The Kansas City Chiefs came into this off-season with a couple of needs in the defensive backfield. The No. 2 CB opposite Brandon Flowers was a position that needed to be addressed as well as someone to fit at free safety with Kendrick Lewis.
The news of former Atlanta Falcons CB Dunta Robinson signing a three-year deal with the Chiefs started the conversation on whether he'd be the No. 2 CB or mix in at safety. Some have said his contract isn't "starter money" which is making others wonder if he's destined for another position, like safety.
But what kind of player is he? What are his strengths? Weaknesses? Below is a break down of what I saw from Robinson after reviewing his games against the Chiefs, Broncos, Redskins, Panthers and Lions from last season.
Meet the former top 10 pick
Robinson was the No. 10 overall pick from the Houston Texans back in 2004 and started at RCB from day one. He was later the first player to be franchised by the Houston Texans and proceeded to hold-out all of training camp that year (2009). He signed his tag a week before the season began and in his first game against the New York Jets he famously wrote the words, 'Pay me Rick' on his shoes which was directed at Texans' GM Rick Smith. Robinson was fined $25k for wearing the shoes.
Robinson hit free agency in 2010 and signed a six-year, $54 million deal with the Atlanta Falcons. He was released two weeks ago and just three years into his six-year deal with the Falcons.
Robinson's first game last season with the Falcons was against the Kansas City Chiefs and he was primarily used as the nickel CB. Obviously the season-ending injury to Falcons CB Brent Grimes in this game had a big impact on Robinson's role as he split out as the RCB for the rest of the season. Based on what I saw against the Chiefs and Dexter McCluster it's probably a good thing he split out the rest of the season. I'll get into that later in the post.
Robinson finished 2012 with 80 tackles, 1.5 sacks and an interception for the Falcons. His 80 tackles is the 4th best of his nine-year career thus far and highest total since 2006.
High football IQ
Despite getting older Robinson hasn't seemed to have lost a step in his closing ability on ball carriers. He's a sound tackler and does well out on the edge. While his quickness and agility (get into that in weaknesses) aren't what they once were, he isn't often beat deep.
This GIF shows you a pretty good example of Robinson flying into the play on run support. He recognizes the play quickly and shows good closing speed to beat the block and get to the ball carrier.
Robinson is a much better zone CB than he is in man to man. He does a great job recognizing run vs pass and has the closing speed to help against the run both because of willingness and recognition.He is not a press man-to-man cover CB, he'll line up in press coverage only on third down but bail out as soon as the ball is snapped. He spent most of last season (in the five games I watched) playing off while disguising man and zone coverage. This is something he was VERY good at. While in coverage he was very good at understanding route combinations and passing receivers off throughout the Falcons zone coverage.
In this GIF you can see Robinson's ability to recognize route combinations in his zone. Peyton Manning and the Broncos run the 'smash' concept where they're looking to get the ball in the corner to Stokely. It's not just about his ability to read Manning but the way he anticipates the route coming to his area. Robinson consistently showed this level of football IQ in zone coverage.
He was great at reading QB's eyes and coming up and making plays in the running game while in zone coverage. It's these reasons why I think the idea of moving him to safety are out there as an option. He spent almost all of his time in coverage with the receivers in front of him and I never once saw him completely out of position. His willingness to play the run and recognition skills would serve him well in that role while not having to run stride for stride throughout a wide receivers entire route.
I like how Robinson squared up to the receiver as soon as the ball was snapped, then opened up as the receiver in his zone was about to pass through and then hopped the pass in the flat. I'm curious if Manning's key was how Robinson was positioned. As soon as he opened up Manning could have thought he was dropping to give depth or run with the outside receiver.
He does well blitzing off the edge and does a good job of not selling it before the snap. I saw three different times he was brought and each time he didn't tip his hand so the QB could recognize where pressure was coming from. He also does well in run support on the backside of the play and diverting any end-around/reverse back inside. He didn't always make the play but he kept the ball carrier from getting outside and held his containment.
Not a nickel corner?
The one glaring weakness I saw from Robinson in this game can be settled into one simple football description: Post-corner-post route. That route probably keeps Robinson up at night.
This is the route that gave Robinson the most trouble. If it wasn't for William Moore coming across and making a play this was a touchdown. The post-corner-post route is in a scouting report somewhere and you WILL see someone run this route on him next season. I saw this same route twice in those five games and they both should have been touchdowns. The other time was against Panthers WR Steve Smith. (In all fairness these are the ONLY plays I saw him get burned like this.)
I also saw issues with Robinson playing Dexter McCluster in the slot. It wasn't the post-corner-post route from DMC but it was multiple moves out in space.
As you can see from this GIF that Robinson is lined up as the nickel CB against Dexter McCluster in the slot. It didn't take but three moves from McCluster before Robinson was on the ground. This isn't where Robinson was best suited from what I saw and therefore, in my opinion, not a shoe-in for the Chiefs nickel role. Any safety spot that gets him off the line of scrimmage and keeps his body square with his eyes on the QB is where he would thrive.
Robinson can't be asked to play man to man coverage against these types of routes. He'll struggle in that role. There were other times that Robinson seemed to be playing too soft of coverage for my liking. He was always right there but if the throw was on time and accurate then he wasn't going to be knocking the ball down. Without knowing the specific scheme or responsibility on each play it's hard to determine exactly what they're being asked to do.
While he's good against the run in the open field he's not a guy that I would leave in the box in a role like what we saw from Eric Berry last season. Obviously Chiefs DC Bob Sutton will bring a new scheme but you won't see Robinson consistently lining up in the box and shedding blockers against the run. If a blocker gets their hands on him he's most likely not going to be involved in stopping the run on that play. But if you see a swing pass to the flat there's a good chance Robinson will fly in and take down the ball carrier.
Robinson gives the Chiefs options
Robinson's ability to recognize run vs pass would serve him well at safety. He has the athletic ability to cover a lot of ground and get there in a hurry. I wouldn't feel comfortable sticking him on a wide receiver for any elongated period of time because of what we saw on those multiple-move GIFs above. But if the Chiefs 'attacking defense' with Bob Sutton will be built around the zone-blitz then I would feel really good about Robinson playing any DB spot on the field.
He does well reading the QB and his eyes are on the QB as he 'feels' what the WR is doing. He wouldn't be a terrible option as the No. 2 CB but there are holes to his game that lead to giving up big plays. While at safety he wouldn't be exposed to these multiple move routes in the same manner than he was at RCB or in the slot.
It's for these reasons that I don't want to see him lined up in the traditional 'nickel' spot either, which many people are saying right now. He'd basically be asked to cover smaller, quicker receivers that will almost assuredly run multiple-move routes. If asked to cover a zone or even with man-coverage for a short amount of time is where he'd be best in my opinion.
As NFL offenses continue to be 'passer-friendly' it makes sense the Chiefs would try and add as many quality DB's as possible. Robinson isn't the savior to the defense but he has the skills and experience to be a great addition to an already-talented positional group.
The Chiefs added a quality player in Robinson and whether or not they add another CB (hopefully they do) it's an improvement that gives the Chiefs options throughout the rest of the off-season and heading into the draft.
Thanks again to Clay Wendler for creating these GIFs.