It is no secret that the Minnesota Vikings have experienced a number of issues defending against the pass over the course of the past few seasons. This problem, in combination with being forced to play six games against three of the best aerial attackers the NFL has to offer, has put the Vikings in a difficult position. If the Vikings are to become playoff contenders once again, their group of young cornerbacks must play at a much higher level in 2014 than they have in the recent past. A lot of this pressure to improve this season rests on the shoulders of third-year cornerback Josh Robinson.
Knowing that the career of longtime No. 1 cornerback Antoine Winfield would soon be coming to an end, the Vikings drafted Robinson in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Since then, the former Central Florida standout has largely been a disappointment.
Possessing blazing 4.33 40-yard dash speed and a respectable 5-foot-10 inch frame, Robinson has the athleticism and physical stature necessary to be, at the very least, an efficient cornerback in the NFL. However, these tools are not enough on their own for a player to succeed at the highest level of football.
Much of Robinson’s struggles can be attributed to not being used correctly in the Vikings’ defensive scheme. Former Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier chose to use Robinson almost exclusively as a slot cornerback in 2013, a position that Robinson has stated he does not feel entirely comfortable playing. Fortunately, new head coach Mike Zimmer has made it clear that Robinson will no longer be used as a slot cornerback on the Vikings new-look defense, a decision that was likely made much easier by the free-agent signing of former Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.
With Munnerlyn now set to assume the slot cornerback role, Robinson will be free to move back to the outside, a move he has stated his excitement about. Robinson will compete for playing time with second-year cornerback Xavier Rhodes, former San Diego Charger and Jacksonville Jaguar Derek Cox, Shaun Prater, Marcus Sherels, as well as rookies Kendall James and Jabari Price. While Zimmer has stated that every position will be an open competition, Robinson should have the inside track to be the Vikings No. 2 cornerback on the outside, behind only Rhodes on the depth chart.
Zimmer, who began his NFL coaching career as a defensive backs coach with the Dallas Cowboys in 1994, has a proven track record of putting cornerbacks in the best position to have success based on their skill sets. With the defensive genius of Zimmer at his disposal, Robinson may be in store for a breakout year this coming season.
Expect Robinson to begin the 2014 NFL season as the Vikings’ No. 2 outside cornerback and produce at a much higher level than he has to this point in his relatively short NFL career.