Key matchup: Robison vs. Remmers

Brian Robison got a short-term chance to practice against Mike Remmers last year. Now he’ll get the opportunity to play against him.

There is only one chance for a player to make a first impression. Mike Remmers was named starting right tackle for the Carolina Panthers Sunday when they play the Vikings, which will make his individual war with Brian Robison a unique key matchup.

If Remmers’ name sounds familiar, it should. Remmers spent four games of the 2013 season with the Vikings after being claimed off waivers from San Diego. He spent two weeks inactive, was re-signed and spent the final two weeks inactive on the Vikings’ 53-man roster.

His journey since then hasn’t stopped. He spent training camp with the Vikings and, when he was among the final cuts, he was signed to the St. Louis Rams practice squad – his third team in 10 months. He spent several weeks with the Rams before injuries caused the Panthers to snipe Remmers off the practice squad by claiming him Oct. 28 – his fourth team in less than a year.

With Nate Chandler, the Panthers’ starting right tackle for the first 11 games of the season, placed on season-ending injured reserve this week, the Panthers announced that Remmers will be starting against his former team – the first time he has seen game action since Week 7 of last year when he was still a member of the Chargers, his only NFL game on an active roster.

Opposite Remmers will be Robison, a veteran team leader who has taken on many of the best right tackles in the game and has held up extremely well against them. Against a player who not only is making his first career start, but is playing in just his second NFL game, the advantage should be Robison.

Robison is the vested veteran of the defensive line and has been a strong proponent on the Mike Zimmer philosophy of defense. He has bought into the concepts of maintaining assignment integrity and each individual working as part of a unit for the good of the defense. What that might entail with what, at face value, looks like a potential mismatch, could be two-fold for both the Vikings and the Panthers.

If Robison gets an early and obvious advantage on Remmers, the Panthers may find the need to shift a tight end over to his side to help prevent Robison from blowing by Remmers and bringing down Cam Newton. If that happens, it will likely give right defensive end Everson Griffen more pass rush opportunities, which we’ve learned this year can be problematic for opposing quarterbacks.

From the Vikings’ side of things, if a defensive coordinator spots a glaring weakness in an offensive lineman, they tend to flood defenders that way, bringing blitzes off the edge because they smell sacks to be had. The Vikings have dialed up their share of blitzes this year, but if Remmers can’t neutralize Robison consistently, the Vikings are going to bring the horses and attempt to impose their will on the weakest link of the Panthers offensive line.

On paper, this looks like a matchup that Robison can potentially dominate, even if he says it is not because Remmers knows him, too. Robison is a crafty veteran with a variety of run and pass moves that can allow him to blow up plays. Remmers won’t be asked to stop Robison, just prevent him from doing damage. The Panthers will be asking Remmers to be the equivalent of a quarterback that is a game manager. Robison is going to have every opportunity to be a gunslinger and a Texas rattlesnake. The differences in their job requirements, experience and outlook – both short-term and long-term – have the potential for lopsided dominance, making this arguably the most critical matchup to watch in this game.

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