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Film analysis: Giants’ CB Aaron Robinson on the outside

Robinson’s tape shows a player who has the ability to become a good starter playing on the boundary

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The New York Giants released Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry due to issues with the salary cap. Bradberry’s departure opened a starting vacancy on the outside for the Giants. Adoree’ Jackson assumed the No. 1 cornerback position, but questions linger about the second starting cornerback spot.

The name consistently linked as the heir to Bradberry has been Giants’ 2021 third-round selection Aaron Robinson.

The UCF product played a lot of nickel and STAR in college but was used more outside by the Giants in 2021. According to Pro Football Focus, Robinson played 149 snaps outside at cornerback, with 92 in the slot and 26 in the box. Robinson allowed a 57.1 percent catch rate for 153 yards and one touchdown while swatting away two passes in high leverage situations.

Robinson isn’t the biggest or longest cornerback, but he possesses good overall athletic ability, and his short-area quickness allows him to close width promptly. His technique, under the tutelage of Jerome Henderson, was also solid. He’s the starting cornerback opposite Jackson during OTAs, and I expect him to open the season as the starter outside. Let’s go through his 2021 film on the outside and see how he performed as a rookie.

[Aaron Robinson is No. 33]

Press alignment

Nickel cornerback and playing on the outside have their differences, and this is true for press or off-coverage. For starters, the sideline is a cornerback’s best friend. Playing outside allows cornerbacks to restrict space and utilize the sideline to their advantage, whereas the nickel position gives wide receivers multiple options. Conversely, nickel cornerbacks are typically protected more over the top and have adjacent zones on every side.

A crucial aspect of playing press coverage on the outside is discipline, which starts with the feet and involves the hips.

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This is a third-and-10 play against the Raiders - Robinson’s second game of the season. Outside the numbers on the backside of a 3x1 set to the field, Robinson aligns in outside leverage. Bryan Edwards (89) releases outside, and Robinson does an excellent job staying square to his target while gaining slight depth in his kick-slide to shade Edwards’ outside shoulder. Edwards realizes he’s not going to win outside, so he gets vertical through the inside shoulder of Robinson. The neophyte cornerback then uses an off-hand jam, flips his hips, and rides Edwards up his stem in an excellent position on the outside with safety help to the inside.

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Robinson is aligned to the field side of the 2x2 set against veteran wide receiver Devante Parker. The Giants are in a Cover 1 look with a single-high safety, and Robinson is outside the numbers, and likely outside the divider line, meaning safety help isn’t to be expected. Robinson surrenders this catch, but he positions himself well on top of Parker’s route, showing good discipline at the line of scrimmage and not flipping his hips until Parker’s release was declared. Robinson stays square, inches back, and gains an advantageous angle between the receiver and the sideline once his hips are flipped. Robinson squeezes Parker towards the sideline, restricting the operating space and limiting Parker’s success to win vertically. Unfortunately, Robinson’s position to remove the vertical threat left him vulnerable to the back shoulder throw, which was well-timed and executed by Miami. One nit-picking gripe from a guy sitting in a chair not playing football - Robinson was a tad slow to react once Parker flashed his eyes to the football; it seemed like Parker was decelerating for the back shoulder, and Robinson couldn’t get back through that shoulder; but again, that is captious.

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Robinson is alone on an island inside the numbers against Jalen Guyton (15) - a speed WR. Guyton uses a skip release to freeze Robinson’s kick-slide outside. It worked, but Robinson does a solid overall job recovering once Guyton turns the jets on and declares his route outside the numbers. Guyton gains a half-step on Robinson before the acceleration of the rookie allows him to recover and ultimately get back in phase.

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Robinson takes his outside key step before noticing the inside release of Guyton. He quickly pivots off his outside foot - in man coverage - and restricts Guyton’s separation by acquiring the near hip. Robinson shows great natural man coverage skills by staying in the hip pocket of Guyton on a horizontal cross.

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Guyton uses a similar release on this play and creates solid separation against Robinson. Guyton is a tough cover - from a speed standpoint - when aligned inside the numbers with no help over the top. Robinson bit on the stutter in this play; Robinson was a bit premature with committing his hips right at the snap, but when Guyton acts like he’s about to throttle down, Robinson orients his hips back inward, which allowed Guyton the space to explode outside with leverage. Robinson’s not complete burnt toast, but he’s not in a good position either.

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In a reduced split way inside the numbers, Robinson does a great job displaying football intelligence to not be manipulated by the space and the inside release of Jaylen Waddle (17). Miami runs an RPO with a lot of action and uses tight end Durham Smythe on a wheel route, but Robinson isn’t fooled. He initially flips his hips to the inside before realizing his assignment and the offense’s intentions. He gains depth and expands laterally to cut Smythe’s angle off while flipping his hips, closing width, playing inside out, and locating the football to cause an incomplete pass. I love to see the recovery, the headiness, and the physical play through the catch point by Robinson in this rep.

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The Dolphins are in an EMPTY formation, and Robinson’s assignment releases inside to set up a Myles Gaskin (37) wheel route from the No. 2 receiver. The Giants don’t BANJO the coverage on the two receiver side - so there’s no switch. It’s on Robinson to avoid the natural rub concept on this third-and-10. Robinson shows awareness to work over the top of his teammate, providing him the space to stay in phase with Gaskin.

Vs. Philadelphia

Robinson had many big-time moments against the Philadelphia Eagles, and it was evident that Shane Steichen, Nick Sirianni, and Jalen Hurts wanted to target him in high-leveraged situations.

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The Eagles were out of field goal range, so Sirianni rolled the dice on a fourth-and-2. In press against Jalen Reagor (18), Robinson shows great patience and discipline at the line of scrimmage on the hard outside jab release from Reagor. Robinson has excellent fluidity in his hips and quickly pivots inside upon Reagor’s release. Jalen Hurts (1) fires the football to his receiver, but Robinson uses great technique to play through the catch point with his outside hand while maintaining position on Reagor with his inside hand. This is a very important play and an excellent rep from Robinson.

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Here’s a zone rep from Robinson against Reagor. This is Cover-3 with match principles, so Robinson is in off-coverage with outside leverage. He is in his half-turn with his backside to the sidelines, and he’s aligned to the boundary side. He allows Reagor to get vertical into his feet with no double-move; I’m not sure, but it appears that Robinson assumes the trail position voluntarily to bait Hurts to throw with the understanding that Xavier McKinney (29) would play center-field, reading Hurts eyes. That may have been planned. If it wasn’t, Robinson uses poor timing when he flipped to restrict the space on Reagor’s vertical route. It also helps that Hurts’ pass was vastly underthrown.

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Later in the game, Robinson gets a bit lucky. Robinson shows a lack of patience at the line of scrimmage and orients his hips inward, which allows Reagor to attack outside, despite the plus split off the numbers alignment. Robinson’s transitions are good enough to flip and locate, but Reagor is still able to stack Robinson well down the field; this happened, in part, because Robinson turned to find the football about 15 yards too early, which gave Reagor the ability to reposition. To Robinson’s credit, he hits Reagor as the football arrives, and the wide receiver can’t hold onto the pass.

There’s a lot to critique about this play, yet there’s still warranted praise. The initial phase of the play for Robinson wasn’t overly patient, and it put Robinson in a precarious situation. Still, the young CB has the athletic traits and transition ability to overcome mistakes. Robinson squeezes Reagor to the sideline in a great position but loses leverage when trying to locate the football. However, he doesn’t give up and plays tough through the catch to force the incompletion. A good wide receiver doesn’t drop this pass.

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This is the last play of the game where the Eagles need a touchdown to win. Robinson does a great job positioning himself in outside leverage at the snap and maintaining a favorable position throughout Reagor’s dig route. The Giants are playing 2-Man Under with two safeties over the top. The play breaks down, and the receivers start to extemporize; Robinson does a good job breaking vertical with Reagor; he’s chest-to-chest with the WR, and he’s reading his actions. Robinson is harassing Reagor, but allows Reagor to work underneath him. This allows Reagor space, and he’s briefly open once Hurts releases the football. Robinson quickly gets on Reagor’s back, and the ball hits Reagor in the hands, but he can’t secure the football, and the Giants win. This is a very catchable pass, but the butterfingers of Reagor, combined with Robinson’s peskiness force the incompletion.

Much like the last play, there are things to like and correct. Robinson shows great man coverage ability and overall fluid nature, but he can’t allow the receiver to out-position him as he did near the goal line. It’s plausible that Robinson could have made the tackle at the 1-yard line, and that’s why he positioned himself upfield, but I think it was just a miscalculation on Robinson’s part.


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With his backside towards the sideline, Robinson does a good job on the Chargers’ double china three-man route concept. The No. 1 and No. 2 receivers run quick in routes, and the No. 3 runs the flag. Robinson stays in position to sink and get underneath the flag route to eliminate the threat.

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Robinson reads the inside release from Mike Gesicki (88) while seeing the running back’s intentions. He uses his peripheral vision to see if Gesicki is running a flag route or anything that breaks back outside. Robinson quickly realizes the flag and sinks underneath; he flips his hips, closes width, gets his eyes on the football, and just gets his fingertips on the ball to force the incompletion.

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In a reduced split in off-coverage (Cover 4) with a motioning player, Robinson does a solid job expanding beyond the numbers to account for the wheel route. The Dolphins run a great zone beater where Waddle finds the soft spot between the underneath defender and the two deep 1/4 players. Waddle makes the catch, but I appreciate Robinson’s ability to sink and cut off the receiver’s angle on the wheel.

Screen tackling

Aaron Robinson immensely improved his tackling from his junior to his senior season at UCF. He had 14 missed tackles in 2019 - a 21. percent% missed tackle rate. In 2020, he had two missed tackles - a rate of 4.8 percent.

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In a BUNCH set, the Chargers attempt to get fellow rookie Josh Palmer (5) going with two blockers in front of him. Robinson does a good job fighting through a wide receiver’s block and containing Palmer outside. He aggressively goes low and secures the tackle for a small gain on first down.

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Robinson is off against Palmer. Robinson is about eight yards away from Palmer when the catch is made, but Robinson doesn’t panic. He squares up to Palmer once the receiver turns in his direction. He mirrors Palmer outside and doesn’t allow him space in that direction. He stays square and makes the tackle on second down. The tackle is a bit high, but it’s important that Robinson didn’t allow Palmer to win outside.

Final thoughts

Robinson showed a lot of positive man coverage traits on the outside during his rookie season. He’s recognized as a nickel player destined to play inside, but I see that as inaccurate. Throughout his rookie tape, he shows fluid hips, smooth transitions, foot/hip discipline at the line of scrimmage, and the athletic ability to recover and stay in phase throughout many route concepts (vertical and horizontal). Not every play was perfect, but there’s undoubtedly enough success to assume he could progress into a solid starting outside cornerback.