I already looked at one of the Falcons potential starting corners, and now I will look at the team’s top off-season pickup Dunta Robinson. I should note that I didn’t watch every Texan game from a year ago, but I did watch six games. I watched three games in which the Texans gave up the most passing yards (vs. Arizona, Indianapolis, and Miami), games where they gave up a bunch of rushing yards (vs. Jacksonville and Tennessee), as well as one game picked at random (vs. Oakland). I thought such a sample would allow me to see how Robinson impacted against some of Houston’s tougher defensive matchups.
Pros: He’s a scrappy, physical defender that isn’t afraid to mix it up in run support. Has good burst on the football and can make stops in the open field. Will lower the shoulder and deliver a hit to the ballcarrier. Shows ball skills to break up the pass. Comfortable working in zone coverage and does a nice job keeping things in front of him. Can work on an island and shows nice quickness and speed. He’s hard to beat on the deep pass. Does his best work in press coverage and does a good job getting the jam at the line.
Cons: Needs to polish his technique and footwork, which can be sloppy at times. Has a tendency to get beat on crossing routes and on the comeback because he doesn’t always show good burst out of his breaks. At times too willing to give up plays underneath. Doesn’t have great instincts to jump routes. Lacks good hands and won’t create a lot of turnovers.
2010 Outlook: Robinson comes to Atlanta hoping to bounce back after some down seasons in Houston. He injured his knee in 2007 when many felt he was on the verge of becoming a perennial Pro Bowler, and just hasn’t been the same corner since. He brings the right type of physical persona the Falcons like on the outside and they think he can help them against some of the better wideouts they will see this year.
In Houston, Robinson played a lot of press coverage and was often left on an island as he shadowed the opponent’s top wideout. He likely won’t be doing that as much here in Atlanta, as he’ll likely play more off coverage and will line up on the right side of the defense most downs. So there may be a bit of an adjustment for him. He has the skills to fit in that scheme, but he’d be helped if the Falcons met him halfway by adjusting the scheme to mirror things he did as a Texan.
Robinson reminds me a lot of Chris Houston, the player he will be replacing in the lineup. That is mainly for superficial reasons due to them having the same number, identical build, very similar athleticism, and dreads. But their gameplay is similar. Both tend to rely on their athleticism and physical tools rather than really showing great cerebral tools to play the position.
A major difference between the two is that Robinson is more consistent than Houston. He also has better ball skills, although I wouldn’t say he has great ball skills. Robinson has far less breakdowns than Houston. He doesn’t give up the deep play quite as much as Houston and will break up passes when he’s in position, something Houston did not do reliably.
But if anything really stands out between the two is the swagger that Robinson can bring to the defense. He’s a much more physical player, and meshes more with the personnel the Falcons are collecting on that side of the ball. He should fit in nicely flying around the ball with the likes of players like Thomas DeCoud, Curtis Lofton, Sean Weatherspoon, William Moore, and others the Falcons will have in the back seven in future years. Having such a supporting cast should bring out the best in Robinson as the Falcons try to build a fast, hard-nosed defensive unit. Even if Robinson doesn’t live up to expectations as a Pro Bowl corner in the coming years, he should be an upgrade at the position and give the Falcons a player that won’t back down from elite receivers. Having matched up with the likes of Reggie Wayne quite a bit in the past gives him the confidence as well the coaching staff confidence that he won’t go into a shell against elite competition. And with the Falcons as a prospective playoff team in the coming years, they will have to contain some very good receivers to get where they want to go.
One issue the Falcons may have to deal with is Robinson’s presence putting more pressure on the corner opposite him, which will likely be either Brent Grimes or Chris Owens. Last year in Houston, teams often tested Glover Quin. A big part of that was because he was a rookie. While Grimes and Owens won’t be as green this year as Quin was a year ago, given the choice of testing Robinson or incumbents of the league’s 28th best pass defense, quarterbacks likely will choose the latter. If that is the case, the net gain may not be as big as it should even if Robinson manages to be a significant upgrade on the right side.
In Summary… Robinson has the skills to be an upgrade at the cornerback position and a real asset for the Falcons pass defense this year. The key will be how well he adjusts to the Falcons scheme, as well as if the coaching staff and the new supporting cast can bring out the very best of his game. If so, he can be an impact defender on a weekly basis and potentially reclaim his status as one of the premier corners in the league.