I’m sure there are countless St. Louis Rams fans who wake up in a cold sweat after nightmares of the 2009 NFL Draft (including our own managing editor). Lord knows former general manager Billy Devaney and former head coach Steve Spagnuolo sure do (please note the emphasis on “former”).
In that draft, with the second overall pick, the Rams selected Jason Smith, tackle out of Baylor University. The team thought they had the cornerstone of their offensive line for the next 10 years. Instead, it was a struggle to keep him healthy for 10 games a season.
A nagging knee injury and concussion problems took a physical toll on Smith. But his raw skills never fully developed and he struggled to protect the quarterback. Two poor qualities of a potential franchise left tackle.
So when reports out of the Rams OTAs said that Greg Robinson struggled to adjust to his new role, you could feel the collective shudder through Rams Nation. The Rams picked Robinson, a tackle, second overall in this year’s draft. But with Jake Long entrenched as the starting left tackle and Joe Barksdale holding his own at right tackle, the Rams moved Robinson inside to left guard to start his career.
The initial transition hasn’t gone as smoothly as hoped, to say the least.
“It’s frustrating that I’m not up to pace right now because the playbook is more intense and things are changing,” Robinson said during OTAs. “But once I get back to where I’m comfortable, things will calm down and I can be myself out there. I didn’t know what to expect, honestly. I put a lot of pressure on myself because I like to challenge myself. It’s something I want to do and just stand out to the coaches and let them be comfortable with their choice.”
On a positive note, good for Robinson for owning up to the struggles. It shows he cares about his craft and isn’t satisfied until he gets it right.
But in the cold world of sports, results are all that matter. And the Rams drafted Robinson to fortify their offensive line and to be a lynchpin on the line for years to come. For now, however, the adjustments are getting the better of the former Auburn Tiger.
“It’s just everything happens faster inside,” he said. “Outside you have a little more time to kick. The guys are faster, but these guys are just quick and trained to rush the passer. It’s just about keeping my feet working and knowing when to pull. Right now it’s a lot of thinking going on, it causes me to move a little slower. Once I get up to speed, I can move with the snap count and stuff like that.”
It’s a common theme you hear from rookies transitioning from the college ranks to the NFL. The players are bigger. The players are faster. The game is faster. It takes time to adjust, especially when learning a new position.
One of the knocks against Robinson prior to the draft was his pass-blocking ability. He has a lot of natural talent and scouts believe he can develop into a franchise tackle, but there is still lots of development that needs to take place. Fortunately for Robinson and the Rams, the team has Paul Boudreau as the offensive line coach, who is widely recognized as one of the best in the league at his craft. This is the guy who made Barry Richardson into a capable blocker for a full season in 2012.
The other factor to take away from this
cataclysmic disaster early hiccup is that it only entails events from OTAs. Training camp hasn’t even started and the season opener isn’t for another two months. Comfort will come with the new role as Robinson gains more repetitions. And both he and the Rams will reap the rewards of the efforts.