Brian Robison didn't hit all his goals, but he did hit the quarterback enough to consider his initial season as an NFL starter a success.
Robison had a goal of double-digit sacks in 2011, his first season replacing defensive end Ray Edwards on a full-time basis. Until last year, Robison was a pass-rushing specialist from end and tackle that only replaced Edwards when he was injured or for a few downs at a time. But the Vikings saw enough in Robison, a 2007 fourth-round draft choice, to give him a three-year, $14 million contract and let Edwards, also a free agent, explore the pocketbooks of other teams (he eventually ended up in Atlanta).
Robison ended the season with a career-high eight sacks, more than double the 3½ Edwards had with the Falcons in 2011. Robison's previous career high was 4½ sacks in 2007 and 2009, but he said he was happy to be working opposite NFL sacks leader Jared Allen on a full-time basis.
"As long as we're working together and things are going right – not a whole lot of things have gone right this year. It's just been one of those seasons that's been kind of bittersweet, I guess. Hopefully next year will be better," Robison said.
With Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler some of the league's top quarterbacks, the Vikings still managed to get 18 of their 50 sacks in the five games they faced those three quarterbacks (Cutler was out for the season finale against the Bears).
"I think Jared said it the most, as long as we can get a quarterback who stands back there for 2½ or 3 seconds, we should get there. That's kind of the thing for us. Not a whole lot of quarterbacks have done that," Robison said. "They've run some quick slants and found holes in the Cover-2 (defense) and things like that and made some dumpoffs. … When you're getting throws like that, there's nothing you can really do about it."
Robison called the Vikings' league-leading 50 team sacks "a pretty good stat," but one of his big focuses entering the season was to prove he could hold up against the run. That was a criticism often waged against him because he was used primarily as a pass rusher up until 2011.
Robison has often used critics to motivate him, playing the role of the underdog well.
"Definitely been a motivation. I'm still getting it. It's never good enough," Robison said. "Sometimes I still see people saying, ‘He's not holding up against the run. He's not pass-rushing like we thought.' It's bullcrap. You can't use it in a negative way. All you can do is use it as motivation and keep going at it and keep fighting."
In fact, Robison showed a pretty well-rounded game in 2011. While he was ninth on the team with 54 tackles, he was also second with eight sacks, second with 40 quarterback hurries (Allen had 45 and nobody else had more than 24), fifth with 10 tackles for losses, tied for second with two fumble recoveries and third with three forced fumbles.
Robison said he wants to work on his "mental game" this offseason and get better at watching film, but he showed he has the physical skills to continue to be a productive starter.
"I think physically all the tools are there," he said. "The (skills) are there to do the things I want to do. Just honing in on those skill sets that I have and just keep improving those skill sets that I use."
And he'll likely keep using the critics as motivation.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Robison still using critics for motivation
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