By Dan Durkin–
Editor’s note: Read more of Durkin’s Prospect Watch pieces here.
(CBS) In a passing league, a premium is put on players who can collapse the pocket and harass opposing quarterbacks. However, being sound against the run still plays a vital role in defensive success.
The Super Bowl champion Broncos and runner-up Panthers both finished in the top four in run defense last season. Controlling the action between the tackles on early downs makes offenses one-dimensional on longer-distance downs.
It’s a deep interior defensive line class. Today we take a look at one of the premier run-stuffing prospects: Alabama defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson.
DL A’Shawn Robinson (6-foot-3, 307 pounds, 21, Alabama)
40-yard dash: 5.2
10-yard split: 1.79
Broad jump: 8-foot-10
Arm: 34 1/2”
Bio: Robinson arrived in Tuscoloosa as one of the most highly sought after defensive tackle recruits, out of Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth, Texas.
As a true freshman in 2013, Robinson was an immediate contributor. He appeared in all 13 games, making two starts. He finished the season with 38 tackles and led the team with five-and-a-half sacks and finished second on the team with eight tackles for loss. He also tallied five quarterback hurries and a blocked kick. His efforts earned him first-team honors on both the freshman all-American and all-SEC teams.
In 2014, he appeared in all 14 games, making 13 starts. He played in a variety of alignments, seeing time on the interior at the shade and three-technique in sub packages while manning the edge at five-technique in base personnel. He finished with 49 tackles, six-and-a-half tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries, three passes defended, a forced fumble and a blocked extra point.
In 2015, Robinson started all 15 games on the Crimson Tide’s national championship team, anchoring a dominant defensive front. He totaled 46 tackles, 10 quarterback hurries, seven-and-a-half tackles for loss, three-and-a-half sacks, two pass breakups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He was a consensus All-American, an Outland Trophy finalist and a Bednarik Award semifinalist.
How he fits the Bears’ scheme: Robinson’s physical traits, nasty demeanor and playing style make him an ideal fit for a five-technique defensive end in defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s scheme. He played in a rotation at Alabama, as he would in the pros, and flashed enough potential to kick inside in two-down (linemen) sub packages.
Robinson’s a well-put together athlete. He has long arms, a thick trunk, big, heavy hands and carries his weight well. He has fluid footwork and smooth lateral agility in confined areas.
When he gets his arms extended, Robinson’s press is as powerful as any defensive line prospect in this class. When he wins, he wins with power, opposed to explosion. He jars opposing blockers at the point when two-gapping and effortlessly holds the point on runs his direction. He plays with a powerful leg churn to reset the line of scrimmage and alter the aiming point of inside runs.
While Robinson has flashed potential as a pass rusher, he needs work in this area. At this stage of his development, he pushes the pocket more than he punctures it. Part of this has to do with how he uses his hands. He has a tendency to make first contact with his shoulder pads and lean into a blocker, negating his length and leverage.
Robinson’s a pure, straight-line bull rusher who shows very few counter moves when stalemated in his rush. Even though he played in a rotation, he was visibly gassed on the field at times. In these situations, his pad level becomes an issue as he stands straight up out of his stance, giving offensive linemen an easy target to strike and grasp.
Draft projection: There’s no doubt about the impact Robinson can make on early downs, but teams will have to grapple with his ceiling as a pass rusher. Can he be a three-down player? His potential is intriguing, and he projects as a top-20 selection.
Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.