Rams drafted to "dominate in the trenches" says Balzer

By Howard Balzer

Rams fans looking for sizzle will be disappointed in what the Rams did with their two picks Thursday night in the first round of the draft.

The irony is that when the Rams can't protect the quarterback or stop the opponent, everyone screams about being unable to dominate in the trenches where NFL games are truly won or lost. But then, when the draft rolls around, there is the desire for anything other than boring blockers or penetrating defensive linemen.

However, the reality is that being able to compete in the NFC West means having the ability to go to man-for-man on the lines against the Seahawks, 49ers and Cardinals. And that's what the Rams tried to do with the selections of tackle Greg Robinson and defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

As head coach Jeff Fisher said, "We needed to address both sides of the ball upfront. You have to be physical in this division, and we accomplished that."

So intent were the Rams on upgrading the offensive line that they were prepared to trade with the Baltimore Ravens for the 17th pick in the first round, but that option disappeared when the Dallas Cowboys selected tackle Zack Martin.

Said Fisher, "It would have been pricey but worth it." The Rams' next pick is in the second round, 44th overall.

As it was, the Rams ended up with the 6-foot-5, 332-pound Robinson, who general manager Les Snead described as "a dancing bear, no doubt about it." Snead said the ability Robinson has to bend at that height is unusual.

Said Fisher, "He's very, very athletic and learns very well. Boo (line coach Paul Boudreau) will get him going."

Fisher acknowledged that Robinson will likely begin his career at guard.

The Rams' starters last season were Jake Long at left tackle and Joe Barksdale at right tackle. Rodger Saffold, who opened the 2013 season at right tackle, eventually was switched to right guard and when Saffold was re-signed as an unrestricted free agent in March, it was with the intention to play him at guard.

Long suffered a torn ACL late last season, but the Rams believe he will be ready for the start of the regular season. The interest in having Robinson play guard at the outset is so his inexperience as a pass blocker won't be exposed early.

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Robinson is 6-5 and 332 pounds of pure nasty

Robinson acknowledged the work he needs as a pass blocker, and said, "There's a few things I need to work on. I look forward to working on that, taking it from the coaches and learning from other players."

As for playing guard, Robinson said, "Whatever they ask, I'm willing to do. I will work hard to step in and help anywhere I can."

Snead said the Rams were so glad to get Donald that they never considered trading down. "We're jacked with the pick," he said. "He's very productive and way ahead at this point in hand use. He's an impressive young man."

Although Donald is 6-foot-1, 285 pounds, Snead said he won't be asked to get bigger. "His game isn't size," Snead said. "He's short, but that helps him get leverage. Getting bigger wouldn't help him. His game is not size. His game is to penetrate."

And that he did, totaling 66 tackles for loss in four seasons at Pittsburgh, including 28.5 in 2013.

For his part, Donald said he's "excited" to be with the Rams. "They have the best defensive line in the NFL and I'm pumped up to be a part of it," he said. "I can't wait to get with the coaches and get to work."

And the Rams are ready to continue upgrading the roster tonight with selections in the second (44th overall) and third round (75th).

Howard Balzer hosts "H and Friends" Monday-Friday from 9-11 on Fox Sports 1490 The Champ. He is also a host on SiriusXM NFL Radio and one of 44 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


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