Rams camp preview: Five rookies to watch

Aaron Donald (Getty Images)

ST. LOUIS — The Rams will once again be one of the youngest teams in the NFL this season. The team can count only quarterback Shaun Hill and center Scott Wells as players with more than 10 seasons in the NFL.

St. Louis got even younger at the draft, where Jeff Fisher and Les Snead selected 11 players to add to the roster. But going into training camp, it will be difficult for all of those players to earn a spot on the regular season roster, which should create some strong competition for jobs.

Here are five rookies to keep an eye on in training camp…

Greg Robinson

The big fella was candid during OTAs when he spoke with reporters about the transition from left guard to left guard being difficult for him at times, but he was doing everything he could to get better.

“It’s kinda tough, but it’s coming slowly,” Robinson said early in OTAs. “Every day I’ve been improving. I would say I’m a little rusty at guard but I’m getting better every day.”

The No. 2 overall pick will be one of the Rams to watch during training camp because he’ll be one of the keys to the success of the offensive line this season — which will be the key to the success of the running game and keeping quarterback Sam Bradford on his feet and healthy.

Robinson is a huge addition, literally, to the St. Louis o-line. At 6-foot-5 and 332 pounds, he’ll give the Rams another big bruiser up front who should strengthen the running game. The sooner he gets comfortable at his new position, the better the rushing attack should be.

Aaron Donald

The Rams’ second first-round pick, at No. 13 overall, Donald drew rave reviews from the coaching staff during OTAs. But of course that comes with an asterisk, considering the players weren’t in pads.

If the defensive tackle from Pittsburgh can prove during training camp that he’s the same player who won just about every award imaginable during his senior season last fall, the Rams will really have something special and their defensive line will get even better.

St. Louis doesn’t necessarily need Donald to make an early impact this season because it already has Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford at the two tackle spots, but the sooner Donald contributes the more it helps everyone else along the front four.

Tre Mason

Mason was a surprise pick in the third round because the Rams already have young Zac Stacy at the running back spot, but the Auburn product could give the running game a big boost at some point this season.

The biggest question with Mason is how he’ll fare in pass protection.

That will be worth watching in training camp. If Mason can prove he can pick up the Rams’ pass rushers, among the best in the league, then he’ll show he should be able to handle those situations in the regular season.

Like with Donald, the Rams don’t need Mason to make an impact early on, but the sooner he is ready to contribute and more of the workload he’ll be able to take away from Stacy the stronger the rushing attack should be.

Maurice Alexander

Alexander, the fourth-round pick from St. Louis, did not get to show what he was capable of during OTAs because he was dealing with a knee issue but is expected to be ready to go in training camp.

A former defensive lineman and linebacker, Alexander has good size for a safety and his highlights from Utah State show he’s a big hitter. He’s a bit of a project considering he’s still making the transition from linebacker to safety but he should be able to make an impact on special teams until he’s ready to contribute in the secondary.

The Rams went into the draft wanting to upgrade their defensive backfield and appear to have done so with third-round cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, Alexander in the fourth and then Mizzou cornerback E.J. Gaines in the sixth round.

Michael Sam

All eyes will be on the Rams’ rookie defensive end throughout training camp as he attempts to become the first openly gay player in the NFL.

The seventh-round pick from Mizzou, who was recently honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at The ESPYs, will have a difficult challenge during training camp trying to earn a backup spot but it looks like he could make the roster as the team’s fifth defensive end behind Chris Long, Robert Quinn, William Hayes and Eugene Sims.

Sam can help his cause considerably by proving his worth on special teams.

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com.

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