St. Louis Rams: Early Rookie Progress Reports
The offseason's noncontact rookie minicamp is now complete, so it's time to check up on the St. Louis Rams' 2014 draft class.
The Rams had two first-round picks in the 2014 NFL draft, so the team was able to acquire a formidable collection of young talent. Now, it's just a matter of coaching up these youngsters and preparing them for NFL action.
This article will provide an update on the progress of St. Louis' top rookies.
OL Greg Robinson
The selection of Greg Robinson at No. 2 overall was perhaps the most exciting pick of St. Louis' entire draft. Robinson's game film demonstrated nothing short of pure dominance, and it's fair to say he's second only to Jadeveon Clowney as the most physically gifted prospect of the entire 2014 class.
Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff spoke with Mike Kelly of CBS radio to give an update on Robinson's progress.
"(Robinson) is a tremendous athlete. He can run around and move gracefully," said Demoff. "He's a massive human being."
Robinson's physical stature and athleticism are not exactly unknown qualities, but Demoff went on to discuss Robinson's skills as a leader—a more underrated aspect to his game: "He's been hard at work. He's been a leader among the rookies," Demoff revealed. "We're excited for OTAs (organized team activities) and training camp, when he gets the pads on."
Robinson's emergence as a team leader is a pleasant surprise. The Rams cut ties with Harvey Dahl following the 2013 season, and Dahl was undoubtedly the enforcer and leader of the unit.
As such, it's comforting to know that Robinson can not only replace Dahl as the new "bully" up front, but he can also mimic Dah's leadership qualities, at least over younger players.
It's also worth noting that Demoff referred to Robinson as a left guard during the interview. It was always assumed that Robinson would begin his career at guard before making the transition to left tackle, but Demoff's comments confirm that assumption.
RB Tre Mason
The rookie making the most headlines as of late is undoubtedly running back Tre Mason, St. Louis' third-round draft pick.
Mason was told by the coaching staff that he'll have a chance to compete for the starting job and unseat incumbent Zac Stacy, per NFL.com:
Of course. That's what coach told me...You know, everybody's drafted to make a difference, and I haven't met one person who runs a race trying to lose. I'm there to compete for the starting job and I hold myself to high standards.
Mason is correct. Not a single NFL player—not even an undrafted rookie—enters training camp with the ultimate goal of being a backup. Every player fights for a job in the lineup, regardless of the unfavorable odds.
Mason is also taking steps to ensure consistency in the upcoming season, according to Eric Edholm of Yahoo Sports. He wants to establish a reputation as a player who produces all four quarters throughout a game.
My training and my work ethic, every little thing I do, helps keep me ahead of the competition. In the fourth quarter, I still feel fresh every game. Some people like to quit then, but that's when I am feeling my best. I strive for that feeling every game because that's when my team needs me the most...First quarter, fourth quarter, all four quarters, whatever it is, you name it, I am ready.
Some writers and fans have hinted that Mason's comments are coming dangerously close to overconfidence and cockiness.
However, for a team that has gone a decade without a playoff appearance, I'm of the firm belief that the Rams need a healthy dose of swagger and pride. If it crosses the line and becomes overconfidence, so be it. That's a risk worth taking.
Overconfidence beats zero confidence every single time.
DB Lamarcus Joyner
The Rams traded up three slots in the second round to grab Florida State's Lamarcus Joyner at No. 41 overall, and Joyner has been eager ever since.
According to Jonathan Webb of StLouisRams.com, Joyner is perfectly aware of the sacrifice the Rams made to acquire him in the draft, and he's ready to prove them right.
“I felt as though they made a sacrifice for me,” Joyner said. “I’m good with returning favors. I think that I owe them the same. I’m going to give all my heart, all my soul to this organization because that meant a lot for them to be able to do that, especially with all the great talent that’s out here.”
The article also states that Joyner's motivation goes way beyond simply paying back the Rams. He grew up in Liberty City, Florida in a rough environment and has no plans of returning to that old life:
I’ve been running away from that place all my life, which is why I do what I do on the field and in the weight room and the way I respect people... It’s a dream come true. Like I said, I’ve been running from that place all my life, and to be here and to be from afar, from where I come from – there’s no better feeling.
If Joyner's college production can translate to the NFL level, he has nothing to worry about. In fact, he's a perfect fit for a physical Jeff Fisher football team.
“I feel like nobody wants to be physical for 60 minutes,” Joyner said. "I play physical football because I know no man is going to want to play 60 minutes like I am. My whole mentality is I’m going to make the guy across the line from me quit before I do.”
If Joyner can backup his comments on the field, he'll have no problem fitting in with the hard-nosed Rams defense.
CB E.J. Gaines
Apparently, Joyner is not the only rookie defensive back with a chip on his shoulder. E.J. Gaines, who slipped to the sixth round of the draft, is also on a mission to make teams pay for passing on him.
Every Missouri Tigers fan is aware that Gaines' most memorable game of 2013 came against Texas A&M, in which he shut down Aggies All-American wide receiver Mike Evans, holding him to a mere eight yards.
Considering Evans was a top-10 overall draft pick, Gaines is understandably a bit perplexed as to why the gap between them during the draft was so massive, per ESPN's Nick Wagoner.
"To see (Evans) go in the first round and see me go in the sixth is a little crazy to me," said Gaines.
Even the Rams were a bit shocked to see Gaines fall into the sixth round. The team considered trading up for him, but the move never came to fruition. "We had made an attempt early, had considered him earlier," Fisher said. "We felt like he fell to us."
It was a lucky break. And Gaines says he's ready to contribute in any way possible.
"I’ll do whatever I have to, to get on the field," said Gaines. "If it’s special teams, inside, outside, safety, it doesn’t matter."
Gaines will primarily serve as a special teams performer early in the season, but he'll eventually work his way onto the field with the defense. When he does, he'll be more than eager to prove people wrong.
DE Michael Sam
Michael Sam was obviously a high-profile draft selection and the news coverage was astronomical in the days following the draft, but the worldwide attention has simmered down and updates of Sam as a football player are beginning to surface.
During the rookie minicamp, the Rams players did some conditioning in the form of 20-yard sprints, and Sam was apparently is good shape and regularly led his group in the sprints, per Jim Thomas of STLtoday.com.
Thomas reported that Sam was also a participant in special teams drills. This comes as no surprise, as special teams play is a must if Sam wants to make the final roster.
Sam also stayed after practice to have a discussion with special teams coach John Fassel, which is always an encouraging sign.
If Sam wants to make the roster, he'll have to continue on his current path. He needs to be the first player on the practice field and the last to leave, every single day.
Steven Gerwel is the longest-tenured Rams Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and serves as the Rams' game-day correspondent. You can find more of Gerwel's work by visiting his writer profile or by following him on Twitter.