Growing up in Detroit, Allen Robinson watched a parade of Lions quarterbacks come and go.
In 2009, when Robinson was a junior at St. Mary’s Prep High, the Lions chose Matthew Stafford with the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.
“In my existence of watching Detroit Lions football, there was nobody who threw the ball even close to how he did in Detroit,” Robinson said.
Thirteen years later, Robinson will be catching passes from Stafford for a Rams team preparing to make a run at a second consecutive Super Bowl title.
But he will have to wait awhile. The Rams, who have been conducting voluntary offseason workouts since April, began organized team activities Monday in Thousand Oaks.
Stafford took snaps but he did not throw passes, and he probably won’t until training camp opens in July.
The Super Bowl LVI champion Rams open the 2022 season hosting the Buffalo Bills, and the rest of the schedule also is difficult for team trying to repeat.
Stafford, 34, confirmed that after the season he received an injection in his right elbow for an issue he dealt with throughout the season.
He was asked Monday if he would throw passes during OTAs or minicamp, or wait until training camp in July.
“Don’t know yet,” he said, “Still working on it.”
Coach Sean McVay indicated it was unlikely Stafford would throw in team drills before training camp.
“The goal, and the thought process was he’ll start to ramp that up when we get close to training camp,” McVay said.
Robinson is the high-profile addition to a receiving corps that has changed since the Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. In March, the Rams signed Robinson and traded veteran Robert Woods to the Tennessee Titans. The Rams offered Odell Beckham Jr. a new contract, but he remains a free agent.
Cooper Kupp, the NFL offensive player of the year, returns to lead a group that includes Robinson, third-year pro Van Jefferson, second-year pros Tutu Atwell, Ben Skowronek and Jacob Harris, and kick returner Brandon Powell.
Kupp is aiming to build on one of the most historic performances in NFL history. In his fifth NFL season, Kupp achieved the so-called triple crown of receiving by leading the league with 145 catches for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Kupp is due to carry a salary-cap number of $18.7 million this season, according to overthecap.com. With salaries for receivers skyrocketing the last few months, Kupp is in line for a contract extension that could make him one of the highest-paid players at his position.
Robinson joins the Rams after four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars and four with the Chicago Bears. He has eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving three times, earning Pro Bowl recognition in 2015.
“Working with A-Rob’s been incredible,” Kupp said Monday. “Just his mental aptitude of what he’s able to grasp already, and just being able to dialogue with him and how he sees the game has been really fun.”
The versatile 6-foot-2 Robinson is regarded as an elite jump-ball, contested-catch receiver. Robinson is expected to provide coach Sean McVay, offensive coordinator Liam Coen and Stafford a weapon across the field, and especially inside the 20-yard line.
“It has a chance to take our offense to the next level,” tight end Tyler Higbee said of Robinson’s addition.
Injuries forced Rams tight end Tyler Higbee and safety Jordan Fuller to miss Super Bowl LVI after being key contributors all season, so they claim to have extra motivation for a super repeat.
Robinson used the offseason workouts to acclimate to the Rams’ system. He is building chemistry with Stafford — in the meeting room and in the huddle, if not on the receiving end of passes.
“He’s a super humble guy, even with everything he’s accomplished in the league,” Robinson said of Stafford. “He’s a stand-up dude, man, and whenever you’re playing with guys like that, it really makes your job a little bit easier.”
Said Stafford: “His professionalism, attention to detail, all those things, he fits right in with that group that we have and looking forward to watching him do his thing.”
Since he has been “hunkered down” while learning a new system, Robinson said he has yet to experience an L.A. moment. He is keenly aware of the sports and entertainment landscape in the region.
“My main focus is just making sure I’m locked in on what my task is at hand right now,” he said. “Some of those experiences will come down the line.”
Jefferson, a third-year pro, was familiar with Robinson: They attended the same high school for two years, though they were not teammates.
He welcomes Robinson’s arrival.
“He has crisp routes, the way he catches the ball, the way he runs after catch — I think he’s going to fit right in,” Jefferson said. “There’s things in his game that I will try to implement in mine.”
Jefferson impressed as a rookie in 2020, and increased his production last season, catching 50 passes for 802 yards and six touchdowns.
After catching four passes in the Super Bowl, Jefferson was informed by a Rams executive on the field that Jefferson’s wife, Samaria, had gone into labor during the game.
“I had my two other children there with me, so them being so little they wanted to celebrate more being in the confetti,” Jefferson said. “But hey, we got to go.”
Jefferson said he communicated with his wife over FaceTime as she gave the birth of their son, Champ.
“It was a crazy experience, but it worked out perfect,” he said. “My wife was saying the whole time, ‘I know the baby’s going to come on the Super Bowl,’ and I was like, ‘Ah, I don’t think so.’
“She was right.”
With Kupp, Robinson and Jefferson entrenched as the top three receivers, there will be competition for other roles.
Atwell, a second-round draft pick in 2021, appeared as if he was starting to become comfortable near midseason. Then he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against the Houston Texans.
Skowronek, a seventh-round pick in 2021, made an impact on special teams and also stepped up as a receiver, catching 11 passes for 133 yards.
Rams coach Sean McVay and quarterback Matthew Stafford star in a “Top Gun: Maverick” commercial explaining what it takes to be a maverick.
The 6-5 Harris was drafted as a tight end, but he was transitioning to a receiver role when he suffered a season-ending knee injury during a defeat by the Tennessee Titans.
Kick returner Brandon Powell is also a receiver.
But the looming question is whether Beckham will re-sign with the Rams.
The three-time Pro Bowl player joined the Rams at midseason in 2021 and starred during their Super Bowl run. He caught two passes for 52 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl before suffering a knee injury that required surgery. Beckham is not expected to be ready to play until midseason.
The Rams have offered Beckham a contract, but he is expected to survey the NFL landscape before deciding on his next move.
Regardless, Rams receivers and their teammates are preparing for another possible Super Bowl run. No team has repeated as Super Bowl champion since the New England Patriots in the 2004 season.
“You want to experience that feeling again — as many times as you can,” Jefferson said. “So I think everyone has that drive to get back to that moment and experience that moment again.”
A look at top Rams receivers as they begin organized team activity workouts.
Name, Age, Ht., Wt., Salary Cap Number*
Cooper Kupp, 28, 6-2, 208, $18.7 million
Could become first to receive triple crown two years in a row.
Allen Robinson, 28, 6-2, 210, $4.3 million
Versatile route runner and elite catcher of 50-50 balls.
Van Jefferson, 25, 6-1, 200, $1.5 million
Third-year pro averaged team-best 16 yards per catch in 2021.
Tutu Atwell, 22, 5-9, 165, $1.3 million
Opportunity to show he has overcome rookie struggles and injury.
Ben Skowronek, 24, 6-3, 224, $846,000
Proved as a rookie that he can be more than a special teams staple.
Brandon Powell, 26, 5-8, 181, $895,000
Provided needed special teams jolt as punt and kick returner.
Jacob Harris, 25, 6-5, 211, $950,000
Second-year pro, drafted as a tight end, is coming off knee surgery.
Go beyond the scoreboard
Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.