While the Vikings defense didn't have too many stellar moments in Sunday's 26-23 overtime win over Jacksonville, one player who stood out on tape was defensive end Brian Robison.
A fourth-round draft pick in 2007 – the same draft that brought Adrian Peterson and Sidney Rice to the Vikings – Robison was a designated pass rusher early in his career. Before last year's lockout, with starting DE Ray Edwards ready to hit the free agent market, the Vikings showed their faith in Robison by signing him to a three-year extension and allowing Edwards to leave via free agency.
Robison earned his stripes (and his new contract) with a big first season as a full-time starter. While overshadowed by Jared Allen's incredible 22 sacks, Robison recorded eight sacks and enters 2012 with a plan to draw more attention from offensive coordinators his way.
While Robison had a strong first game, he wasn't satisfied with his performance or that of the Vikings defense, which he believes can be much better than what it showed Sunday against the Jaguars.
"I'm glad we came out with a win, but, after watching the film, it's not what we want to have on tape," Robison said. "It wasn't all bad, but it wasn't all good either. We've got to make sure we make adjustments and come out with a better game this week."
Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams installed his defensive scheme in the offseason that includes a desire to use a defensive line rotation. While, for the first game anyway, it didn't involve Allen or Robison taking too many breathers on the sideline, Robison said he did see much of a difference from what he was used to – other than remembering just about every play he was on the sidelines.
"To tell you the truth, I didn't even really notice it," Robison said. "It's one of those deals that the competitor in me doesn't want to come out (of the game) at all. It is what it is and we roll with it. I didn't really notice it too much in the game, so hopefully whatever works will work. Obviously, we got the ‘W' so it worked."
With a win already banked, the Vikings are looking for their second win of the season Sunday against Indianapolis. Last year, the Vikings didn't get their second win of the season until the eighth game. Given that Indianapolis is in rebuilding mode, the team's offensive line is struggling with injuries and the Chicago Bears dominated them last week, Robison said there is hope that the Vikings can improve on what they did against Jacksonville and replicate the success the Bears had against the Colts.
"The bottom line is that Chicago got some sacks against them last week and did some things against them that we feel like we can work off of as well," Robison said. "We've just got to go out there and, regardless of what they've got up front or not, we've got to beat the man in front of us."
The one area of the Vikings D-line play that was interesting was that it didn't have a sack against Blaine Gabbert and the Jaguars last Sunday. It had been almost a year since the defensive line didn't record a sack, but Robison was nonplused about it, saying the only surprise about not getting a sack was that they had Gabbert running for his own safety for much of the game.
"It's strange for us not to have a sack, especially when you talk about how much pressure we put on the quarterback," Robison said. "The bottom line is that sacks aren't the only stat that matters. The fact of the matter is, we were in his face, we flustered him, we got him running out of the pocket and we hit him many times. Those are the things the really count in my mind."
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier agreed.
"The more I looked at the tape and saw the hits that we put on the quarterback, that was very, very encouraging because over time, generally, that makes a big difference," Frazier said. "You'd like to get sacks, but you definitely want to get some hits on the quarterback and we got a number of good hits on the quarterback."
While Robison didn't feel the lack of a defensive line sack was cause for concern, the same couldn't be said about the performance of the line on third down. The Jaguars were able to string long drives together last Sunday, primarily because they were able to convert third-and-long situations. That has to change if the Vikings are to be successful and Robison believes it's a simple two-step process.
"Number one, we've got to tackle better," Robison said. "Number two, we've just got to be assignment sound. That's going to be a reoccurring theme every week. In order to get off (the field) on third down, you've got to be assignment sound and make tackles. That's what we've got to do better this week."
In reviewing Sunday's win, Robison was one of the players that stood out for his effort and production. It could be argued he was the most impressive player on the defense and had arguably one of the best games of his career. He was applying pressure and chasing down running backs from the back side of the play. Asked for a self-assessment, he said that he was satisfied with his performance but has much higher ambitions for the rest of the season.
"I'm hoping by the end of the year, it will be one of my worst games," Robison said. "It was a good game. Looking at the film, there is still much improvement that needs to be made. I went and looked at tape and hopefully will make those improvements this week."
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.
Robison sees room for improvement in win
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