Robinson thankful for success, stability

Josh Robinson never wanted to be cast in the nickel cornerback role and struggled. This year, Robinson is being allowed to stay outside and thriving there.

Players often make the claim that they don’t read or listen to what media types say about them, but that isn’t always possible.

Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson is a good example. Last year, he got savaged by the football statistical website Pro Football Focus. The site uses several different factors to determine the positives and negatives a player brings to the game – breaking down and grading every play.

Robinson had his struggles playing in the slot. According to PFF statistics, when he was playing in the slot, he allowed 39 of 41 passes to slot receivers to be completed and he was ranked 99th out of 110 cornerbacks that were given rankings.

He was the lowest rated cornerback on the Vikings, behind even Chris Cook, who was often picked on by opposing quarterbacks. A year later, Robinson is the highest ranked Vikings cornerback at No. 28, but given the burning he took from PFF last year, he isn’t paying attention to what the website’s numbers reveal about his play this season.

“I heard a lot about it last year,” Robinson said. “I try not to listen to it this year because there will definitely be a turnaround and I didn’t care about it – just because of last year’s results. I was like, ‘OK, I don’t like their results.’”

The problem with some of the methodology that is used, a player’s role on a given play doesn’t translate to how some grades may be given. For example, defensive tackle Linval Joseph may be asked to take on two offensive linemen on a given play, hitting the gap in between two of them and forcing two linemen to take him on. Joseph may get completely washed out of the play, with his job being to open up opportunities for the other three defensive linemen or a blitzer.

Asked if he thought the stats created by the website were accurate, Robinson said he has mixed feelings about it.

“In some areas, they know a little about football,” Robinson said. “In some areas, they don’t understand. A lot of people don’t know that in some coverages there is a weakness. Sometimes you just have to give up a weakness. In those situations, all you can just say, ‘OK, coach. You know what the call was. I executed my job.’”

One of the basic premises of Robinson’s struggles last year was that he didn’t belong as the team’s slot corner. It was an assertion Robinson heartily agreed with. He felt like he was a bit miscast as a slot corner and his struggles were because he would be asked to move to the inside for the first time in his football career, and learning on the job in the NFL rarely works out well for those being moved to an unfamiliar position at such a high level.

“I think there was a lot of discomfort and thinking too much,” Robinson said. “It was due to never being there to everything being so fast at the NFL level. You’re trying to learn a new position. It’s really tough, especially on defense.”

Robinson made it clear to the coaching staff last year, as well as the new coaching staff this year, that he didn’t feel confident playing in the slot because he had such limited experience at it. That may explain why the Vikings made a strong push to sign Captain Munnerlyn in the offseason as a free agent.

Robinson is back outside the hashes and he is happy with both his familiar position and the results he has been producing from there. As he sees it, players succeed more by playing to their strengths than bouncing from one position to another and weakening both of them in the process.

“That’s where I’m comfortable,” Robinson said. “I made that known last year and I say the same thing this year. That’s where I’m comfortable. It’s really simple to just cover the guy in front of you. That’s something I did a lot (in college at Central Florida) and I’m trying to do it more here and do it well.”

It seems head coach Mike Zimmer agrees.

“I think he’s starting to play with more confidence,” Zimmer said. “He’s got the athletic ability, but he’s playing with more confidence. He’s becoming, I believe, tougher as a football player and not just an athlete. All those things are good.”

If nothing else, the criticism that was brought down on Robinson, while not taken very well at the time, was an eye-opener for him. From his struggles in 2013, once he was told he would put outside and left outside, the results that the Vikings expected from him when he was drafted have started to bear fruit.

His comfort level is high, but Robinson has no intention of getting complacent or feeling like he has this whole thing figured out. He realizes that he will have to constantly evolve his game and limit the mistakes he makes. He’s working hard to do that, but is feeling much better about himself and his game this season and hopes to keep building from here.

“After having a tough year, I do appreciate playing well again,” Robinson said. “I try to make sure I continue to work on my craft – make sure I try to improve so it never happens again.”

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