One of the biggest concerns for the Detroit Lions heading into the preseason was their situation at left tackle. The shoulder injury to Taylor Decker left the Lions with a gaping hole there, which they promptly stuffed with former second overall pick and Rams castoff Greg Robinson.
All eyes were on Robinson against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, and the early reviews of his performance were glowing. Pro Football Focus actually ranked him as the second-best offensive player on the Lions Sunday, and it appeared he was nearly flawless in pass coverage:
A look at how Greg Robinson performed in the first half tonight pic.twitter.com/HeH7uOGPui— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) August 13, 2017
But was Robinson really that good or were expectations just extraordinarily low? Let’s take a closer look at all 25 of these pass block snaps.
Play 1 - Matthew Stafford pass short right to Ameer Abdullah for 14 yards
Stafford needed extra time on this play as he went through his full progression before dumping the ball off to Abdullah. Greg Robinson takes on a bull rush, but nicely re-anchors his feet and doesn’t give up any additional ground. This may be his best snap all game:
Play 2 - Stafford pass deep right to T.J. Jones for 22 yards
Robinson has tight end help, but doesn’t really need it. They give Stafford plenty of time for this play.
Play 3 - Stafford pass short left intercepted
The Colts’ edge rusher tries and inside move and Robinson gives him a nice shove in the shoulder. The ball is out quick here, so Robinson is essentially a non-factor.
Play 4 - Jake Rudock pass short right to Michael Roberts for 7 yards
Robinson is thrown off-balance with a spin move, but doesn’t lose complete control. However, he very clearly would have given up a quarterback hit here had he not been bailed out by a last-second save from Graham Glasgow.
Play 5 - Rudock incomplete pass to Jace Billingsley
Colts edge rusher mostly gives up on the play, leaving Robinson with little to do but give him a shove to make sure he doesn’t bat the ball down.
Play 6 - Rudock pass short left to Kenny Golladay for 15 yards
Colts defender makes an inside move on Robinson, but Zach Zenner is waiting right there to give him a pop. It was a quick throw from Rudock, so this was a successful play.
Play 7 - Rudock pass batted down
Defender tries a speed move around Robinson, but the Lions left tackle easily rides him out of the play beyond Rudock.
Play 8 - Rudock pass deep left to Kenny Golladay for 23 yards, touchdown
Robinson is a little late off the snap, giving the edge rush an opportunity to attack his outside shoulder. The defender nearly rushes Robinson back into Rudock, but Greg fends him off for just enough time.
Play 9 - Rudock pass short right incomplete for Roberts
Colts line up in a more traditional four-man front (they’re typically in a 3-4 alignment). Robinson, after a slow get-off, nicely meets the edge rusher at the line of scrimmage. His hands get a little high, but he’s strong enough to keep all the leverage.
Play 10 - Rudock pass short left incomplete for Jared Abbrederis
This is where Robinson displays his elite athleticism. The Colts edge rusher is lined up in the wide-9 formation, and Robinson’s speed and agility allow him to shuffle quickly to the edge to meet him there.
Play 11 - Rudock pass short left to Zenner for 3 yards
Robinson crashes inside to catch the defensive end off-guard in a “wham” kind of way. Robinson doesn’t initially make full contact, but keeps with him enough to ride him out of the play.
Play 12 - Rudock sacked for a 9-yard loss
With the second-team offensive line around him, Robinson, who may have gotten away with a false start, gets beat to the outside and may have given up a sack... had Zach Zenner not completely whiffed on the blitzing safety first.
Play 13 - Pass short right incomplete to Roberts
On a play action run to his side of the field, Robinson nice meets the edge rusher with a stalemate. He has help from Joe Dahl but doesn’t need it.
Play 14 - Rudock scrambles for 13-yard gain
Robinson, left on an island, does an excellent job stuff and second and third effort from the edge rusher. When Rudock starts to scramble, however, Robinson gets away with a pretty clear hold that could have erased a third down conversion.
Play 15 - Rudock pass short left to Jace Billingsley for 11 yards
On the bubble screen to Robinson’s side of the field, we finally get a look at Robinson on the move. Running down the field as lead blocker, Robinson is able to (barely) get his hands on the Colts safety, knocking him down. Robinson showed pretty good speed there.
Play 16 - Rudock pass short right to Golladay for 15 yards, touchdown
Quick pass. Robinson is a non-factor.
Play 17 - Rudock pass short middle to Roberts for 8 yards
Robinson gets his hands swapped away and is kind of beaten to the outside. The defender is too wide to get to Rudock, so Robinson did just enough to keep his quarterback upright.
Play 18 - Rudock pass short right to Abbrederis for 17 yards
Quick pass. Robinson lays a good block at the second level, but is mostly a non-factor.
Play 19 - Rudock scrambles 11 yards
Good shuffling by Robinson to be completely square when the bull rush hits him. He easily absorbs it and help create a lane for Rudock to escape pressure that came from Graham Glasgow’s/Joe Dahl’s man.
Play 20 - Rudock pass short right incomplete to Abbrederis.
Okay, time to put this thing on pause and talk about a very serious issue with Robinson’s play. You may have noticed twice I’ve already talked about Robinson’s slow reaction off the snap. This happened a lot during the game, and could turn out to be very costly.
In the play above, Robinson’s way too late coming out of his stance, and he gets thoroughly beat because of it. He has to reach out and hold his guy with one arm, but because the ball is out so quick, the officials likely don’t see it.
I wasn’t the first to notice this issue. Check out the same problem, as noticed by Brandon Thorn of Inside the Pylon, from a running play earlier in the game.
Noticed this the last year or so w/Robinson being a split second late off the ball. Falls behind, targeting w/hat is off, grabs to recover pic.twitter.com/0e5Hp5S73c— Brandon Thorn (@VeteranScout) August 13, 2017
It’s barely noticeable there, but you can see how he paid for it. Robinson does the whole “hands up, I’m innocent” thing, which always means he was guilty of holding. He wasn’t called for it, but it would have wiped out 19-yard run by Zenner had it been called.
Here’s another example from later in the game:
Robinson is still in his stance, while everyone else is already on the move. This is by far the most glaring issue I saw in Robinson’s game, and it’s one that has followed him throughout his career.
Take this excerpt from The Ringer’s excellent breakdown of how Robinson became a bust with the Rams:
He would either be too slow out of his stance to react to speed off the edge and would get beaten wide, or would over-pursue in his pass protection and lunge outside, allowing pressure on the inside.
This is exactly what I saw on at least five snaps in the first half, and could really compound into a bigger issue against better competition.
Play 21 - Rudock incomplete pass short left to Matt Asiata
This is the only play in which Robinson clearly gives up a quarterback pressure. Interestingly enough, it appears Robinson gets away with another false start, this time getting too quickly off the snap, yet the defender still beats him to the edge. Rudock does a great job escaping the pocket and finding room, but it was clearly Robinson’s fault for the pocket collapsing.
Play 22 - Rudock incomplete pass short left to Golladay
Colts send a three-man rush. No problem for Robinson.
Play 23 - Rudock pass short right to Roberts for 13 yards
Robinson meets his man on the outside with little trouble, then is in a good position when they try to stunt late.
Play 24 - Rudock pass short left to Billingsley for 19 yards
Robinson’s edge rusher gets a really good jump on the snap (may have been offsides), but Robinson is quick enough to ride him beyond Rudock to prevent a sack that would’ve likely ended the half.
Play 25 - Rudock pass short right to Abbrederis for 1 yard
Quick pass. Non-factor.
Robinson still had a debut that exceeded expectations. His athleticism certainly shined at times, and when he’s able to get himself in the right position, he can be an above-average left tackle in the NFL.
However, Robinson showed a consistent problem with timing of the snap. Sometimes he was too early, most of the time he was too late. Against a poor Colts defense and nearsighted refs he was able to get away with it, but this should be considered a serious concern going forward.