After witnessing the St. Louis Rams’ 14-13 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night in their preseason finale, it became pretty apparent that the number two overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Greg Robinson, will not be part of the Rams’ starting lineup on opening day. Robinson, who was projected to be the Rams’ starting left guard, started and got a lot of playing time at left tackle, while all the other starters along the line—including former Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph, who was scheduled to be a backup guard—took the night off.
In all fairness, the 21-year-old Robinson has been put in a difficult position so far during his NFL career. It was already expected that he would be raw, seeing as he declared for the draft after his redshirt sophomore season and spent the two seasons of his college career playing in an unrealistically run-heavy offense. Immediately after being taken, Robinson was told to start preparing to play left guard, a position he hadn’t played since high school, as a rookie so that he could develop his skills under less pressure and fill the Rams’ greatest position of need on the line.
However, with starting left tackle Jake Long working his way back from ACL surgery, Robinson started getting reps at his college position of left tackle so that he could be a contingency plan if Long didn’t progress as planned. He was supposed to split things evenly with Rodger Saffold, the projected starter at right guard and a former left tackle as well, but after Saffold suffered an injury that kept him out for the vast majority.
As a result of that, Robinson was put under an immense amount of stress while attempting to learn two positions. That’s rough for a guy who is so young to begin with and in addition to that, doesn’t appear to be an exceptionally quick learner.
It’s crucial that Rams fans not lose their patience with Robinson. In all honesty, Robinson was the dirty O word—overrated—by the national draft media heading into the draft process because of the highlight reel blocks he delivered in Auburn’s high-profile games near the end of the year. Many of them ignored the plays, like the one below captured from the BCS National Championship Game, which highlighted the significant technique issues that Robinson had, namely with the use of his leverage, his arm extension, and his general pass-blocking technique.
With that said, he’s a massive physical presence that possesses a ridiculous amount of strength and is very athletic for a player of his size. If he’s coached up properly, there’s no reason to believe that he can’t be one of the better linemen in the game.
If the Rams wanted a guy that they could plug in and have be effective right away, they probably would have gone with Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews or Notre Dame’s Zack Martin. Clearly, by putting him at guard to start with and now taking him out of the starting lineup, the Rams are showing that they view Robinson as a bit of a project who they expect to be great several years down the road rather than good right now. So while it’s tempting to get on Robinson for not being a day one starter, it’s best to take a step back and be patient with him. After all, he’s only 21.