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:
|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.