The Minnesota Vikings have a lot of injuries to key players on the defensive side of the ball, and the most significant could arguably be the groin injury to Anthony Barr. The second-year linebacker is possibly the biggest playmaker on the defensive side of the ball and it showed against the Atlanta Falcons as he made plays all over the field.
He has the versatility, and ability, to do anything on the field that head coach Mike Zimmer needs him to do and if he is not available to play, as expected, the defense will take a big hit. He was not practicing with the team on Monday, which is not a good sign as it is a short week and the team already has to play on Thursday.
“I think if he can’t go then I’d probably be the next guy up, so it’s kind of early, but we do play on Thursday,” Robinson said. “So I’m just preparing myself just in case it’s my chance.”
Barr left Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks after playing just seven snaps, but it was not Robinson who filled in for Barr once he left. Instead, it was Jason Trusnik.
Robinson has been listed as inactive that last three weeks with Trusnik usually getting the nob because of his experience – he is a nine-year veteran – and the impact that he has on special teams. So when Barr went down it was hard for Robinson to stand idly by because he knew that he was missing an opportunity to show what he has to offer.
“It definitely was a little hard just watching him go out, but once again I wasn’t activated so all I can do is cheer from the sideline,” he said. “But coming in (Monday) seeing the good things and the bad things that the guys did yesterday, help correct them and then move on forward to Arizona.”
Robinson played his college ball at the Division II Newberry College, so it would be a big jump for him to make his first start on national television against the No. 1 offense in the NFL. But he also doesn’t feel like the moment will be too big for him.
He has gotten opportunities to play on special teams in multiple games, so he understands what it is like to play in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans and he tries to block all of that out and focus on what he has to do.
When he is able to do that, everything else around his just gets blocked out so he is able to focus on his job and making the plays that come to him. There are not really any nerves surrounding Robinson at this point in time, although that could easily change when he takes the field for the first time. Instead, he is excited about the possibility of starting.
“I would be really excited about it. It’s something I’ve been dreaming of,” he said. “It’s something that I’ve been preparing myself for since I got here, so it’s just another stepping stone that I’ve been working on and if it’s my time I’ll be ready to go.”
Robinson has had a lot of things to learn since arriving in Minnesota, especially since he didn’t play the stereotypical linebacker position in college. He played more of a hybrid role where he was primarily used in coverage, so he has had to learn how to take on and shed blockers in the running game and how to rush the passer.
But as the season has progressed he has felt more comfortable playing the position and a big reason why is because of the amount of help he has received from the other linebackers. Barr, Greenway and even Trusnik help him out with what he is supposed to be doing.
The rookie has also gotten a lot of work on the scout team and while doing that he gained valuable experience going up against the starters.
“I feel more comfortable,” Robinson said. “While I was on the scout team I played outside backer, inside and also rush outside linebacker, so they’ve been giving me work at it. Every day you get to go against some of the best guys, so it’s definitely been helping me and hopefully we’ll see what it does in the near future.”
Robinson’s athletic ability and ability in pass coverage will be key going against the dangerous passing attack of the Cardinals and is likely a big reason why Zimmer chooses to go with him over Trusnik. He won’t be at the level Barr is, but if he can keep his nerves under control he has the opportunity to have a good game and secure a role with the team long term.