A few weeks into the season, it looked like A’Shawn Robinson may not be long for this roster. His career started with two okay but underwhelming seasons, and his 2018 started on the bench. But at some point last season, something clicked. Now the Detroit Lions defensive tackle has given the team’s front office a tough choice regarding his future.
Here is our roster review of A’Shawn Robinson.
Expectations before 2018
After two disappointing seasons, there was guarded optimism for Robinson’s third year. Schematically, we knew that Robinson would have a great chance at success under Matt Patricia. His size and run-stopping ability was perfect for either the nose or 1- or 3-tech position. Though, the addition of Sylvester Williams in free agency suggested he may have to work his way to the top of the depth chart.
Still, I considered Robinson the most likely candidate to break out in his third year, and it felt like now-or-never for the former second-round pick.
Actual role in 2018
2018 stats: 13 games (7 starts), 49 tackles, 1.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble
PFF grade: 89.8 (11th among DTs)
Robinson’s season got off to a rough start. He was a healthy scratch to start the year, and came off the bench for most of the early goings. However, as Sylvester Williams struggled—and was eventually cut completely—Robinson’s play started to seriously turn around. And while the mid-season addition of Damon Harrison Sr. absolutely contributed to Robinson’s improvement, we saw A’Shawn progress even before that trade was made. Robinson’s highest graded game of the 2018 season came against the Dolphins, one week before the Lions added Snacks.
Where Robinson really stood out was his ability to defend the run. His 91.5 run defense PFF grade ranked fifth among all interior defenders. While his traditional stats don’t jump off the page (just 49 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sacks), his impact is easily seen when watching the tape. Robinson is a strong force that can clog running lanes and allow his linebackers to clean up.
Outlook for 2019
Contract status: Signed through 2019 season
This is where things get interesting. While Damon Harrison Sr. is seeking a new contract with two years remaining on his deal, Robinson is entering the final year of his rookie contract. This is Robinson’s first year with a salary over $1 million, so he has a very good case that he’s been underpaid throughout his first three seasons and is due for a big pay raise.
The question is whether the Lions will be willing to pay for it. We know they put high value on defending the run, and they don’t mind spending on their defensive front. That seems like it would make Robinson an easy re-signing.
But there are a few reasons they may night do so right away, and the first is now contract negotiations go down with Snacks. If the Lions give Harrison a big pay day, they may not be able to afford a big extension for Robinson. Additionally, Robinson only has one impressive season to his name. It may make more sense for Detroit to see if he can continue his excellent play this season and reevaluate his future with the team before free agency hits next year.
Still, Robinson’s fantastic 2018 season will make it hard for the Lions to say no. The defensive tackle is still somehow just 24 years old and should be entering the prime of his career over the next three or four season. It would be tough for the Lions to penny pinch and let that kind of player go—especially one that excels at the skills this team values so much.