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Film breakdown: Corey Robinson is nearly perfect in pass protection in first career start

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Corey Robinson’s first career start was a good one.

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NFL: Preseason-New York Jets at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest concerns for the Detroit Lions heading into Week 9 against the Minnesota Vikings was their offensive line. Through eight weeks, the Vikings led the league in sacks from defensive linemen, while Detroit was going through some last-minute shuffling of their starting O-line. Riley Reiff was downgraded to out on Saturday because of an illness, meaning Corey Robinson was due for his first career start. Robinson had played in only seven career games before Sunday, mostly as an injury replacement or a sixth lineman. His first start was not going to be an easy one.

But Robinson met the challenge—especially in pass protection—and did all he could possibly do to help the offense succeed. Pro Football Focus had Robinson as the third-highest rated player on offense for the Lions, and the tape seems to agree.

I charted every single passing play from the Lions and recorded whether Robinson gave up a pressure, QB hit or kept the pocket clean. Here are the results:

Pocket Play Help from others?
1 clean 3-step drop no help
2 clean WR screen no help
3 near pressure thrown before pressure got there no help
4 clean WR screen no help
5 clean WR screen no help
6 clean play-action rollout no help
7 clean play action INT help
8 clean WR screen double team
9 clean 3 step drop, no immediate throw no help, stunt picked up nicely
10 clean play-action pass double team
11 clean play-action pass, no immediate throw LB duties no help
12 clean 5-step drop stunt, no help
13 clean 3-step drop no help
14 clean 5-step drop RB help, not used
15 near pressure 5-step drop no help
16 clean WR screen LB duties no help
17 clean 5 step drop RB chip
18 clean quick toss no help
19 clean WR screen no help
20 near pressure bomb - threw before pressure came no help
21 clean 3-step drop no help
22 clean screen to other side no help
23 clean 5-step drop BOMB, needed time no help
24 QB hit 5-step drop no help
25 clean 5-step drop no help
26 clean 3-step drop no help
27 near pressure 5-step drop no help
28 clean rollout pass RB help (didn't need it)
29 pressure 5-step drop RB help
30 clean 6 step no real help 3-man rush
31 clean 5-step drop no help good pickup of stunt
32 clean 3-step drop no help
33 clean screen to other side no help
34 clean quick out no help
35 clean quick out no help
36 clean 5-step drop no help
37 clean 5-step drop no help
38 near pressure 5-step drop no help

First, it’s important to note that the Lions, as usual, had a very quick-paced passing game. Matthew Stafford had the ball out of his hand quickly on about 42.1 percent of passes. Here, I’m defining “quickly” as a three-step drop, any kind of screen or a quick out by a wide receiver. So for much of the day, Robinson’s duties as a pass blocker were minimal.

However, when Stafford needed to sling it, Robinson was called upon and he was mostly left to his own devices. Robinson received help, via tight end, chipping running back or extra lineman, just seven times in 38 drop-backs and several times he didn’t even need the help.

In all, Robinson allowed just one quarterback hit, one pressure, and five what I call “near-pressures,” which were basically plays where Stafford got the ball out just before pressure was coming. That’s not a perfect day from Robinson, but considering the circumstances, that’s just about as good as anyone can expect. But let’s look at the tape to show you what I saw.

The first thing I want you to notice is the formation: The Vikings defensive end is lined up in the wide-nine technique, while Robinson is essentially left on an island. For Robinson to recover in time, it takes a lot of speed and athleticism. But Robinson shields Danielle Hunter off perfectly, giving Stafford the proper pocket to step into.

Robinson’s athleticism was on display there, but he also flexed his muscles a bit when the Vikings tried to throw power his way:

Once again, Hunter is lined up in the wide-nine against Robinson on an island. This time, Hunter tries to bull-rush Robinson. And while he succeeds in driving Robinson back, Corey is able to re-anchor himself and keep Hunter at bay. The key here is that he never loses balance while falling forward. This may not look like a successful block, but it absolutely is.

As for the pressures he gave up, there was a common link between most them: Robinson’s use of his hands. Take a look:

The Vikings’ defensive end is slow to get off the snap, yet he still manages to beat Robinson off the edge. Part of the reason is because of Robinson’s hand work. He reaches a little too far, and Hunter is able to easily slap them away. This was Robinson’s one quarterback hit allowed, but it exposes a problem he had on at least four different occasions. To be fair to Robinson on this play, much of the blame goes to Travis Swanson, who also allows a pressure leading Stafford right into Hunter. But this remains a good example of what Robinson needs to work on.

Overall, though, you cannot be disappointed with Robinson’s first career start. Though he didn’t face the likes of Everson Griffen, he did face Hunter and Brian Robison, who have combined for 8.0 sacks this year. Robinson didn’t allow one sack, and was barely responsible for Stafford getting hit a single time. Compare that to last year’s disaster in Minnesota and you have to feel pretty good about this offensive line right now.