EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is still getting his first impressions of the NFL entering his second start on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, but he knew what his main concerns are with the Vikings’ defense.
“I think the two guys off the edge, Jared Allen and Brian Robison, studs, very high motor,” Luck said this week.
Allen, understandably, often draws the attention from opposing offenses coming off his 22-sack season. Allen is the focal point of blocking schemes and often a target of double-teams. Robison, in his second season as a full-time starter, is starting to gain the notice of opponents too. More games like Robison had on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Allen might not be the only Vikings’ defensive end getting double-teamed.
Minnesota’s defensive line didn’t sack Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert last week, but applied quite a bit of pressure, most of it coming from Robison’s side. Robison had three tackles, one for loss, and two quarterback hits against the Jaguars. No doubt, the Colts have studied the tape of the Vikings’ win against Jacksonville well.
“Well, we start with 69 (Allen), Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano said about preparing for Minnesota. “He had 22 sacks last year, and the career that he’s had, he’s what we call a game-wrecker. And the guy on the other side, coming off the other edge, ain’t bad either. He’s a high-motor guy. We call him a rolling ball of butcher knives. He’s got a motor that doesn’t stop, Robison, he’s excellent.”
According to Pro Football Focus, Robison had three takedowns of Gabbert in the game and pressured the quarterback six more times on Sunday. He went without a sack, and Robison knows a defensive lineman is often judged on his sack totals.
But the stats can skew perception as well.
“Sacks are a number you always want to have,” Robison said. “That’s normally what gets you to Pro Bowls, things like that. But I think sacks can be a little misleading too. I feel like if you’re out there playing the game and offenses have to account for you, then you’re doing your job. If you’re out there making plays and even if you’re not making tackles and making sacks, but you’re disrupting the QB, disrupting the run plays, things like that, that speaks volumes to me.”
It speaks volumes to the Vikings coaches too and he could get more chance against the Colts this week, who have a makeshift offensive line dealing with its own new starters and injuries too.
“I was pleased with his hustle,” defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. “He is running to the ball unbelievably. He made the tackles he was supposed to make and there are one to two plays that he’d like to take back in terms of his assignments. But other than that, I was pleased.”
The Vikings felt comfortable turning Robison, a former third-down pass rusher, into a starter last season after Ray Edwards signed with the Atlanta Falcons. Robison proved it was a wise choice, turning into a strong run-stopper and adding a career-best eight sacks.
He was the perfect complement on the other side of Allen, who challenged the league record for sacks in a season, and gave Minnesota bookend defenders to pace the strength of its defense, the line.
Robison might have had the best game of his six-year career last week, even without the sacks.
“I think he is in position to hopefully have a breakout season,” Coach Leslie Frazier said. “It’d be great for our team if that happens. But the way he played (Sunday), he’s well on his way. Now, can he put it together week-in and week-out, because he got off to a great start a year ago. We’d love to see him consistently bring pressure like he did (Sunday). And that allows us to blitz less and even help our secondary a little bit more. He’s off to a great start. He had a great camp, a great offseason, didn’t miss anything.”
Robison is part of the expected defensive line rotation, but he played 91 percent of the defensive snaps last week. In a game where Jacksonville’s offense held the ball from over 37 minutes, he didn’t feel like there was much of the alleged rotation in the first game.
“I know we had 82 plays in the game, and so it didn’t feel like I came out at all,” Robison said. “But we got to do that. We have to be able to be fresh in the fourth quarter. And if that means bringing us out on first and second every other, couple series or whatever and then bringing us in on third down to put pressure on the quarterback, we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to win. The competitor in you doesn’t want to come off the field at all. But at the same time, you’ve got to trust your coaches that they’re going to do the right thing.”
Of course, he has a different view about coming on third down when those elusive sacks come a bit more often.
“That’s not happening,” Robison said. “They’re going to get one of those waves to the sideline like ‘Nah, you can stay over there.'”
And soon Robison might have opposing coaches wishing he would come out of the game.