When the Vikings selected Josh Robinson in the third round of April's draft, he was viewed as a speedy prospect that would provide depth to the Vikings' cornerback rotation.
A little more than a month into his professional career, he is seen as much more than that.
For the first three games of the season, Robinson was on the field less than 50 percent of the time but showed enough that, over the last two games, his role has spiked significantly. In Week 4 against Detroit, he was on the field 76 percent of the defensive plays. Last week against Tennessee, he was on the field for 59 of the Vikings' 70 defensive plays (83 percent).
His playing time included getting the start. Typically, when a player is informed he will be a starter, it's on Friday or early Sunday when the team arrives at the stadium. Robinson didn't know he was starting last Sunday until he came to the sidelines after taking part in the coverage team on the opening kickoff.
"That was something very exciting," Robinson said. "I didn't even expect it. I was told ‘just stay out there.' I found out right when (head coach Leslie Frazier) told me right after the kickoff."
Robinson was drafted in large part because of his speed. He was the fastest player at the NFL Scouting Combine and it was clear he would be able to hang with the fast receivers of the NFL, but his progress has been so pronounced that the Vikings are finding it hard to keep him off the field.
Robinson doesn't take all the credit for his ascent up the depth chart. Instead, he said his job has been made easier by those in front of him on the Vikings defense and the heat they have been able to create to keep quarterbacks from being comfortable.
"It's been good, and it's starting up front," Robinson said. "They've done a great job putting pressure on quarterbacks and stopping the run. Our entire front seven has really complemented with the passing game and us in coverage."
Robinson also gives credit to the mentoring he has received from veterans Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook. Both have been instrumental in his progress and Cook said Robinson is a quick study and wants to learn as much as he can from whoever is willing to impart football wisdom to him.
"With Josh, I try to just tell him a lot of technical things – as far as his technique and what he can do better," Cook said. "Him having the veteran presence of Antoine, and me having the veteran presence of Antoine, and me knowing the things Antoine has passed on to me and I have passed on to him. It's basically just coming down the line. He's getting everything from 'Toine and me and all the other guys that are older than him in the room. We're just trying to help him grow."
Robinson is appreciative of the attention he has been shown by his veterans. The adjustment from college to the pros – even when you come from a power school like LSU – can be a difficult process. Coming from Central Florida, the adjustment might have been even bigger, but the Vikings have taken the young players under their wing, whether they play the same position or not, and Robinson said his acclimation curve has been made much shorter as a result.
"All these veterans have done a great job as to preparing you and helping you stay positive in different aspects of your life and your game – just really helping you out," Robinson said. "It seems like most guys on this team have your best interests (at heart)."
Through five games, Robinson has 28 tackles (sixth on the team), one quarterback hit, one of two Vikings interceptions, and five passes defensed.
He has joined the ranks of the Vikings defenders who are building a reputation for being big hitters and aggressive attackers when the ball is on the move. He is buying into Alan Williams' defensive philosophy and considers it a glove fit for his style.
"We always talk about finishing – not just finishing tackles, but finishing games," Robinson said. "We're taught if it's wiggling, you hit it. If his body is still wiggling (for additional yardage) you can hit him and that's what we're trying to get on the field."
Robinson said he is a little surprised by the level of his contribution to the defense and, as he sees it, the best is yet to come.
"I didn't really know what to expect when I came here because they had a couple of strong veteran corners," Robinson said. "I was ready to contribute however I could, whether it was on defense or special teams. I'm feeling a lot more comfortable now and I'm ready bring whatever I can to help this team win. We've got a good thing going here and I want to be as big a part of it."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Robinson's role increasing by the game
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