Robison sees opportunity to prove himself

Brian Robison has heard the criticism of his play and is looking to prove wrong those who doubt his all-around abilities. Plus, get notes and quotes from the Eagles' and Vikings' coordinators after a Thursday at Winter Park.

Vikings defensive end Brian Robison may not be able to prove it as much this Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, but he has a message for fans: He can play against the running game just fine, thank you.

Robison is likely to get his first start of the season Sunday with left end Ray Edwards having only a slight chance to participate this week, according to coach Brad Childress.

Up until this point, Robison has been used as a rotational defensive lineman, playing end and rotating inside on some obvious passing downs. That's all fine and good, but Robison feels he's gotten a bad rap about not being able to hold up against the rushing game.

"I think a lot of people short-change me. A lot of people look at my size and they think I can't play the run and it kind of perturbs me a little bit that people would think that," he said. "I think I've even heard a couple times from fans this past week that I didn't hold up well against the run. When we looked at it on film, I played the run just fine. I feel like I did miss a tackle that I should have made. I think the more playing time that I get, the more I'm going to be able to show fans as well as everybody else in this nation that I can play the run and that I am an every-down defensive end."

Robison was asked if he is hearing from fans directly, picking up that cynicism second-hand, or actually frequenting the Internet message boards himself.

"I've seen it on the message boards. I try not to get into the message boards too much, but really my family gets into that and I hear it, of course, from them," he said. "You can't get away from it, but I try to just do my own thing on the field. I don't worry about that. I'm not going to let it bother me because some people said on the boards that I can't play the run. I am excited about the opportunity being able to show people that doubt me that I can play the run."

Last week against a run-oriented Giants offense, Robison estimated that he played about 40 snaps, a high-water mark for him this season. Edwards hurt his knee in the first half of that game and nose tackle Pat Williams missed the entire game with a fractured scapula.

"We don't know the whole situation with Ray right now. As far as me being called for duties for inside, I'm just going to be ready for whatever. We're just trying to win the playoff game," Robison said.

Vikings coach Brad Childress said that Robison continued to rotate inside to tackle and outside to end, as did Ellis Wyms, after Edwards left the Giants game.

"He did a pretty good job," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said of Robison. "It was tough on him because he didn't go into it expecting to have to play as many snaps as he did and all of a sudden he's thrust in there and having to finish the game and he held his own. I think he'll be better this week because he gets to practice knowing there's a potential he'll have to start the game, so we have high hopes for him against the run game, and we know he's an excellent pass rusher. But he'll be challenged in the run game, whether it be going against their tackles or their tight ends."

The Eagles have the sixth-ranked passing offense and 22nd-ranked rushing offense.

Robison has 19 quarterback hurries this season, fourth on the team, and 2.5 sacks, fifth on the team. He had a season-high seven tackles against the Giants.

"I feel like I've proven these past few years that I'm a tremendous pass rusher. I'm just glad that I'm going to get the opportunity to show it this weekend in a playoff game. I'm excited. I'm looking forward to it," he said. "Hopefully they do pass the ball a lot so I can show it off some more."

ROAD ILLS

The Eagles come into the game as favorites despite only three of their nine wins coming in road games. Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg seemed to downplay a question on Thursday about them being inconsistent on the road.

"I'm not sure it's the road. I'm not sure that that's the reason," he said. "We have a mentality going on the road, it's a business trip. Normally, we are very focused on the road and it's all about the game. Our preparation and our hard work is completed by the time we get on the plane, or most of it anyways. So, I don't think it's on the road. I think we have just played pretty well in certain games and then haven't played well in a couple of other games and a couple of those happened to be on the road."

TROUBLES IN THE PAST?

The Vikings have given up four punt returns for touchdowns this season, but Eagles special teams coordinator Rory Segrest was quick to point out that three of those four were in the first five games, and it's been eight games since that has happened.

"In their kickoff coverage, they have been solid. They have done a really good job there. In their punt return game, their numbers aren't really great there," Segrest said. "… They've done a lot, in terms of making some improvements there. They haven't given up anything big in the last few weeks. Again, it's a situation where, if we do get a returnable ball, it's going to come down to the blocking and execution on things and hopefully we can get a return in there."

LONGWELL STILL THE STARTER

An eyebrow was raised by some when it was discovered that the Vikings had signed former Wisconsin kicker Taylor Mehlhaff to a futures contract this week. The reality is that Mehlhaff isn't part of the 2008 roster and that teams across the league often sign young, developmental players to futures contracts after the regular season is over. The Vikings also bring two kickers to training camp almost every year.

"I think you guys are looking into that a little bit too much," special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro told one member of the media Thursday. "Ryan's got a lot of years left in this league, there's no question in my mind about that."

That said, there is a connection between Mehlhaff and the Vikings coaching staff.

"He had a good career in college. We knew that," Ferraro said. "Brian Murphy (assistant special teams coach) coached him. He's got a lot of insight into him. He had a good workout at the combine when we were there. He's got a lot of upside. The bottom line is we always bring two kickers into camp. I don't think we need to read anymore into it. Ryan Longwell's our kicker. He's done a great job for us and I believe in Ryan and everything he's doing."

NOTES

  • Edwards was the only Viking that didn't participate in Thursday's practice. DT Pat Williams (shoulder), OL Artis Hicks (elbow) and WR Bernard Berrian (ankle) were limited. Childress said Williams will probably be a game-time decision that will be determined on his range of motion. He did get through the day without much soreness from Wednesday, according to Childress.

    "He's going to try to do a little bit more every time he comes out there. It's probably truly a game-time decision. That's about all I can say about it," Childress said.

  • For the Eagles, DE Victor Abiamiri (foot), OL Shawn Andrews (back) and OT Jon Runyan (knee) didn't participate on Thursday. TE L.J. Smith (shoulder), RB Brian Westbrook (knee/ankle) and CB Asante Samuel (hip) were limited. LB Stewart Bradley (rib/groin), WR Hank Baskett (knee), WR Kevin Curtis (calf), FS Brian Dawkins (back) and OL Todd Herremans (shoulder/ankle) participated fully.


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