Greg Robinson, the former No. 2 overall pick who has struggled at left tackle throughout his three-year career, remains “a big part” of the Los Angeles Rams’ plans moving forward, new coach Sean McVay said Friday.
McVay did not specify whether Robinson would remain at left tackle, but he did praise his talent.
“When you see some of the things he’s able to do, you see the athleticism in space when he’s pulling around and using some of those perimeter schemes that they did offensively last year,” McVay said during a news conference from the team facility, which followed a meet-and-greet with his new assistant coaches.
“He’s a guy that we’re excited to get around. That’s why it’s frustrating that we have to wait so long to get these guys in the building, see them on the grass.”
Robinson has committed an NFL-leading 31 total penalties over the past two years. In 2016, Pro Football Focus graded him 71st among 78 qualified tackles. He was benched on two separate occasions this past season, when the entire offensive line struggled to protect rookie quarterback Jared Goff and create space for running back Todd Gurley.
There was some thought the Rams might simply part ways with Robinson, who will cost about $6.8 million toward the salary cap in 2017, but it appears the new staff is not ready to do that.
New offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, who spent the past two years with the Buffalo Bills, said Robinson has shown “flashes of skills” to remain an NFL left tackle.
“Now, why it’s not consistent, I can’t answer that; I don’t know,” Kromer said. “When I can work with a player and get my hands on him and be outside and ask him to do something and ask him to do it again and ask him to adjust something, then I know what we can do with him, how we can fit him in the offense.
But until then, on tape — I don’t know what he was told. I kind of know what he was supposed to do, but I don’t know what his mindset was. I don’t know it with any of them. So, I’m just looking for individual skills, like a scout.”
At 6-foot-5, 332 pounds, Robinson is surprisingly athletic and has the skills to play left tackle, something that was obvious when he came out of Auburn in 2014 but just hasn’t clicked yet in the NFL.
The Rams’ previous offensive line coach, Paul Boudreau, spoke during the season about Robinson’s inconsistent mechanics.
“He’s all over the place with his feet, he’s all over the place with his hands,” Boudreau said. “And when he gets in trouble, when he stops his feet, he grabs, and he gets those holding penalties that you really don’t need. So, he’s got to concentrate on focusing on the little things.”
The Rams could try moving Robinson to guard, where he can more freely utilize his power. But the best pending free agents are guards, a list that includes Kevin Zeitler, T.J. Lang and Larry Warford. Andrew Whitworth, a 35-year-old former second-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals, is one of few notable left tackles eligible for free agency.
An in-house option at the position, besides Robinson, could be Rodger Saffold, who was perhaps the Rams’ best offensive lineman last year.
Asked about transitioning to guard shortly after the Rams concluded a 4-12 season, Robinson said: “It’s not really something that I’m just going to accept, because I’m so used to playing tackle. It would be hard to adjust. But if I have to adjust, that will be something that I will do.”