Edmond Robinson has been getting the majority of the first-team snaps at weakside linebacker.
That’s the position held by the now-retired Chad Greenway since 2007, the year Greenway returned from a preseason knee injury and started making his mark on the defense. The position has changed since then (for a time, Greenway was labeled a strongside linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings), with a reduced role for a third linebacker in an increasingly pass-happy NFL.
But Robinson isn’t concerned with NFL trends. He’s taking the narrow focus of trying to win a starting spot. There is competition with veteran Emmanuel Lamur and rookie Elijah Lee, among others, but Lamur missing some spring practices gave Robinson a much better feel for the position.
“I think I have a shot [to start]. I think anytime you come out here and compete every day, you have a chance no matter what may be up against you,” he said. “Whoever it is going against whoever it is, we’re going to come out here and we’re going to push each other, whether it’s E-man or the new guy just coming out here every day. We’re all going to come out here and hope for the best.”
There is no assumption being made by Robinson. A starter in spring practices isn’t always a starter at the beginning of the regular season, especially when that player has never been a regular in the opening lineup.
Head coach Mike Zimmer said Robinson “started out a little slow” in his first spring practices but has been progressing. Having one position to focus on, even if it is a new one, should help.
“He is actually playing a different spot right now than he was a year ago, but I think sometimes the first or second year, you still try to feel your way a little bit, and third year, you are a lot more comfortable,” Zimmer said. “It is a big year for him, and I think so far he is progressing well.”
Robinson said things are going “fine,” but he is confident that coaches have seen improvement in his game. Tackling isn’t allowed in these offseason practices, but the mental part of the game is where he is focusing.
“I know the coaches probably see an improvement in myself from the previous two years,” he said. “For me, I’m just out here and trying to work on trying to show them that I still belong out here. Trying to show them that I can be not only a valuable backup, but I can be also a starter in this league and that’s what I’m trying to come and show them every day.”
The Vikings let Robinson know at the outset of the offseason that he would be focusing on the weakside spot and that has seemed to help. Backup linebackers are often asked to know each of the positions, which can stunt their progress to becoming a master of one.
“Honestly, I think my knowledge of the game has gotten tremendously better. I think I’ve always been a big, strong, fast guy that can run, that’s pretty quick for his size. But I think the more you understand football, understand concepts, understand what offenses are trying to do in certain situations, then the better football player you become.”
“… So I’ve been ready and I’ve been excited. I’ve been working it at and just trying to show them every day that I can play, but also that I’m ready to go if they need me to.”