Last year, the Vikings defense struggled badly at times and one of the culprits was cornerback Josh Robinson.
Often sliding from an outside corner to the slot and back again, he had some struggles and at times would be targeted by opposing offenses as being one of the weak links of the defense. He would get down on himself and often that frustration could lead to overthinking, which made a bad situation worse.
“I remember times when I was overthinking, saying, ‘He’s going to throw back shoulder, he’s going to throw back shoulder’ and then he throws it regular,” Robinson said. “Those were the times you would overthink. Now I just play the guy and react. That’s one of the biggest thing corners have to do is just react.”
At times last season, Robinson began to question whether he was going to have a long-term future in the NFL. It was at those times that he circled the wagons and did some soul searching.
“It was really tough,” Robinson said. “It was tough to stay positive, tough to stay confident. But it was my faith, my family and my wife that kept me encouraged through that process.”
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer believes Robinson still has more to gain in the confidence department.
“Josh has been consistent. I just want Josh to be a little bit more confident in his abilities,” Zimmer said. “He’s got a chance to be a very good corner if he continues working on the techniques, refining the techniques, understanding the concepts more, but he’s got a chance to be a very good player.”
This year, nobody is viewing Robinson as a weak link of the defense. Embracing the new defensive scheme and learning the lessons from his struggles last year, Robinson has turned the corner and become recognized as a very strong cover corner.
Robinson was thrown at six times last week in the Vikings win over Atlanta. Four of them were incomplete and the other two gained just 21 yards. According to the statistical website Pro Football Focus, which grades out every player on every play, Robinson is eighth in the league in coverage snaps per reception allowed – putting him in pretty heady company that includes Richard Sherman, Antonio Cromartie, Vontae Davis, Robert Alford, Rashean Mathis, Prince Amukamara and Shareece Wright.
Robinson feels like a completely different player this year and believes professionally he has turned the corner to success.
“I feel like I’ve grown as a player,” Robinson said. “I had a lot of growing pains last year. I had a lot to deal with. I definitely see the growth and I’m going to try to continue.”
One of the keys his turnaround has been the support of his wife. She goes through the ups and downs of his NFL career with him and when he is at his lowest points, she is there to remain a steadying influence and his strongest supporter.
“My wife tells me after every game, ‘I loved you before this game and I’m going to love you after this game,’” Robinson said. “That’s something I value more than all the opinions and comments. That’s something that has really kept me positive and confident.”
But does that mean she gives easy critiques?
“Oh, no!” Robinson said emphatically with a chuckle. “Trust me, she is really tough. She will say, ‘You…were…horrible.’ She would say it. She would scream. She would cover her eyes. But, in the end, I know she loves me and wants the best for me. That’s something that I value the most.”
Robinson’s improvement has been easy to see on the field and one of his new teammates said that he is as impressive a young corner as you’re going to find.
“He gets the job done as well as anybody,” Captain Munnerlyn said. “I would put Josh up against any other corner in the league. He’s playing with a lot of aggressiveness and he’s looking to make plays. That’s the kind of guy you need in a defense and I’m happy he’s on my team.”
As the Vikings continue their gauntlet of elite quarterbacks and wide receivers that they’ve faced over the last three games and that will continue into October, Robinson is at peace with himself and his game. He didn’t always feel that way, but after surviving the struggles he had during his 2013 season, he feels as though those tribulations have made him stronger as a player and a person.
“Nobody likes to face adversity, but it’s part of life and definitely a part of the NFL,” Robinson said. “Things don’t always go as planned, but, even when you fall, you have to learn to pick yourself up and come back stronger. Last year, if I had a bad play or a bad game, it stuck with me. Now I have the confidence that I can make every play and, if I don’t, I let it go and know I can get it done the next time. I think that’s the biggest difference I’ve felt this year.”
Robinson answers critics, including his wife
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