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30 May 2014

Word of Muth: Greg Robinson

by Ben Muth

After an extended post-Super Bowl Spring Break I’m happy to announce that I’ll be back in these parts for about the next six weeks before taking one last vacation ahead of the season. Since I always have a tough time coming up with offseason content, I’d love for you guys to make suggestions in the comment section about what you’d like to see in this space over the next several weeks.

This week, I’m going to ease back into the column by doing a scouting report on Greg Robinson.

What to like

There’s a lot to like about Greg Robinson. In fact there’s so much to like that I’m going to gloss right over two things that are important. He’s very quick and strong. He moves well, and when he hits people he really thumps them. You always hear boxers described as heavy-handed, well, Greg Robinson is heavy-bodied. He’s a freak athlete that plays that plays like a freak athlete.

Robinson’s general physical ability is so apparent that spending too much time on it would be dull. It would be like reading a college scouting report on Randy Moss that spent 1000 words on how tall and fast he is. Pertinent to his future as an NFL player, but obvious.

What I want to talk about are Greg Robinson’s hips. (This is how I start most of my dates.) Robinson shoots his hips on contact better than any college offensive lineman I’ve seen in the past few years. When you’re run blocking, you want to start out low because you always want to be underneath the guy you’re blocking for leverage. But, as you make contact, you want to pop your hips into your defender. Popping your hips basically is just giving a pelvic thrust at the guy you are blocking. This is how you generate power while you play, and why strength coaches love power cleans.

This isn’t easy. If you are in the privacy of your own home, feel free to bend over, lean against the wall, and then try to roll your hips towards it. Make sure no one is around, because it looks as awkward as it feels. (Actually, please don’t try this.) Here’s a video of a bunch of Wisconsin offensive linemen working on a blocking sled designed to help with this movement. Notice how the sled is designed to raise up to encourage the blocker to bring his hips through contact.

Robinson does this consistently and naturally. I can’t count the number of times Robinson would come down on a three-technique, engage and pop his hips. Now that 300-pound defensive tackle is a yard further inside despite Robinson not moving his feet after contact. The power and consistency of it remind me of Reggie White clubbing offensive tackles two feet inside on seemingly every play. All good offensive linemen will show this kind of technique throughout the course of a game. What makes Robinson stand out is how common it seems to be for him.

Sometimes he actually moves a defender so much with that initial pop that he puts himself in bad position. Once he knocks the defender back, his feet won’t move as quickly, and there will be a little too much separation. As a result Robinson will start to lean forward too far and defenders will be able to throw him late, because he’s off-balance. This will happen three-to-four yards down the field, but you never want to get thrown. It can lead to holding calls late in the play.

I like Robinson’s hands. Robinson showed a great ability to play with inside hands in both the passing and running game. I once had an offensive line coach say roughly 80 percent of blocking a guy is getting your hands inside his. This is a terrible estimate, but it goes to show how important it can be for leverage.

Robinson has the reputation of a mauler, but his hands are too precise and accurate to be those of a brute. He’s an absolute technician in the run game. There are some causes for concern in the passing game, but his initial punch and hand placement are as good as there was in the draft this year.

What to keep an eye on

The big knock on Robinson seems to be that he never had to pass block at Auburn. And as insane as that is, it’s kind of true. Auburn threw the ball some. (When you run 85 offensive plays a game you’re bound to mix in a pass out of curiosity.) But not in a way that gave you a clear idea of what Robinson will look like as a pass protector in the NFL. When Auburn did pass it seemed like it was mostly play-action or full slide protection, where Robinson was just helping inside.

During the times he was asked to traditionally pass block defensive ends, he did okay. As I said before, he has a very good initial punch and he’s athletic as hell. His biggest issue is that he leans too far forward once he engages defenders. (He gave up a sack against Alabama because of this.) He plays on his toes a bit too much. You'd rather him be on his insoles. But playing too far forward should probably be expected when you run the ball 50 times a game.

The other issue in his pass protection is that he seems to get freaked out by wide rushers. Robinson’s pass set is okay when defensive ends are lined up as five- or seven-techniques. Once he sees that his man is lined up out wide, whether as a defensive end in a nine-technique or a stand-up blitzer walked out wide, Robinson’s footwork gets funky. There was a play in the Florida State game that really stood out due to this.

This is actually more common than you would think it is for young tackles. For some reason, all the space they have freaks them out and they end up kick stepping like one of those terrifying DirectTV marionettes. Feet going all over the place without rhyme or reason. Eventually most guys realize that no matter how far a defender lines up, he eventually has to come to you if you get to your spot. The Rams are rumored to be starting Robinson at guard, so it won’t be an issue this year. But if he’s going to be the franchise tackle he’s supposed to be, he’s going to need to get over fear of space.

One other cause for concern with Robinson is that I don’t think he was particularly great in combination blocks. He’s great at blocking both defensive linemen and linebackers individually, but I thought he looked a little slow coming off of linemen and onto linebackers in the same play. My guess is that this was more coaching style than personal deficiency. Auburn runs a lot of backfield action and misdirection. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they, more than most teams, coach their offensive linemen to stay on the down linemen until the last possible second.

Closing Thoughts

If you follow me on Twitter you may have come away with the impression that I was down on Robinson leading up to the draft. That’s not really the case. I really like Robinson as a player. I thought he was a very good college player, and I think he has the potential to be a very good professional. And when I say he has the potential to be very good, I don’t mean it in the way people say Logan Thomas has the potential to be a good pro. I mean that I would actually bet on Robinson becoming a good pro as opposed to not.

At the same time, I do not think I would draft an offensive tackle second overall when I have no idea if he can pass block or not. He has all the tools to be a good pass blocker, but there are a lot of guys physically capable of being bookend tackles that are not. It took some cajones from the Rams to take him that high and I’m anxious to see how it turns out. I can’t wait to see him catching two-yard crossing patterns in Brian Schottenheimer’s offense.

Posted by: Ben Muth on 30 May 2014

27 comments, Last at 02 Jul 2014, 12:37pm by Jamey

Comments

1
by Guest789 :: Fri, 05/30/2014 - 1:27pm

I'm just going to go full-on homer and ask for a good look at the Packers O-line, as I don't think you've really touched them in the past. They're pretty much settled at guard with Lang and Sitton, but centre is up for grabs, and the tackle spots could be interesting too (How good, or not, was Bakhtiari last year, etc).

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“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

2
by The Ancient Mariner :: Fri, 05/30/2014 - 1:59pm

I'll emulate Guest789 and ask for the same with the Seahawks. Two spots clearly open, RG might be as well, a lot of young players lined up to mix and match, and even the ostensible anchors have question marks (Okung's health, and I hope that health was the only problem with Unger last year). I'm hopeful -- it seems to me there's enough talent there for a good line -- but I really don't know how it's all going to fit together, or not. It would be nice if this were the year we don't have to worry about the QB leaving on a stretcher.

18
by Karl Cuba :: Sat, 05/31/2014 - 1:40pm

I don't really see the point. We know how good Okung is when healthy but Ben can't shed any light on the odds of that and most of the other guys have no significant NFL tape for him to review.

3
by theslothook :: Fri, 05/30/2014 - 2:16pm

You don't need to devote a column to this, but I'd like to know from Ben if drafting a left tackle as high as the number 2 overall is ever worth it? Lately, I'm getting the feeling teams do it simply because it's viewed as a safe pick and while it may be, does that still make it a good decision? Joe Thomas panned out and the browns offense remains abysmal. THe same was true for Jake Long. In fact, Jon Ogden was one of the greatest players of all time and the ravens offense remained putrid for pretty much his entire tenure.

I know left tackle was a need for the rams, but wouldn't they have been better served going after sammy watkins instead?

4
by John Walt :: Fri, 05/30/2014 - 2:16pm

Love your work, Ben. How about a four downs style analysis of every teams offensive lines? Don't need to be crazy in depth, but a best linemen, weakest linemen, what needs improvement,who added, etc...

16
by Karl Cuba :: Sat, 05/31/2014 - 1:26pm

I think this is a good idea, just look at the other comments to see that everybody seems to want to read Ben's take on their team's unit.

5
by turbohappy :: Fri, 05/30/2014 - 2:21pm

I guess it's all-homer all the time today ;o) I'd like to see something on Anthony Castonzo. He is a baffling player to me. If you have time, the whole Colts O-Line would be cool, but curious about him in particular.

10
by chrisjm15 :: Fri, 05/30/2014 - 7:30pm

I'd second this, also due to Homerism, however I agree he I'd baffling. Seems really good against top talent, then gets schooled by average REs.

11
by chrisjm15 :: Fri, 05/30/2014 - 7:31pm

Double post, apologies

15
by snakerjaker :: Sat, 05/31/2014 - 12:02pm

Agreed. I would love to see this.

"You never miss a shot you don't take."

6
by DEW :: Fri, 05/30/2014 - 2:41pm

I'd love to see something on the Dolphins, given that they're my favorite time and that their offensive line situation last year was a season-defining epic train wreck on and off the field alike. I'd love to see how badly they screwed up in terms of actual play as opposed to raw numbers, and what you think of the assorted new additions and how they might change that.

7
by billprudden :: Fri, 05/30/2014 - 3:05pm

Last year's three disappointing high-1st round tackles: What do we look for in September (or even the preseason games) to tell us whether or not they've "gotten it" for this year? Each OT's biggest flaw to be corrected?

22
by Anonymous Jones :: Mon, 06/02/2014 - 11:44am

This is a great idea. Would love to see an early postmortem on (1)what scouts got right and didn't get right in evaluating those three rookies before the draft, (2) what can still be fixed and what, if anything, seems unfixable and (3) what that means for future scouts in terms of incorporating new ideas into their scouting.

8
by Theo :: Fri, 05/30/2014 - 6:50pm

Who, in the video, is Robinson?

9
by chrisjm15 :: Fri, 05/30/2014 - 7:28pm

None of them. Video is of Wisconsin, he played for Auburn.

12
by burgmeister :: Fri, 05/30/2014 - 8:32pm

How about an article on the offensive line coaches themselves? Who does a good job, who adopts his system to fit the players and who doesn't. . .

13
by theslothook :: Fri, 05/30/2014 - 9:29pm

Totally second this!

24
by MJ_HaLevi :: Wed, 06/11/2014 - 2:52pm

More of This!
I loved the Church of the Outside Zone from last year. I'd like to hear more about how blocking evolves, and I'd like a back to basics showing a good set and punch from each spot, along with a switch or two. And I'm sure you can find some hilarious X of shame choices to show how it is NOT done
Aside: I'm sad you didn't highlight Robinson shoving a Mizzou D-end 10+ yards down the field and give the D-End a big fat X for getting destroyed.

14
by Noah of Arkadia :: Sat, 05/31/2014 - 10:04am

I'd like to see your take on all 1st round tackles, maybe even 2nd and 3rd round too (why did Moses fall?) and how they fit their NFL schemes.

------
Who, me?

17
by Karl Cuba :: Sat, 05/31/2014 - 1:28pm

Yes, I missed his usual look at the top tackles, guards and centres.

21
by Peregrine :: Mon, 06/02/2014 - 10:06am

Ben, this Falcons fan would love to hear what you think of Jake Matthews.

19
by theredviperoffoxboro :: Sun, 06/01/2014 - 3:29pm

Allow me to also be a homer.

Could you do Marcus Cannon for me? He was a supposed steal due to cancer. Well, he beat cancer, and I'm still yet to see this "first round talent." The drop-off from Solder and Vollmer is phenomenal.

Ben, could you study him and confirm he has the slowest feet this side of Professor Charles Xavier?

20
by Alternator :: Sun, 06/01/2014 - 7:05pm

Solder and Vollmer, when healthy, are phenomenal. Cannon could be garden-variety good lineman and it'd still seem like a chasm.

23
by OSS117 :: Tue, 06/03/2014 - 9:58am

How about something on installing outside zone into an offense, what it takes/entails, commitment, etc. Last year the Steelers tried to install it and it was an unmitigated disaster. During the offseason they didn't seem too committed to it, showed in the preseason, scrapped it in the opener when DeCastro submarined Pouncey on a shameful cutblock, and the brand spankin new OL coach was fired at season's end. Players subsequently said they didn't practice cutblock because of injury potential. Yeah, that worked well. I recall in one of those lengthy Alex Gibbs videos, preaching commitment and ways of safely practicing it by simulating how the play opens up lanes and bodies on the ground by allowing the OL to tackle his assignment rather than cut.

Also curious about that play Pouncey was injured on. The one thing that bothers me about Pouncey is he quarter-asses his combos when scraping (see ya). But on that play he doesn't, and should be gone, but instead he's almost hooking the DT and imo not where he should be when DeCastro caps him. Really confusing, sloppy play. This year they're trying again with Munchak. Should go better. Couldn't go worse. Cutblocks were pitiful, and the TEs kept getting their butts kicked backwards at the POA, no bootaction from QB, list goes on.

25
by Jerry :: Thu, 06/12/2014 - 6:51pm

Another question I'd like to see you answer: Should Maurkice Pouncey be the highest-paid center in the NFL?

26
by Guest789 :: Tue, 06/24/2014 - 3:07pm

Soooo... Ben has kind of vanished.

-----

“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

27
by Jamey :: Wed, 07/02/2014 - 12:37pm

I'd enjoy an article discussing position differences and changes along the O-Line. For example, I've heard that Saffold on the Rams plays much better as a Guard than a Tackle. An examination of his play at both positions and why he is better suited to one or the other should be both interesting and educational.