With speed to burn – and he did burn all the rest of the participants at the NFL Scouting Combine with his 4.29 40-yard dash – third-round cornerback Josh Robinson is considered a potentially important piece for the Vikings to mix in more man coverages in their defenses.
With a depleted cornerback crew in the second half of last season, former Vikings defensive coordinator Fred Pagac lamented the lack of viable man-coverage options he had. But, despite his speed and athleticism, Robinson sees himself as a good fit for the Vikings' Tampa-2 base defense, their primary scheme, as well.
"I think I can react rather quickly, so that's something that will help me in Cover-2. Anywhere on this defense where I can contribute, I'm going to try to make sure I can do that," Robinson said recently.
Starting 35 of 38 games played at Central Florida, Robinson set a freshman record with six interceptions and ended his career with 46 passes deflected and 10 interceptions.
But being fast and being physical, which is a prerequisite in the Vikings defense, are two different things.
"I feel every day you have to prove every aspect of your game, not just the speed and not just the physical (part). Every aspect, as far as being fundamentally sound, I feel you have to prove that every time you get on the field. I feel that's something I'm trying to do," Robinson said.
At 5-foot-10, 199 pounds, Robinson doesn't have ideal size, but neither did Antoine Winfield, who worked himself into a Pro Bowl player for one season at least because of his physical prowess. Robinson, who also has an impressive 38½-inch vertical jump, says his height and facing tall receivers hasn't been at the forefront of his consciousness.
"That's not something I ever really think about," he said. "Just being a competitor and knowing that you're going to go against guys that are bigger and you're going to go against guys that are smaller, you make the adjustments where they need to be made."
Against Georgia in 2010, Robinson had four tackles and one pass broken up in a 10-6 win. In that game, he shadowed 2011 first-round draft pick A.J. Green. Robinson called that his biggest challenge in college and Green ended up with eight receptions for 77 yards, but it was the third-fewest yards Green had in the 2010 season and his 9.6-yard-per-catch average the lowest of the season.
Robinson's speed helped limit Green, but it also makes him one of the leading candidates to become the next Vikings punt returner. He averaged 13.15 yards per punt return at Central Florida and he already stood out in rookie minicamp, when his burst caught the eye of head coach Leslie Frazier.
Robinson said he's not sure when he last lost a foot race – "Thank God it's been awhile," he said – but he knows where the speed came from.
"God blessed me with that gift. My dad did have that speed as well. My oldest brother, he has it and my middle brother has it as well," he said. "It's just been running through our family."
But even with the best speed among the invitees to the Combine, Robinson knows there is plenty to prove in order to translate college success into NFL success.
Beyond an interview with the Vikings at Combine, he didn't have much contact with them and wasn't sure how interested they were in him. Now that their interest has been proven, he still has things he needs to prove to the coaching staff.
"That I'm going to improve. If they tell me something, I'm going to get it done. If I get it wrong the first time, the next time I'll make sure it's right once I'm corrected," he said. "Just make sure I don't make the same mistake twice. That's the main thing I'm trying to do right now."
For Robinson, the NFL draft was great. He shared the moment with a crowd of family and friends and looked and sounded truly appreciative for his opportunity.
"It was amazing to finally get my name called, a dream that I've had all my life. It was great to have all my family, friends and people from near and far coming to support and just experiencing all together," he said.
"I've taken it in and now it's more so just ready to get to work. All the talk and the all these weeks and months have been talking about football. Now it's time to really put it on the field and work."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
CB Robinson looking to prove he belongs
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