It has been obvious for some time that the New York Giants needed to find help at middle linebacker. Whether he really wanted to or not, injuries forced Jon Beason to retire. Last year's Beason stand-in, Jasper Brinkley, is an unrestricted free agent. Uani 'Unga and Mark Herzlich are not appealing options as starters at that spot.
Thursday, the Giants found an "answer," or least an experienced starting middle linebacker when they signed former Washington Redskins middle linebacker Keenan Robinson to a one-year, $3.5 million contract.
When I heard the Giants were interested in Robinson I turned to a long-time friend and colleague, Rick Snider, currently writing for PressBoxDC.com, for some thoughts. What Snider, a veteran of more than 30 years covering the Redskins said, was not encouraging.
"Lost his job to a nobody. Just a reserve. Slow. ... He's just a guy. ... Lost his job to a nobody on a bad defense."
Ouch! Rick, man, gotta learn to tell us how you feel.
Pro Football Focus also offered this less-than-welcome tidbit about Robinson:
Robinson, who will be 27 next season, is a four-year veteran who has had a Beason-esque run of injuries in his four years. Perhaps that is what attracted the Giants to him. He missed the entire 2013 season with a torn pectoral muscle and has never played more than 13 games in a season. In 2015, a shoulder injury limited him to 12 games and affected him in others.
Are the Giants really going to turn orchestrating Steve Spagnuolo's defense over to the 6-foot-3, 238-pound Robinson? Perhaps. Perhaps not. There was a report Friday morning that the Giants are "in the mix" for former Indianapolis Colts middle linebacker Jerrell Freeman. A former undrafted free agent, Freeman has been a starter for the Colts the past four seasons. He will be 30 next season.
While we monitor that development, however, let's focus on Robinson.
Scouting Academy Director Dan Hatman, a former NFL scout, had this to say about Robinson:
"He has warts like most everyone. Athletic, better in space. Not physical, tough, run defender, but could have a better chance behind those DTs. Capable player."
Those DTs are, of course, Johnathan Hankins and newly-signed Damon Harrison.
Here is part of an in-depth breakdown of Robinson from one of Hatman's Scouting Academy students. The tapes the report is based on come from Robinson's 2014 season:
PROJECTION: Starting MLB, who has had injury issues, that can defend the run at the POA, using solid mental processing to diagnose with consistent competitive toughness to fill. He has good athletic ability to cover in man coverage sideline to sideline. Limited Zone coverage defender, struggles to leverage routes and change directions quickly.
SUMMARY: Solid frame with good height and arm length with a solid weight, displaying good athletic ability showing good agility, quickness, and explosiveness with solid balance. Solid overall mental processing reading and reacting well to power runs and outside runs to take care of his assignment. Strong at the POA vs Inside Zone and Power runs leveraging his gap well and filling near the LOS on plays to the strong side with good arm extension and a good ability to shed and tackle continuing to drive his feet, while taking away the cutback lane on the backside. Solid vs Outside runs by using his good agility to leverage is gap, taking proper angles with the ability to shed and tackle vs good RB's in space. Good physical toughness to fill aggressively and consistently vs. OL ... Good in Man coverage using his athletic ability and fluid hips to change directions to mirror good TE's and RB's in a confined space. ... adequate in Zone Coverage.
I am not going to go all "film school" on you here, that's not my forte. Here, however, are my thoughts on a couple of really nice plays Robinson made in a Week 3 game last season against the Giants.
Play 1 -- Stuffing the run
We see the Giants lined up in shotgun with Robinson (52) highlighted.
Even before the snap, Robinson read the inside handoff. We see him moving to fill the hole.
Robinson takes on the block of Larry Donnell in the hole.
Robinson sheds the block and makes the play. This is probably awful work by Donnell, but it also shows Robinson doing everything correctly.
Play 2 -- Covering the pass
Before I show you the GIFs, let me set the stage for this play. This is third-and-3.
Robinson (52) is lined up as though he is blitzing up the middle. Giants' tight end Daniel Fells is offset to his left, outside the defensive end.
Before the snap we see Robinson begin to bail toward Fells.
At the snap we see that Eli Manning is clearly throwing a quick pass toward Fells (not pictured). Robinson (lower left) is sprinting to make the play.
Manning completes the pass, but Robinson is right there to make the play and force a punt. With the blockers in front of Fells you can see clearly that this play would easily have generated a first down if Robinson wasn't quick enough and decisive enough to get there.
Your thoughts on Robinson, Giants fans?