Battle, so Robinson will have at least a year to prove he is the long term answer at left tackle.
After an up and down rookie year that ended with Robinson nursing a toe injury in the final weeks, Robinson is healthier, slimmer and expected to lead the Rams' offensive line to a dominant left side. With Robinson anchoring the left tackle position, and Saffold providing steady inside play, there's no reason why the Rams can't pick up big chunks of yardage behind those two.
It's optimistic, however, to believe that Robinson will be an All-Pro level pass blocker in year two, but anything can happen given his blend of power, quick feet, coordination and competitive fire. Rams OL coach Paul Boudreau has said it is night and day after Robinson spent his offseason in the facility. He just needs to consistently put it together for 70 plays a game, 16 games a season. If he does that, we'll revisit those Walter Jones and Orlando Pace similarities.
Chances of Making the Roster (10/10)
Robinson is one of the Rams' key offensive players this season, and they will need him to be healthy and contributing for the Rams to sniff the playoffs. Why? Expect the Rams to rely on their run game heavily while the passing game develops under Nick Foles, Frank Cignetti, developing wide receivers and a baby faced line. If Robinson can shine in the run game, expect the Rams to churn plenty of yards in his wake.