EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Surrounded by a group of offensive linemen that includes four rookies taken in this year's NFL draft, second-year offensive tackle Greg Robinson finds himself in something of a strange position.
After the St. Louis Rams opted for a nearly complete makeover of their offensive line in the offseason, Robinson is now the second-most experienced projected starter on the line. This time last year, Robinson was attaching himself to the likes of Jake Long, Rodger Saffold and Joe Barksdale in an effort to get up to speed as fast as possible.
A year later, Robinson is the player the rookie linemen are turning to for answers.
"Last year, I was the one asking the questions," Robinson said, laughing.
That's not to say that Robinson has all the answers yet, either. When the Rams used the No. 2 overall pick on him in the 2014 NFL draft, they knew it would take some time for him to turn raw ability into polished production. That is why Robinson's rookie season came with more than its share of bumps along the way.
Robinson started out as a guard, biding his time on the bench the first four weeks of the season before finally moving into the starting lineup. With Long in place, the Rams hoped Robinson could help at guard for a season before taking his projected left tackle spot permanently. That experiment lasted little more than two games before another ACL injury ended Long's season in week 8.
The Rams decided to turn the future into the present by moving Robinson outside to left tackle. They stuck with that idea this offseason when they released Long.
Buoyed by the knowledge that his natural left tackle position is where his future lies, Robinson has spent the offseason recovering from a turf toe injury suffered in the season finale against Seattle and attempting to get in better shape.
It's so far, so good on both fronts as Robinson said he has dropped 20 pounds to get down to 319 from 339 and is already doing individual drills after rehabilitating from the toe injury.
"I feel like I’m making progress every day," Robinson said. "They don’t really want me rushing it. So I’m just going with whatever the coaches say and just trying to stay locked in and pay as much attention as possible."
Robinson probably could participate in team drills during practice now, but the Rams don't see the need to rush him.
“He’s been working here," coach Jeff Fisher said. "He’s been rehabbing and he’s working and he feels good. His strength has increased. If there’s a little bit of weight loss and increase of strength, that’s a good thing.”
Dropping the weight should allow Robinson to use his athleticism in space more.
"That’s the plan," Robinson said. "I feel like I’m moving a lot better. It’s coming from not being able to run at all to making progress and transition back to the field, but they don’t want me rushing it."
In the meantime, Robinson has spent those team drill sessions focused on the mental side of things. Unlike last year, when he was asked to learn two positions at the same time, Robinson no longer has to concern himself with anything but tackle.
With the Rams adding some new offensive wrinkles, including more zone blocking, Robinson is getting a chance to do more of what he did at Auburn, where the Tigers mixed zone and man blocking schemes. The Rams appear to be headed toward mixing the two more than they already did this year.
Robinson hopes those new wrinkles and his additional time spent learning the offense will pay off in his second season. With three new starters projected elsewhere on the line, the Rams can't afford to wait for Robinson to take much more time to develop.
"I feel like the game has slowed down a little bit for me, just by me going through the walkthroughs and getting off on the snap count and stuff," Robinson said. "I haven’t been making as many mistakes as I was last year, so I think the main focus is just getting the playbook and trying my best to learn as much as possible so I won’t be thinking as much on the line."