After trading back twice in the first two rounds, Dave Gettleman and the New York Giants’ brass ended up trading up to acquire the UCF cornerback Aaron Robinson. The 5-foot-11, 186-pound, cornerback has a ton of experience in press man coverage and he’s very versatile. In 2020, he played 100 snaps at outside corner, 484 in the slot, 46 in the box - the Giants think he can also play the STAR position, which is a hybrid defensive back/linebacker that aligns often where a typical outside linebacker would align.
The Giants predominantly played zone coverage, middle of the field closed, defenses in 2020. The addition of Robinson and former Tennessee Titans’ first-round pick Adoree’ Jackson suggests that New York will be playing a lot more press man coverage. Of Robinson’s 789 coverage snaps over the last two seasons, 321 were in press alignment.
Robinson is fluid, possesses the short area quickness, change of direction, and lateral movement skills to play man coverage, and he’s also very aggressive in run support. After day two of the draft, Gettleman spoke about how the best defenses in the league have secondaries who can tackle - Robinson can certainly tackle.
Robinson ranked sith in PFF’s tackling grades for the cornerback position in 2020. He really sured that area of his game up and became much more technically sound, while still maintaining his elite competitive toughness and ferocity. He also has solid ball skills, only three college interceptions, but is insanely disruptive at the catch point. Let’s dive into some of the plays that highlight what he can bring to Patrick Graham’s system.
Play(s) 1: Plays through catch point
(top of screen, off coverage)
The opposing offense rolls out a stack look at the top of the screen and they run a delayed slant with the off-receiver. The receiver on the line of scrimmage acts as a barrier against Robinson, whose assignment is breaking inside; this traffic is hard to maneuver around and corners have to be decisive on when to attack, and at what angle.
Once the route distribution is declared by the receivers, Robinson’s assignment is solidified and he aggressively attacks downhill on the inside breaking route. Robinson plays through the catch point and gets his hands into the catching window to knock the ball away. I like how this play was made from a disadvantageous position, and Robinson had to show off his unique short area quickness, and quick acceleration to ensure that the catch was not secured by the wide receiver.
Robinson uses excellent timing to read, react, and attack downhill on this underneath route. Robinson cuts the angle off and is able to stay on top of the route while using his inside arm to disrupt the catch point, and his outside arm to maintain positioning on the receiving threat.
Play 2: Goal line stand
(top of the screen, slot)
Houston’s offense attempts to run a man coverage beater against Robinson on the goal line. The outside receiver crosses the face of Robinson on a quick slant which is designed to allow the slot receiver to run outside uncovered. The No. 1 receiver’s route is supposed to create traffic and force corners to make tough choices; either the corner attempts to undercut the route, and probably gets rubbed off his assignment, or the corner has the athletic ability to work over the top and close width on the route, which is not easy - but Robinson chose the latter.
Robinson quickly senses the route after the release and he works over the top of the number one receiver’s inside break. He then quickly gets himself in phase, initiates subtle contact, gets his eyes up on the fade ball, and locates it with his inside hand while his outside hand is still maintaining leverage on the receiver. This is a fantastic play by Robinson on the goal line.
Play(s) 3: Fluidity
(top of screen)
The receiver at the top of the screen fires his feet quickly and gets Robinson’s hips committed outside. Robinson’s hips are completely flipped once the receiver works back inside, but he effortlessly flips his hips back into the necessary position. Robinson then has the awareness to dive and knock the pass away from the receiver.
(top of screen, slot)
We see the fluidity here as he forces the receiver to release inside, although the desired intentions of the receiver was to run an out breaking route. Robinson rides the receiver up his stem and feels the break start, so he just flips his hips and continues to be in the hip pocket of the receiver.
(bottom screen, slot)
Here’s a man match concept where Robinson was responsible for the inside breaking route of the two outside receivers. The No. 1 receiver (outermost) breaks inside and Robinson’s hips are focused on the No. 2 receiver, who would have been his assignment if both routes went vertical, or if the number one broke outside.
Robinson keeps his eyes on the number one receiver until the routes are declared. Once he feels the assignment change, he flips his hips back inside and closes width on the receiver while getting his hands into the catch point and forcing an incomplete pass. The fluidity in his hips and his ability to accelerate quickly are excellent traits that will assist him with his man coverage assignments in the pros.
Play(s) 4: Run Support
Robinson is the last defender to come into the screen from the right side - the defender who gets his hand into the running back’s stomach and forces the fumble. The aggressive nature of Robinson and his willingness to step up in run support are huge reasons why the Giants loved this player.
We see great tackling mechanics on the quarterback run outside. Robinson stays square and adjusts to all the quarterback’s movements in a calm manner until he attacks like a cobra, low and violent, to secure the tackle to the ground. I love the way Robinson is following the quarterback’s movements; it forces the quarterback to declare and make a decision and Robinson was ready to attack once that decision was made.
Play(s) 5: Box play
(right side of screen LB)
These are good instincts from a defensive back playing in the box. He sees the run play materialize and just comes downhill into the alley and quickly fills before the interior offensive lineman can climb and locate. Robinson gets low, wraps the ball carrier up, and drives his feet while the rest of the defense help gang tackle the offensive player.
(right side of screen LB)
We see something similar here as well; it’s a shotgun counter run with two pullers to the field side where Robinson is aligned in the box. Robinson does a good job moving outside with the puller, which provides a bigger alley for the running back, yet boxes the running back towards rallying defenders - a smart play. Robinson gets outside, allows the running back to cut back inside, and then explodes to help out with the tackle.
(slot, top of screen)
This could be a bit more of a communication issue behind him. His adjacent defender has to drop to a specific depth to eliminate the seven (corner) route behind the flat; Robinson is unaware of his fellow defender and no one accounts for the receiver in the flat. There was a bit of tunnel vision on this play and sometimes route combinations and awareness in this area were issues.
(slot, top of screen)
Robinson gets a bit greedy here and attempts to bite on a double move that puts him into a poor position. This would have been a touchdown if noticed, but you can see how Robinson attempts to undercut the route after the break which just allows the receiver to gain all the leverage and space against Robinson.
The Giants added a player who can play press man coverage and is versatile enough to fill a few different positions. He can play outside, in the slot, or as a STAR in the box. There’s no doubting his talent and movement skills. An interesting training camp battle may be between 2020 fourth-round pick Darnay Holmes and Robinson for the starting nickel spot, but ech should see the field in different personnel packages. I still hope the Giants invest draft capital into thei interior offensive line. Nevertheless, New York bolstered its secondary with a physical player that should allow them to run a lot more coverages than they did in 2020.