Count Brian Robison among the host of non-first-round draft picks who believes he should have been drafted higher, but that slight to him isn't taming his bold goals for his initial season in the National Football League.
"I definitely want to at least break the rookie sack record," said Robison, referring to the franchise record of 11 sacks held by Keith Millard. "I know it's a tough task – 11 sacks. It's going to be a tough. I wouldn't put all my money into it and say I'm going to beat it, but that is a goal for me. If I happen to do it, then I'll go for the NFL record. If I don't, it will give me a gauge where to set my goals next year."
When Millard set the Vikings mark in 1985, he was breaking an 18-year-old record set by Alan Page, who had 6.5 sacks in 1967 (although the NFL didn't count sacks as an official statistic until 1982). Since Millard's accomplishment, only Kevin Williams has come close, getting 10.5 sacks in his rookie season in 2003.
But if Robison pulls off the tough task before the last game of the 2007 season, he'll simply adjust his goals upward, setting them on the league's rookie record held by Jevon Kearse. In 1999, the defensive end that many Vikings fans had targeted their team to draft compiled 14.5 sacks with the Tennessee Titans. In 2002, Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney came close to Kearse's record with 13 sacks in his rookie campaign.
All of those pass-rushing players had one thing in common – they were all first-round draft picks. Robison wasn't. He didn't even get selected in the second or third rounds, as his agent and some scouts had projected.
No, Robison had to wait until the second day of the draft before the Vikings moved up in the fourth round to select him with the 102nd overall draft choice.
"I've got a chip on my shoulder because I was a little disappointed where I went in the draft," Robison said. "I've got to prove myself to the Vikings and everyone else, but at the same time I'm happy that it happened. I'm happy that I fell to the fourth round. I'm happy that the Vikings moved up and got me because I feel like that's where I was supposed to go. God works in mysterious ways and that's where he wanted me to be, so I'm happy with it. I'm also a high-motor guy that's going to get out there and give you 110 percent every play, and that's what I'm going to do for this Vikings organization."
So far, Robison has been among the defensive ends that have rotated between the first- and second-team defenses. The Vikings have been diligent in working different combinations of defensive ends with the rest of the starters on defense. During any given training camp practice, Ray Edwards, Darrion Scott, Kenechi Udeze or Robison could be working with the first team.
"You add Brian Robison into the mix (and) we have some guys that are showing some potential in practice," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said when talking about his defensive ends. "We have just got to get them into some game situations and just see how we are really progressing."
That will happen Friday night when the Vikings contend with the St. Louis Rams in the preseason opener. If Robison gets in the game early, he could compete against Orlando Pace, one of the best left tackles in the game. But if it's not Pace he's facing, Robison could find himself tested against former Vikings offensive tackle Todd Steussie.
No matter the game-time competition, the 6-foot-3, 259-pound rookie right end has his hands full in practice while trying to get past Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie, a 6-foot-8, 335 mass of blocking material.
"It is tough," Robison said of facing McKinnie. "He's been in the league how many years and he's one of the top offensive linemen in the game right now. He's just a massive guy, literally just massive. It's a different look, but it's great to go against great competition because you only have one choice and that's to get better every day."
Between the coaching that Karl Dubar has provided and the mentoring of Edwards and other defensive ends, Robison is making a transition from the University of Texas to the professional level, but it's a transition that appears to be going fairly smoothly.
"It's not much different than the college game, but the only thing is you have to be more technically sound. For example, if I'm working a pass-rush move, I can't be sloppy with it. I have to use my hands. I can't just come around the corner and lean and expect to get there. I have to use my hands and make sure I see what they're doing. Before, I'd just come up off the edge and do what I wanted to do. Now I have to actually see what they're doing in order to make my move," he said, adding that the hand work he's been practicing is the biggest technical hurdle for the current Longhorn record-holder in the shot put.
"(Hands) and just using my eyes – seeing and believing what I'm seeing (is the biggest adjustment)," he said. "Those are the two biggest things that we've worked on is hand placement and things like that. It's gone real well."
High Motor Translates to High Goals
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