Brian Robison saw his opportunity and helped create a frenzied look from the defensive line.
With starting left defensive end Ray Edwards down with a high ankle sprain Sunday, Robison was getting his first start of the season and another precious chance to try and prove he can be a full-time player – make that starter – in the NFL.
Robison entered the NFL as a fourth-round draft pick of the Vikings in 2007 and was quickly typecast. The Vikings obviously thought highly of him, trading up in the fourth round to assure they got him, but they felt his most valuable role was rushing the passer. Edwards would be the every-down defensive end.
"To be able to show that I can play against the run as well as be a pass rusher, that's huge to me," Robison said. "That's something I've always been questioned about is whether I can play the run or not, so I think being able to do that and show that I can play the run on those running downs helps a lot."
He said he defended the run often as a college player at Texas, and he got his most extensive chance to prove himself in the NFL during his rookie season, when he started five games (Edwards was suspended for the final four games of the season). Since then, however, Robison didn't have a regular-season start … until Sunday.
"Any time you can get more extended playing time, you can get a little more feel for the game," he said. "… Until you get it at game speed, you don't really get the parameters of it. To be able to do that just in the last two weeks, I've probably gained a lot of experience just by that."
Sunday was a showcase game for Robison, even if the stats say the only sack the Vikings got came from fellow defensive end Jared Allen. Robison, Allen and defensive tackle Kevin Williams were in quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's face all day, pressuring him to get rid of the ball early and knocking him down.
After getting as few as two snaps in one game earlier this season, Robison estimated he received between 40 and 45 snaps Sunday. That afforded him the opportunity to set up the opposing offensive tackle on a snap-by-snap basis.
"Without a doubt. There were some times where I felt I could come underneath because the guy was jumping out for my speed," Robison said. "Really, my speed worked the whole game and I think that's one of the biggest attributes I've got, my speed being able to come off the edge. I really don't think they might not have been ready for that, only because I've got such little for them to look at at defensive end, so hopefully it's one of those things that I can get a little more opportunities at it."
Edwards is making progress with his ankle (although he's likely to be questionable entering Sunday's game), but interim head coach Leslie Frazier said if Edwards is healthy he will assume the starting role once again.
With Robison and Edwards both in the final year of their respective contracts, it was important for Robison to get at least one opportunity to show he can be an every-down player that stops the run.
"I don't think I was really the every-down player I thought I was up until last year," he said. "I think now I've kind of been able to prove that role, that I can be an every-down player, that I can be a starter in this league and be able to play like it."
Allen said Robison's performance Sunday wasn't a surprised.
"He's always been a guy that comes in and has the capability of making plays for us. It's nothing out of the ordinary," Allen said. "It's expected, especially in our room. We don't expect drop-off when somebody's down or gets hurt, the next guy's got to step up and play as if he was the starter.
Despite sticking with Edwards as the starter when he's healthy, Frazier noticed Robison's performance.
"He played well. We kind of expect him to," Frazier said. "He's done a good job for us in the number of snaps he's had this season. And to get the starting assignment and go out and perform the way he played (Sunday), he gave us great edge pressure all throughout the day and he played the run better, which was something he wanted to improve on going into the season after last season and he's gotten better with playing the run. So his game has become a little bit more complete."
With three tackles, a quarterback hit, a pass defensed, two fumbles recovered and numerous plays where he was generally a menace, Fitzpatrick and the Bills offense would likely agree.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Robison setting them up, knocking them down
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